Underwater Fashion Photography Techniques with Cal Mero

Underwater Fashion Photography Techniques with Cal Mero

Underwater Fashion Photography Techniques with Cal Mero. NIKON D80, 1/200 sec @ f/10 -- Lens used is 12.0-24.0 mm f/4.0 @ 12mm. Surprisingly no flash!


Photographer Cal Mero is best known for his innovative, creative, and flowing underwater fashion photographs. His images are extremely unique and he uses light in a masterful way to truly capture the fluid movements of his model beneath the surface of the water. In the following article, Mero shares the techniques he uses before, during, and after shooting.


Underwater Fashion Pre-Shooting:

Before beginning the actual shooting process, Mero takes a few precautions to ensure a good shoot. The first step he takes is to make sure to bring with him his “jumbled box of assorted goods”. This box contains accessories he might need in order to ensure a successful shoot such as safety pins, clips, extra masks, umbrellas, socks, lead weights, extra towels, and lots of food. Before the shoot even begins it is important for Mero to be well prepared.

He then always contemplates what he considers to be the most essential skill for fashion photography; good communication. Before he can even successfully shoot his model, it is important for Mero to be able to communicate with him/her in order to be able to portray the complex ideas he has in mind but in a concise and easy to understand manner. If you can do this, Mero says, “then you’ll be in a much greater position to produce the images you imagine”.

NIKON D80, 1/60 sec @ f/4.5 -- Lens used is 10.0-17.0 mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 17mm. 3 Strobes were fired for this shot.

NIKON D80, 1/60 sec @ f/4.5 -- Lens used is 10.0-17.0 mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 17mm. 3 Strobes were fired for this shot.


Framing, Shooting, and Lighting Techniques for underwater fashion photography:

Once these steps have been taken prior to shooting, the actual image capturing begins. Mero starts by imagining the final outcome. “When I look through the lens, I try to imagine my subject as a final print hanging on a wall. I try to shoot a final printed image with every click of the shutter”. This is how he suggests framing his images; slowly and deliberately, creating fewer but better quality images with every shot.

However, learning to see through the lens this way is not a easy skill to acquire. According to Mero, it takes time and practice but eventually, “the camera becomes an extension of your own creativity”. This is quite a beautiful goal to have in mind and Mero says the best way to achieve it is to bring your camera everywhere, shooting as many different styles and subjects as possible. “You may not have an interest in the subject matter but you definitely learn more about the art of photography with every click of the shutter”.

During underwater shooting, several obstacles can present themselves. Among these, is the problem of scatter. Overcoming scatter is a difficult learning curve for most photographers as there are a few tips and tricks to learn along the way. However, the most important trick is to learn how to “edge light.” This is the process of lighting a scene with the very “edge” of the strobe light.  Mero recommends these articles as great resources on working with this concept: Reducing Back Scatter and Strobe Positioning.

Another concept to master is lighting technique. According to Mero, this is “the single greatest learning curve for photographers”, taking him over two years to come up with the current lighting system he now uses. Having once used six strobes above and below water, he has learned to use natural light more effectively to reduce the amount of artificial light he uses.

Post Processing underwater fashion photos:

Though the actual shooting is where Mero captures his beautiful images, his work could not be entirely complete without a certain amount of post processing. For this, he uses mainly Adobe Lightroom, praising it to be “smooth and intuitive” with “good tonal control”. Mero urges to always shoot in raw so that during post-processing, it will be easier to white balance images. Even his black and white images are shot in raw and then converted to black and white during post-processing with a slight tinge of silver added to the image. Mero comments, “I feel that adding a touch of silver goes a long way towards a better, final printed B&W image”.

Diving While Shooting underwater:

Mero’s diving technique is one which also has great influence over his images. Of free-diving, he says “its great with models as it allows you to communicate regularly whereas scuba equipment presents inherent risks when used in a pool (such as air embolisms, decompression sickness, etc)”.  He advises that scuba equipment can be dangerous if used by photographers who are untrained in scuba diving.

Diving also has its tricky sides for the model! According to Mero, “The most difficult situation in underwater photography for me is working with models with poor aquatic experience, i.e., bad swimmers!”. Not only is it important for him to feel comfortable in the water but the shot is just as difficult to capture when the model is insecure doing the shoot underwater. He advises “patience, good instruction, and a good team of people in and around the water” in order to help the model feel more comfortable. On top of this, he highly recommends Martin Edge’s book The Underwater Photographer for more guidance on this.

Overall, the best advice Mero gives to help achieve his techniques is “practice, practice, practice”.

Cal can be reached at calmero.com.au
He is also the editor of underwaterfashion.org a community website dedicated to show casing great underwater fashion.

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  1. Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
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