Underwatermodel Kat by Jan Langmaack

Top 10 Underwater Modeling Tips

Underwater modeling gives you the opportunity to create stunning images. But compared to a model shoot in a studio an underwater modeling shoot needs much more preparation. You also need a very experienced team that knows what to do, even in emergencies. Working underwater can increase the risk of accidents. In May 2016 the young model Olivia Ku drowned while posing for an underwater photo shoot. Since then the underwater modeling industry has been shocked. Safety is the most important thing in underwater model shoots. Therefore you have to be trained and experienced and work with a professional team. Mermaid Kat has been working as an underwater model and underwater stunt woman for several years. She is a fully qualified PADI Scuba and Freediving Instructor with 2000+ dives. Here are her top ten underwater modeling tips:


1 Safety comes first

Be aware that modeling in and especially underwater is much more exhausting than modeling on land. Underwater modeling brings different risks with it like drowning, hypothermia, ear and sinus infections or barotraumas. Therefore train your way up before you start underwater modeling. Furthermore work with an experienced team. Your team should include lifeguards/ rescue divers who try everything they can to prevent accidents from happening and know what to do in case of an emergency. Know your limits, take regular breaks and give your mind and body time to warm up and recover.


2 Have the right training

Underwater modeling is a hard job that involves many skills and risks. Before you start underwater modeling make sure you are fit for it. First of all you must have the right training so you don’t bring yourself or your team into unnecessary danger. Be a confident swimmer and ideally a scuba diver and freediver. You should have experience and an understanding on how things work underwater. As a result of your training you should know how to control your body and breathing. For underwater modeling shoots without any buddy breathing (you don’t breath underwater from a scuba diver) and in easy water conditions (pool, shallow bay without waves or currents, etc.) I would recommend an experience of minim 50 open water dives and the Advanced Scuba Certification.

3 No Buddy Breathing without the Right Training 

In the past years I have seen many shoots where inexperienced models breathed compressed air from scuba divers underwater. As an underwater professional this gives me a cold feeling running through my body. There are reasons why this type of work is classed as underwater stunt work. Because it is dangerous and you need a lot of skills to do this kind of shoots. Breathing compressed air underwater brings many risks with it like decompression sickness, nitrogen narcosis, pulmonary embolism, death and more. You must be experienced and trained so can stay calm in any situation. Even if you have to hold your breath, can’t see, have stinging saltwater in your eyes, nose and sinuses and are cold you need to be able to concentrate. You should be at least a divemaster with 500+ dives and including several stress tests underwater. In addition I recommend to be trained in freediving (breath hold of at least 2-3 minutes should be easy). Be aware that in this kind of underwater work you basically give your life into someone else’s hands.


4 Control your breath 

To be able to relax and control your breath also belongs into my top ten underwater modeling tips. If you understand that things work differently underwater you know what to do to control your body underwater. Sometimes you might need to exhale in order to be able to sink and stay underwater while being filmed or photographed. To learn how to relax and control your breathing I recommend you to get professional freediving training. Another tip additionally is to try yoga and yoga breathing.


5 Use Waterproof Make Up 

We all know the awkwardness when you jump in the water and come back to the surface with the mascara all over your face. This should not happen during underwater photo shoots. My underwater modeling tips for this are: use waterproof make up and don’t touch your face until the shoot is over.


6 Test your Outfit 

Even with much experience you will see that some outfits might be tricky to wear in the water. Mermaid tails and long dresses that tangle around your legs can restrict your movement. I remember an underwater fashion shoot with Marc Hillesheim in Germany in 2013. I was wearing this beautiful but ultra-long Spanish dancer’s dress. It was tangling around my legs nonstop and trying to drag me down. My tip for you is to test your outfit first in shallow water before using it in deeper water. With tricky outfits have an extra safety diver around you. He/she can help you to stay at the surface while breathing and to untangle from long fabrics.


7 Plan your Communication 

When you are at the surface you can talk. When you are underwater with a mask on you can see and communicate with hand signals. But as an underwater model you usually don’t wear a mask and can’t see clearly. My underwater modeling tips for communication during the shoot are: First of all have a proper safety briefing before the shoot. Clarify on how to communicate and the meaning of hand signals etc. If you stay underwater during the shoot (buddy breathing) put on your mask sometimes to communicate with your team. A safety diver at the surface can communicate with you whilst the photographer stays underwater.


8 What to do with Red Eyes? 

During underwater modeling shoots in chlorine or saltwater your eyes will turn red and might get swollen. Finally you have a new best friend – eye drops.


9 Be aware of your Bubbles

Every bubble that comes out of your mouth or nose while posing underwater can destroy a beautiful photo. Hold your breath and don’t exhale while posing for photos or videos. This means you might get water into your nose and sinuses. It is not the most comfortable feeling but after a while you’ll get more used to it. If you’re floating up, exhale before you descend and not during the shoot.


10 Respect the Reef and Wildlife

Is your shoot in open water be aware of the nature an marine life around you. Some corals are very sensitive. By touching or breaking them they’ll die and destroy the whole eco system. Other corals and fish might bite or sting and some of them are very poisonous. I’ll recommend avoiding any touching underwater, especially with marine life. Sometimes you’ll see divers, underwater models and mermaids who touch marine life. I personally don’t like that and in some countries it is even forbidden by law. Please keep in mind that you are a role model so act like one. If people see you touching a turtle they think it’s ok for them to touch turtles too. Many turtles died like this while people touched them and hold them underwater. So they couldn’t swim to the surface to breathe and drowned as a result. Would you like it if a stranger on the street just touched you? No?! Neither do other living creatures.


I hope these underwater modeling tips were helpful for you. If you want you can check out my underwater modeling tips video too.


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