Water photography in Bora Bora: how to get the best over-under pictures

Bora Bora is world-famous for its glinting turquoise lagoon, dazzlingly white sand beaches and overwater bungalows. With such a dreamlike setting, Bora Bora is, unsurprisingly, a great spot for over-under water photography. The water surrounding you is a magical recipe for unique memories!

Take a deep breath and dive in to discover why water photography could be for you!

Over-unders, also known as split-shots or splits, are underwater photos where half of the photo (the top half) is above water. They are often taken with very wide fisheye lens, in a large dome port, using a small aperture for good depth of field. These shots work best in shallow water, calm water, for example during the early morning. The brightness in the top half of the photo will be greater than the underwater portion. Because of this, strobes are usually used underwater to brighten up that area.

What is over-under water photography in Bora Bora?

Split-shots also known as splits or over-under water pictures are a mix of landscape and underwater photography where the top half of the image is above water and the bottom half is below.

This half-in-half-out view allows us to see topside subjects, palm threes, iconic mount Otemanu and epic skies while simultaneously showing underwater subjects like fish, reefs, and divers in the same frame.

The over-under or half and half image provides a window into two very different worlds in a single frame, and can be a powerful tool to show the beauty of Bora Bora above and below the surface.

It doesn’t require to know how to swim and you can even keep your top half out of the water.

I never tire of creating over-under water photography in Bora Bora, a technique advanced and popularised by National Geographic photographer David Doubilet.

miss france bora bora
Miss France 2019

Is water photography for everyone?

Definitely yes! For any water lover, even for those who don’t know how to swim.

For Couple Love Sessions: The water are one of my favorites ways to capture a couple’s chemistry. The water always naturally brings out a certain playfulness and intimacy that you can’t force. And even the most reluctant husbands have fun during a water shooting!

For families: More and more the approach to family photography is changing. The old studio photos with forced smiles are being replaced by a new lifestyle, documental style of photography. It’s about capturing organic moments. Being completely spontaneous, there are no posing, props or manipulation of the settings. Finishing the shooting in the water helps the kids to relax and helps to capture the most candid moments.

bora bora photographer damien gobron

For maternity sessions : A way to express the awe and beauty that we feel for moms to be. Water photography in Bora Bora offers a magical way of creating completely unique and inspiring images.

For trash the wedding dress sessions: A classic in Bora Bora for honeymooners and newly weds. Trashing the dress (TTD) also know as “Day After”, or “Fearless bridal” is a new trend  becoming more and more popular as brides are becoming increasingly more daring and adventurous. Trashing the dress involves getting all gussied up with your hubby in your wedding ensembles and head to the Bora Bora’s turquoise lagoon, jump from your thatched roof overwater bungalow or roll in the white sand at the beach. You can read more here.

How to take over-under water pictures in Bora Bora?

They are taken with very wide angle lens , in a large dome port, using a small aperture for good depth of field. These shots work best in shallow water, calm water and during the morning for good underwater visibility.

I only use the best in photography gear and equipment. A full frame camera and wide angle lens perfectly fitted in underwater housing to protect the equipment as well as ensure that the quality of your images will be exceptional.

Me, my underwater equipment and the sharks

Bora Bora Must have photo #1: Life is better over water

Staying in an overwater bungalow is one of those bucket-list things that everybody dream of checking off. Overwater bungalows provide an experience unlike any other, and feed those pesky fantasies about quitting your day job to live on an exotic island for the rest of your life.

It looks exactly like those stock images floating across your screen: bright sun, sparkling pristine lagoon and seemingly illusory over-water villa. Bora Bora hotels are undoubtedly among the most beautiful in the world and they provide the perfect island vacation picture.

Bride and groom posing with sharks in the lagoon of Bora Bora

Bora Bora Must have photo #2: jumping from your over-water bungalow

There is no more exhilarating feeling than jumping with your loved one from your thatched roof overwater bungalow.

Jumping is the first think you want to do when you wake up in the morning and repeat until the sun sets.

Learn the different ways to jump from you bungalow here

Livia & Marc about to jump

Bora Bora Must have photo #3: the aquatic life

Ever dreamed about being photo bombed by a school of fish?

Well, in Bora Bora, even the fish smile when you are taking a picture. You don’t believe it? Look at the next photo. Yes, parrot fish have teeth and they smile, when you ask nicely.

I believe is the perfect way to finish a photo shooting : It’s fun, it’s refreshing and nobody will be able to tell you your album was boring!

Parrot fish DO have teeth to smile

Bora Bora Must have photo #4: completely underwater

A session of water photography in Bora Bora does not have to be completely underwater, but most couples are dawn to the underwater world.

It can be just a few feet down or if you are comfortable in and around water, and that you are a strong swimmer you can dive deeper.

I am a PADI Certified Scuba Diving Instructor and have years of experience in the water. Safety during my session is key. I am ready with flotation device if needed and I will always watch you as you’re underwater.

Salty kisses and messy hair

The wedding dress can become very heavy in the water and it could drag you down. So I recommend caution, use the services of  a professional photographer familiar with the surroundings, inform security and only jump from the bungalow if you know how to swim. Also, check with the resort that the water is deep enough to jump and the current is not strong that day.

Little girl swimming underwater in the lagoon of Bora Bora
Mermaid spotted in the waters of Bora Bora

What should I wear for my water session?

Totally up to you, some couples keep the same outfit that they have during the normal photo session. Some people change into swimming suits.

If you are planning to do full under-water photography in Bora Bora, it’s important that your dress allows you to dive.

underwater women floating in the lagoon of bora bora

Is it worth to do my hair and make up before the session?

You’ll cherish and may want to blow up many of these images, so why don’t you pamper yourself and get your hair and make up professionally done?

Although some of your photos might be taken as you’re being a mermaid under water, there will be plenty that will be taken half in the water.  A little rouge on the lips or lengthy eyelashes are small things that, when enhanced subtly, can really pop in your photos.

I do not personally think that an intricate hair design is necessary, but bed head may not be the way to go either. A little beach wave can go a long way in these photos.

Also don’t forget the local touch, flower crowns and leis can add to your pictures the Polynesian twist that everybody loves.

couple inside the water of four seasons Bora Bora lagoon

Should I do only water pictures?

If you ask me, I believe it would be a shame not to use the full potential of such an amazing place like your luxury resort. For that reason, I like to start a session “dry” and cover a few different locations before getting in the water. As a professional photographer, I also like to be able to express myself with full control of my camera settings and try different lenses for more powerful images. That is why I would recommend water photography as a perfect complement to end a session.

Unicorn fish are the best at photobombing

Where do the sessions take place?

Most of my water sessions take place in the resort itself : in front of your bungalow or in the inner lagoon of your hotel to capture the aquatic life.

Sometimes the sessions can also take place outside the resort. I can tag along on your boat to a snorkel or paddle excursion and document your first encounter with sharks and rays. Nothing makes me happier than a day in the lagoon.

How long does it take?

I would recommend a minimum of 30 minutes only for the water part. Don’t forget that getting in the water and putting everything together takes time.

Squeezing “dry” and “water” picture together inside a 1 hour session can be done but will only allow us to do 1 location outside of the water. This is why I believe 2 hours is the best duration for over-under water photography session.

SHARE THIS STORY