I’ve previously given my top tips on underwater modelling, based on my time as a professional mermaid and underwater model. So I’m going to continue this as a little blog series! Being able to open your eyes underwater is a really important part of underwater modelling. If you can’t open your eyes, you may still be able to get some beautiful shots with closed eyes, but to be a successful underwater model you need to be able to open them. As the old saying goes, the eyes are the windows to the soul – and in underwater photography, seeing a model with their eyes open is part of what really brings that magical, fantastical quality to the picture.
So if you’re not comfortable with opening your eyes underwater, how do you get there? Realistically, you do need to accept that opening your eyes underwater is likely to sting, and you’ll need to practice to get comfortable with it gradually, over time. Here are some key pointers that will help you get there.
Learn How To Open Your Eyes Underwater
1. Start By Staying Still
If you swim forwards with your eyes open, it’s more painful, because you’re effectively forcing the water into your eyes. For your first attempts at opening your eyes underwater, try to stay quite still as you open them.
2. Avoid Chlorine If You Can
Chlorine and heavily salted water are the most unpleasant on your eyes, but even fresh water will sting a little bit. Aim to start trying to open your eyes underwater in lightly chlorinated water, or natural water that is clear and free of other irritants (such as a lot of dirt or sand).
If you’re in a public swimming pool, remember that these tend to have higher chlorine levels than private pools or tanks, so your eyes are likely to sting more in a public pool.
Make sure you have eye drops on hand for when you get out of the water – there are lots of great drops on the market, and I recommend looking for the kind that are marketed as being more viscous or gels, such as Viscotears liquid gel.
3. Check The Temperature
It’s also worth being aware that the temperature of the water will make a difference. The most unpleasant underwater photoshoot I ever did was in an indoor tank, and me and the other models noticed that our eyes were burning much worse than normal. We spoke to the tank operators and they did several checks on the chlorine levels, which were completely within the normal range – but by the end of the shoot, we were all barely able to open our eyes (and seriously glad we had brought our eye drops along!).
Afterwards we realised that the problem had almost certainly been the temperature of the water – it was a cold winter’s day and the tank was located in a chilly warehouse, so the operators had very kindly turned the temperature up to ensure we didn’t freeze. However, the warmer water meant that the chlorine was reacting more easily with our eyes and thus a lot more painful than usual. So if you’re shooting in a heated pool or tank, try not to have the temperature turned up too high. You’re better off being briefly cold than having red vampire eyes for days afterwards!
4. Build Up Slowly
Start by opening your eyes for one or two seconds and build up from there. Practice makes perfect, but don’t spend too long practicing at once – spread it out over a number of different sessions to make sure you’re not putting your eyes through too much punishment.
Try opening your eyes while looking upwards initially, as some people find this easier.
5. And Finally…
If you find that you’re still not comfortable opening your eyes underwater and want to shoot pictures with your eyes shut, make sure that you’re not scrunching your face up to keep your eyes closed – you want to look relaxed!