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21 September 2017Last updated
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Fashion | Women

How did we do a fashion shoot under water?

We called on Polish photographer Rafal Makiela, who has been doing underwater shoots for eight years

Lindsay Judge
17 Feb 2017 | 12:00 am
  • Bikini, Dh95, Asos; Shorts, Dh99, earrings, Dh59 and neck tie, Dh49, all H&M.

    Source:Rafal Makiela

The challenge of doing an underwater fashion shoot for Friday was a whole new realm in styling for me – no shoes, only floaty fabrics and bright colours were a must. I also knew I had to find the perfect model to make sure we got a great end result.

We called on Polish photographer Rafal Makiela, who has been doing underwater shoots for eight years – incidentally, he met his wife Krysia, the model in our fashion spread, on her very first underwater shoot.

Styling this shoot was a steep learning curve for me. Rafal’s camera was locked inside a waterproof plastic casing throughout the shoot, so it was difficult to get an idea of the outcome throughout the day. It took around six hours to complete eight looks, but Krysia didn’t complain once, despite having red eyes and struggling to breathe towards the end of the day.

‘It takes practice and a good mindset,’ she says of managing to hold her breath while posing underwater. ‘The most important thing is not to panic when you feel that you are out of air, because most probably you are good to stay under the water for a little longer. Doing sports and not smoking also helps a lot.’

Here, the Dubai-based duo give their insights into the difficulties – and joys – of underwater photography.

Is it as difficult as it looks?

Krysia: I won’t lie – it really is, but for some people it’s harder than for others. I have always loved water, so doing an underwater shoot was my modelling dream. I was very positive on my first shoot. It was not as easy as I expected but it was just a challenge for me. If someone doesn’t really like to swim or is scared of depths, it might be impossible for them to do a shoot.

Rafal: Underwater photography is a bit complicated and requires a lot of equipment. Everything must be prepared and planned, and the most important thing is the model and crew’s safety during the shoot. Experience and flexibility is also important as it’s a shoot in different conditions and requires a different approach.

What are the problems you have come across?

Krysia: I was surprised that it’s easier to stay above the water surface than under – you have to either exhale before submerging or wear a weight belt if the outfit allows it. The other issue is the irritation to your eyes, which is most noticeable in the sea but is also an issue in pools. After few hours, you can get red eyes and sometimes blurred vision for a while.

How did you learn how to pose underwater?

Krysia: When I was a kid I used to pretend I was posing. I was mesmerised by the movement of hair and fabrics under the water. On my first shoot I just did what I used to do on my own and it worked! I had to adjust a few things, as sometimes poses do not look as good as we expect, but in general it’s pretty similar to posing above the water. You also have to learn it and a modelling background definitely helps.

Is it hard being a couple who work together?

Krysia: It’s actually pretty cool, as you know each other so you communicate easier and can be completely honest. We do separate projects as well so we don’t work together every day, which helps us not to get tired.

How do you go about doing an underwater shoot?

Rafal: Preparation is the key. I always try to prepare everything before the shoot, discussing with the team all the details and expectations regarding the final effect, also try to give some guidelines so our cooperation results in great images.

How does it differ from other photography?

Rafal: The underwater world is something mysterious and magical. Everything is different, there is no defined end to the bottom or top. Gravity almost does not apply, the light propagates differently and is sometimes completely unpredictable. Here, almost everything you dream is possible. Each vision and each idea is feasible.

Lindsay Judge

Lindsay Judge

Fashion Editor