Underwater Video Lights Guide: Before You Buy

Choosing an underwater video light system for your GoPro or small video light system can be challenging, especially when you start shopping and comparing prices. Check out our “GoPro Underwater Video Light Comparison” video.

Before you buy your video lights, consider a few things:

  1. Power (Lumens)

    The brightness of the light will greatly depend on what type of diving and underwater usage you desire.  For daylight in shallower depths of clear water, you will need a much more powerful light to utilize sunlight, but conquer dark areas.  For night dives in clear water, you need less power and perhaps a wider angle.  Add plankton, silt or other infiltrates in the water and your light system changes again.

    Adjustable power settings are ideal.  One light at full bore does not always accomplish what you need.  As the ocean, sunlight and depth change, your lighting needs also change.  Consider a light that has several settings and at least half power for several reasons (avoid burning the retinas out of marine life, avoid blowing out your subject in white heavenly light, saving battery power, and about three dozen other reasons, which you will find out as you dive more and record more).

  2. Angle (width)

    GoPro video cameras have a wide angle lens.  Again, based on what type of diving you plan to video, you’ll need to choose a light system that can handle the wide angle of the GoPro’s field of view.

    Day diving in bright sunlight may give you the desire to focus light on one single object, while utilizing ambient light to fill the areas that are less in focus. The 400 lumen simple video light like the Knog Qudos Action Video Light for GoPro is likely sufficient for closeups of the larger animals in the daylight.

    Night diving or limited visibility requires a different type of lighting with a GoPro system.  At night, using the same video light will offer you one single beam of light and dark edges on your video.  Likewise, targeted lights like flashlights and pointed beam lights will give your GoPro videos one or  two round circles, instead of a flat light covering the entire screen.  At night, consider a light source with a minimum of 120 degree beam and a minimum of 2500 lumens.  Duals are even better.

  3. Quality & Maintenance

    Flooding lights is never a good idea underwater, especially in salt water.  I’ve heard and seen flashlights explode underwater, shattering them to pieces and scaring everything in ocean half to death.  Leaky seals, bad maintenance, hair and dust caught in the silicon sealer, these are things that can ruin your dive.  Consider quality products when purchasing lights, and take the proper precautions to maintain your equipment before you dive.  Just as you check your camera for leaks in freshwater before you dive, be sure to also check your lights.  Read reviews of products and testimonials with actual dive time.

  4. Price

    While price might be the first factor when considering purchasing video lights for your camera, it’s actually the thing you should consider last, in my opinion.  That sounds great, right?  Like money is no object?  The thing I’ve learned over time is that being cheap and not doing your homework will cost you more in the end, than saving for the right equipment.  It’s easy to get online and start adding awesome toys to your wish lists, but before you impulse buy that great looking camera setup, consider actually using it.  Check out our video light comparison

    Also consider that the tools you have can help you grow as a videographer.  If you’re diving every day, you might want to invest in something better.  If you go once per year, may you don’t.  I like to say, start small. Start with affordable, but quality lights that you can use now or later.  Maybe you buy the powerful beam light now and use it as a backup light later.  Or, you jump into to dual 2500 lumen wide beam awesomeness right off the bat.  Whatever you consider, buy something that fits your needs and budget

    Happy shooting.