Looking to get into that graceful photogenic dance below the waves, but have no idea where to start? It’s an experience and skill like no other: Appearing natural when posing is difficult for most topside fashion models, let alone pulling it off when underwater. Joyce Ng, one of Southeast Asia’s most exciting underwater models, takes UW360 through the process of becoming one and the experience of being on a sub-aqua shoot. Along with useful tips and techniques, read about the experiences and lifestyle of a model who is dedicated to showcasing the beauty of the realm below the waves:
Why underwater modelling? What first attracted you to it?
I started diving in 2011 in Phuket, Thailand. It was then that I got addicted to the sea and fell in love with underwater photography. Both my boyfriend and I love underwater photography, so when we used to shoot wide-angle, we would model for each other. The diving magazine Scuba Diver Ocean Planet contained some articles that introduced underwater fashion photography, so we became inspired and then started to try it out. Naturally, I became the model and he became the photographer.
You always look so relaxed in your images. How do you achieve this?
Practise always makes perfect. The first thing you need to do is accustom your eyes to opening underwater. It is near impossible to present a relaxed face when your eyes are suffering and not used to opening in this new environment. To start with, I would suggest to try opening and closing your eyes in fresh water.
What do you think about when underwater?
When I am modelling underwater, I focus solely on relaxing myself. It’s good to try and imagine yourself in the “fins” of the photographer, to work out the top angles and poses for the shot.
What training does it take to become an underwater model?
Personally, I didn’t go through any special training to become an underwater model. As I am a PADI divemaster, I was well trained and experienced enough in the water to not feel any pressure of being in the open ocean or pool during a photo shoot. I recently visited Cebu, Philippines, to take the RAID WSF level 1 freediver course. It helped greatly with my breath-hold and I learnt the method of using a monofin for “mermaiding”.
What is an average day for an underwater model?
When I am out on underwater modelling trips, communicating with underwater photographers is the most important thing to do. For preparation, we need to communicate with each other to work out what we want to achieve from the shoot (concepts, themes, etc.). Also, we need to review the photos after a day of shooting to discuss how to improve them the next day.
I prefer not to stay out late at night in between shooting days in order to have enough energy to deal with the next day’s shoot. Underwater modelling is a tiring process, due to swimming, throwing poses, and the constant going up and down.
Do you have a favourite moment when underwater modelling?
My favourite moment was doing the underwater shoot with whale sharks. They are such gentle giants and it was a feeling like no other to swim alongside them. You can truly understand their size when they are right beside you. The resulting photos were stunning.
What do you hope to achieve through your work?
I would like to enhance people’s awareness of protecting our oceans through our images. I want the people who have never had the opportunity to dive to see how beautiful our ocean is. It’s everyone’s responsibility to act on helping to save the ocean, as ocean pollution and overfishing affect us all. Also, with our mermaid photos we would like to inform people that sharks are not the mindless, ferocious predators that certain movies make them out to be, and they should definitely not be in a bowl as shark fin soup.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
We have only just completed a project in Kenting, Taiwan, to show the beauty of Taiwan’s underwater world with me modelling as a mermaid. It was a great opportunity to shoot with Taiwan’s professional underwater photographers. We also got the chance to witness hard coral spawning in a night dive – it was amazing and extremely rare to see! So, we are still in the midst of planning our next project.
Any advice for aspiring underwater models?
I would advise not to push yourself to the limit during shooting. Only when you feel comfortable with the situation, can you pose well and show that relaxed facial expression. There is unlikely to be any good photos when you are forcing it, or feeling pressured by the environment. To look relaxed, you must be relaxed in the underwater environment.
I advise practising in a swimming pool before you enter the sea for an underwater shoot, as there can be many unexpected elements you may need to deal with in the sea. Safety is the most important thing. So, do communicate closely with your photographer before shooting and do what is within your ability.