A Perspective on Underwater Photography Etiquette

Photography is a great way to capture the majesty of the underwater world and share it with others.  I have been shooting UW for several years and have taken some photos that are great.  Lot’s have hit the trash bin too, but that’s all part of the game.

Unfortunately, a lot of photographers have a bad name UW and are “to be avoided” as a dive buddy.  I’d like to think I’m not one of those photographers, as I try to maintain a courteous approach when I’m shooting.  I’m lucky that I get to dive so much, so I’d rather ensure all my travelers see the Seahorse before I hunker down to shoot the perfect shot.  But not all photographers are like that, and many are completely oblivious to everything around them.  I have seen dive professionals kick coral heads, destroy sponges and more in the name of getting a shot. It’s embarrassing to me as a person in the industry that these people aren’t more careful.  People:  It’s called situational awareness.  Look into it!

Anyway, there are lots of things to consider, and here are a few of the important ones.  I’m off to Curacao in a couple weeks and will watch our UW photo enthusiasts and report back on how we do…an unbiased perspective.

  • Don’t grab on to coral. You will damage the environment, and damaged reefs = no more photography subjects!  If you must, put a finger in the sand or pinch a dead piece of rock, but the full palm grab is unnecessary.  If the subject is in a bad spot, pass on the shot.  If your buoyancy isn’t good enough to stay still, consider leaving the camera on the boat and work on buoyancy for a few more dives, and then try again. The major part of great UW photography is good buoyancy, so with that in control, your photos will be much better.
  • Don’t ever damage a reef just to get a shot.
  • Be extremely careful when shooting around sea fans, like shooting a pygmy sea horse, so as to not damage the sea fan. It’s someone’s home!
  • If you are drifting too close to the coral, gently push away with one finger on the area with the least amount of growth, preferable a dead zone.
  • Don’t silt up an area before or after taking a photograph. Often photographers “flutter kick away” after taking a shot, ruining the subject or a shot for others. They usually don’t realize they are doing this. Learn how to frog kick, and do it slowly. Backing away from a shot is trickier but possible with practice.
  • When waiting for another photographer, give them some distance; make sure you wait down current so silt is not carried to the photo subject. Photographers will often change position while taking a shot, sometimes stretching their legs back. This is why you must stay back further than you may think.
  • If other photographers are waiting, take turns photographing the subject. Everyone’s time is valuable; discuss hand signals with your buddy ahead of time if you want to “work” a subject for a while that you found, make sure you let the other person get some shot’s first.
  • When diving with others, you should always discuss dive etiquette rules ahead of time. Agree on how long each photographer will spend with a subject.
  • Regarding buoyancy – most people don’t realize when they have bad buoyancy, or the tendency to silt up the area. If you see your buddy doing this, think of a way to politely mention it to them, and ask them to tell you if they see you doing the same thing.
  • Always show your friends and other divers interesting subjects that you find. They will really appreciate it.

Upcoming Events