With the new Green Fins Environmental Best Practice for Underwater Photographers poster, you can look after your photographer divers and protect our beautiful marine systems, all at the same time! Let’s learn more about the underwater photography best practices.
Only a few years ago, underwater photography was a niche skill that only the richest and most experienced divers could get into. But as cameras and underwater housings have become cheaper and more accessible, coupled with the growth of social media, more and more dive customers are now snapping pictures underwater as well as blowing bubbles.
Underwater photographers have gifted the world a view into the murky depths of our oceans. Now, even non-divers can learn about marine life and our fantastic underwater ecosystems. These photographers have helped increase awareness into the beauty and preciousness of the underwater world, which is also helping the conservation sector to preserve them.
However, as with any activity, poor practices may result in harming the coral reefs that we depend on for our livelihood. In fact, there are many environmental factors to take into account when leading divers with cameras, such as poor buoyancy, holding onto living reef for support or manipulating wildlife for the ‘perfect photo’.
Underwater Photography Best Practices Explained
So what are the best underwater photography practices to tell your customers? Luckily, the team at Reef-World have created some new guidelines for their flagship initiative, Green Fins. These guidelines, in the form of an easily downloadable poster, are a compilation of do’s and don’ts taken from dive professionals and professional underwater photographers with decades of experience. Read on to find out or download the poster here.
DO secure your equipment (e.g. gauges, regulators etc.): so they do not trail over reefs and cause damage
DO assess the situation before approaching: and position yourself and your camera without touching the reef
DO practise buoyancy control, hovering and photography skills: before diving with the camera. Advanced buoyancy skills prevent damage to the marine environment
DO be still and patient: so the subject will not be scared away; this will give you the best opportunity for a longer, positive encounter that lets you take a great shot
DO learn to fin slowly backwards: so you can move away from the reef without causing damage
DO be careful with your torch on night dives: so as not to disturb nocturnal behaviour or wake sleeping fish
DO tip guides who follow best practice: and let them know you appreciate their care for the environment
DON’T fixate over a particular species: you’ll have better dive experiences and guides may feel pressured to move or touch marine life if they think you’re only interested in specific creatures
DON’T touch, manipulate or chase marine life: don’t use hands or other equipment (e.g. pointer sticks) to move marine life for a clear shot. Any manipulation can cause severe stress
DON’T touch or hold onto corals: for support or move or break corals to get a clear shot
DON’T take too many shots of an animal: limit to taking 5 photos with flash per diver. Excessive use of flash will scare and stress marine life
DON’T invade an animal’s space (e.g. cleaning stations): getting too close will cause your subject to flee. If animals show signs of stress by hiding, changing colour or trying to swim away, move on to another subject
DON’T stir up sediment: by maintaining neutral buoyancy or gently lowering the tip of your fins down onto the sand if needed
Extra Tips and Tricks for You and Your Customers
With this handy new tool, we now know the rules about how to guide your customers to be responsible underwater photographers, but here are some extra tips and tricks to consider when you have customers with cameras:
Not surprisingly, it’s a lot easier to talk on land than underwater! Make sure to include environmental tips in your briefings, such as good photography practices. Sharing your rules for sustainable diving before getting in the water allows you to communicate clearly about important issues.
Have a conversation with your customers to understand what type of photography they are interested in and how experienced they are. Bear in mind that different types of photography may lead to different impactful behaviours and you can tailor your briefings around this. For example, macro photographers may be more likely to swim closer to the reef to see tiny critters so you can warn them of your no touch policy, and photographers diving to see one animal in particular may get overexcited and scare the animal in their haste to take a photo, so you might include that affecting an animal’s behaviour causes severe stress.
Some camera equipment is small and light, but some is also extremely heavy and bulky! Weighty or awkward equipment can be really difficult for even the strongest of people to manage, especially when there is a lot of other dive gear to think about. Offer your help and hold your customers’ equipment whilst they adjust gear, either on the surface before the dive or during the dive if you see them struggling to manage. This can prevent any accidental disturbances to the seafloor or reef contact from your divers.
This kind of behaviour won’t only benefit the ocean. With customer service like that, you’ll be more likely to get a bigger tip too!
Your customers will be looking at you to lead the way as an environmental ambassador, so make sure that your buoyancy skills are perfect. But remember, even if you have the ability to swim low to corals without any direct contact, your customers may not be as skilled. Stay a good distance from the reef so your divers won’t be tempted to follow or copy you.
Having a good grasp of different types of fin kicks is very useful in your career, such as the frog kick, helicopter turns and mastering the dreaded back kick! The latter is especially useful for backing away from the reef without having to push off or turn around to swim away. Tutorials for each of these techniques can be found online – or you can ask a colleague who has already nailed it to teach you.
Take action this December: DOWNLOAD the Green Fins Environmental Best Practice for Underwater Photographers poster and tell your friends, colleagues and photographers all about it!
Conservation, conservation, guiding divers, photography, save the oceanPADI Pros