The thrill of finding a rare species or capturing marine life behaviour on camera is incredibly exciting, however, it’s this excitement that can sometimes lead to endangering marine life, other scuba divers and damaging the coral reef.
I’ve been accidentally hit in the face by a camera and even seen guides gather together several different species of Nudibranch like it’s an underwater still life!
So, in this guide, I’m going to share with you some of the underwater photography tips and tricks we’ve picked up over the years to achieve the best photo you can without causing harm.
Don’t Touch the Reef
Something you have no doubt heard over and over again but here are some steps you can take to get close to the reef without damaging it:
Scuba Diving Pointer Stick aka Scuba Tank Banger
Use the end of a pointer stick to gently touch a rocky area which will help you keep a distance from the reef and maintain balance whilst holding the camera in the other hand.
Once finished all you have to do is gently push away from the reef using the metal stick and it’s as easy as that. You can pick one up from most dive stores or here on Amazon.
If you don’t already own one of these, you need one in your diving kit. They come in super handy should you come across strong current, as you can simply hook onto a rock and capture the marine life around you as they duck and dive through the current.
I wish someone had told me about these when I was a beginner diver as it would’ve helped me to panic less knowing that I could just hook on rather than constantly worrying about fighting the current or losing the group.
Two Finger Last Resort
If you absolutely must touch the reef or the sandy bottom to steady yourself, first choose an area that is lifeless, such as a rock and gently wave your hand across the spot to ensure nothing is living or lurking there such as a stonefish. Then gently place only your forefinger and thumb onto the area at arm's length, this will help you to observe what you need without getting too close.
It’s not an ideal option, so only do this if you have no other choice. If you are wondering what’s the point in only using two fingers, it prevents you from grabbing onto the reef with your whole hand.
Red Focus Light For Night Dives
Red light is invisible to crustaceans and less visible to fish which is why using a red underwater focus light will allow you to approach and set up your focus without disturbing certain types of marine life on a night dive.
Don’t Flash Sleeping Fish
Many species of coral fish, such as the parrotfish and wrasse, cover themselves in a mucus cocoon when sleeping, which can break if disturbed leaving them susceptible to predators. Therefore, be careful where you point your torch or flash on a night dive as no one likes to be woken by a bright light in their face!
Limit Your Shots
If you can’t get the shot in the first few attempts then it’s time to move on, not only does this stop the animal from becoming stressed, but it’s also good scuba diving etiquette for others that might be waiting to observe the critter. We’ve dived with quite a few dive centres that will only allow photographers to take a max of 3-5 photos before you have to move on.
Don’t Manipulate Marine life
This is one of the biggest no-no’s yet you still see It happening time and time again. Moving a species from one area to another or poking them until they look at the camera, severely stresses the animal which can sadly kill them, however, you still see so many underwater photographers doing it. Dive Guides are no exception and some will do this in excitement to impress, so should this happen to you on a dive just politely signal for them to stop. The more ethical we become as divers the more we will help protect our ocean.
Perfecting your Buoyancy will not only help to keep your body away from the reef but also help with stability whilst using your camera.
When diving with a large camera set up for the first time or anytime you get a new camera, it’s always a good idea to do a quick check dive as the added camera weight may affect your buoyancy, meaning you’ll need to adjust your weights accordingly.