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Underwater photography | Etiquette for photographers and non-photographers
We've been shooting underwater for many years now and have spent plenty of time contemplating the how's and why's of this sensitive subject. There were times when, as novices, we were shocked by the attitude of so-called pro-photographers acting like they owned the ocean, swiftly upsetting the delicate balance of budding dive friendships. We also saw non-divers that contributed to the drama by being inflexible – yet with a little planning and a some old-fashioned courtesy, it's really very easy for everyone to get on.
Diving with a camera
buoyancy controlphotographer and fishtaking a shark video
Every photographer has been on a boat when someone has moaned about having to put up with them and sometimes you can understand why... our stuff's in their way, we hog all the space, we want special treatment. Yes, it's all true. There's a lot invested in the camera kit and our time in the water, we become highly focussed and excited, simply forgetting the old rules of courteous and careful diving.

Respect the marine environment | Carrying a camera changes the way we dive. Your eye seems forever glued to the viewfinder, you stop watching where you are going, judging distances goes up the spout and you are bound to put a hand down. Cross words get aired back on the boat. However, everyone needs to appreciate that there are times when you can touch stuff down there without doing either it – or yourself – any harm. Much of the underwater world is either dangerous, poisonous or fragile (or all of the above) so take time to learn what is and what isn't.

Look closely at the reef – right beside a bunch of coral might be some rather pretty looking algae. If you are forced to put a finger down for balance, look for the algae where the effect of your touch is minimal. Sandy patches or rocks are good contenders for a place to rest and look for a photo opportunity.

Never move an animal There are far too many tales of photographers or divemasters moving critters about to achieve the perfect shot. Lifting a creature like a seahorse from its holdfast to shoot it against a clear background may look great but could mean it never finds its way home again, losing its mate and young in the process. |

The 'six-frame'rule | Some photographers get so wound up in what they are doing they simply forget they have buddies nearby. Hogging the lone frogfish on a dive and not letting other divers even get a glimpse of the chap sitting on his sponge is just plain mean. We once spent a dive trip with a group that had more cameras between them than actual divers. After getting pretty frustrated at their finders-keepers attitude, and some sharp words on both sides, we instigated the six frame rule. It's quite simple... If you find it, you get to shoot off six frames then pass the subject over to whoever is nearby. Once everyone has had a look or taken 6 shots, you can go back. After all, critters rarely disappear, they are loyal to their homes and will hang around for the full photo shoot. This system improves the dive as a whole – as people become more willing to share their finds, everyone has more fun.

Never forget why you are there It's all too easy to get completely caught up in taking a picture but safety should be paramount in any diver’s mind. Diving that little bit too deep to chase a shark, or staying long enough to start sucking rust is crazy. Good buoyancy is more important than any other dive skill. Being able to hover effortlessly over a subject so that you can focus on it, is an amazingly useful knack and worth perfecting. Consider your actions with the camera and don't get so caught up that you endanger the very environment you came to admire.|

Diving without a camera
photographing a great white shark

Divers on the other side of the lens are often critical of photographers and seem to take pleasure in giving them a hard time. They get upset that there's an extra shelf to charge up batteries, a special camera table and even separate camera rinse tank. Why is that? Why does the charging station get wet kit dropped on it, the camera table used for coffee and is it really necessary to dip masks in the tank with the cameras?

So for the record | The reason why you are asked not to rinse your mask with the cameras is because it's possible that toothpaste or mask clear might damage the camera's o-rings or your watch may scratch a dome port. And yes, we invested a lot in that kit so surely having one bucket for us and one for you isn't that much of a problem?

Never move a photographer | Being able to capture just a little of the emotion of a dive is a wonderful feeling, and yes, photographers need to remember to consider the environment and their buddies. But non-photo guys need to remember that very few photographers and divers go down with the intention of ruining your fun so don't go pushing one (anyone) out the way. You will scare an animal off by rushing around and then no one gets to see it. Many non-photographers wonder how they see so little in comparison. It's all about patience and moving slowly.

Never forget why you are there | In reality we are all there for the same reason – to view, admire and enjoy the environment we are visiting. Plus you just love to look at what we do. It's why you're reading this, why you get a monthly subscription to your favourite diving magazine and definitely why you drop hints on which latest coffee table book you want for Christmas. Compromise is important in all things and especially in this. Be nice to the guy who took the manta ray photo and you may just find he'll email you a copy.

Underwater photography tips
Tips for succesful dives with a camera include:
Ensure you have good buoyancy control, nothing is more important.
Research the local marine environment and know what is dangerous or fragile.
Treat the reef and all marine creatures with the respect they deserve.
Look don't touch – but if you must put a hand down try to find a 'dead' spot on the reef.
Never move an animal to get a photo of it.
Be courteous to those without a camera… and vice versa.
Non-photographers, be patient – you know how much you like to see the shots after the dive.
Be generous and share what you see with other divers.
In a big group, instigate the 'six-frame' rule – each person only takes six frames then lets another have a go.
Never be that person who hogs a spot or fish and ruins someone else’s dive.
Don't push in front of another photographer or diver, simply indicate you want a look too.
Don’t concentrate so much on what you see through the lens that you forget there is more behind you – or you will miss the Great White as it passes over your shoulder.
Never, ever jeopardize your personal safety just to get another picture.

and if you're just starting out... no matter how excited you are to be scuba diving, leave the camera behind until you are truly comfortable in the water – you can’t be a good diver as well as a good photographer until you have mastered all the basic dive skills.

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