Most underwater photographers are concerned
to protect the environment in which they take their pictures and to avoid
stressing marine creatures when they are taking their images. This is
good for the marine environment and leads to better photographs.
This Code sets out good practices for anyone
who aspires to take pictures or video underwater. Many aspects are also
applicable to the general sports diver.
· No-one should attempt to take pictures underwater until they are a competent
diver. Novices thrashing about with their hands and fins while conscious
only of the image in their viewfinder can do untold damage.
· Every diver, including photographers, should ensure that gauges, octopus
regulators, torches and other equipment are secured so they do not trail
over reefs or cause other damage.
· Underwater photographers should possess superior precision buoyancy
control skills to avoid damaging the fragile marine environment and its
creatures. Even experienced divers and those modelling for photographers
should ensure that careless or excessively vigorous fin strokes and arm
movements do not damage coral or smother it in clouds of sand. A finger
placed carefully on a bare patch of rock can do much to replace other,
more damaging movement.
· Photographers should carefully explore the area in which they are diving
and find subjects that are
accessible without damage to them or other organisms.
· Care should be taken to avoid stressing a subject. Some fish are clearly
unhappy when a camera
invades their "personal space" or when pictures are taken using flash
or lights. Others are unconcerned. They make the best subjects.
· Divers and photographers should never kill marine life to attract other
types to them or to create a
photographic opportunity, such as feeding sea urchins to wrasse. Creatures
should never be handled or irritated to create a reaction and sedentary
ones should never be placed on an alien background, which may result in
them being killed.
· Queuing to photograph a rare subject, such as a seahorse, should be
avoided because of the harm
repeated bursts of bright light may do to their eyesight. For the same
reason, the number of shots of an individual subject should be kept to
· Clown fish and other territorial animals are popular subjects but some
become highly stressed when a photographer moves in to take a picture.
If a subject exhibits abnormal behaviour move on to find
· Night diving requires exceptional care because it is much more difficult
to be aware of your surroundings. Strong torch beams or lights can dazzle
fish and cause them to harm themselves by blundering into surrounding
coral or rocks. Others are confused and disturbed if torch beams or lights
are pointed directly at them. Be prepared to keep bright lights off subjects
that exhibit stressed behaviour, using only the edge of the beam to minimise
· Care should be taken when photographing in caves, caverns or even inside
wrecks because exhaust bubbles can become trapped under overhangs killing
marine life. Even small pockets of trapped air which allow divers to talk
to each other inside them can be lethal for marine life.
· The image in the viewfinder can be very compelling. Photographers should
remain conscious of their
position and of the marine life around them at all times. In sensitive
areas, they should avoid moving
around on the bottom with their mask pressed up against the camera viewfinder.
· Areas of extensive damage or pollution should be reported to the appropriate
Today, when so many more divers are taking up
underwater photography, both still and video, it is
essential that the preservation of the fragile marine environment and
its creatures is paramount and that this Code of Good Practice is carefully
This Code of Conduct has been introduced by
Conservation Society with funding
from PADI's Project AWARE
project. It is endorsed by the British Society of Underwater Photographers,
the Northern Underwater Photographic
Group and the Bristol Underwater Photography
Group as well as being supported by the Sub-Aqua Association, the British Sub-Aqua Club and the Scottish Sub-Aqua Club.