Underwater Photography

Taking up underwater photography will add another dimension to your diving, not to mention the expense! It can also be incredibly rewarding but should be undertaken with respect for the environment in which you’re diving. Read the Underwater Photographer’s Code of Practice below, for some simple guidelines.

At the bottom of the page are the details of an Auckland photographic society, Seafanz, that you might be interested in joining. There are also some websites showcasing photos of New Zealand’s underwater world, to give you some inspiration. As well there are some active online underwater photography forums you can peruse and contribute to, as well as a web-based underwater photography magazine you can download.

Underwater Photographer’s Code of Practice

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 the minimum.

· 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 another.

· 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 disturbance.

· 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 authorities.

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 observed.

Reproduced with permission from Paul Kay www.marinewildlife.co.uk.


New Zealand’s premier digital underwater photographic society. A group of people who meet on the third Tuesday of each month on the North Shore to share images and video footage. See website for meeting dates and location.

Images of New Zealand’s Underwater World

Images by Colin Gans
Colin Gans is an award winning underwater photographer who has an extraordinary talent for capturing marine life in images. Colin chairs SEAFANZ, an underwater photographic society in Auckland. In addition to a range of galleries, his site also contains written reviews of housings and rigs.

Darryl Torckler Photography
Darryl Torckler’s underwater photography has earned him four first places in the internationally renowned British Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. Darryl is the master of split level photography, images taken at the water’s surface.

Depth – Richard Robinson
Photographer at The New Zealand Herald and New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year, Richie’s credentials form a long list. There aren’t words to describe his beautiful images.

The Marine Wildlife Photo Agency
UK photographer Paul Kay specialises in high quality images of marine wildlife and marine-related subjects. Type the word ‘zeal’ into the keyword search box on his website and you’ll come up with the photographs he has taken on his trips to New Zealand.

Skip’s Underwater Image Gallery
Ian Skipworth is a New Zealand-based amateur diver and underwater photographer. Skip’s site contains beautiful photos taken in such New Zealand locations as the Poor Knights Islands, Great Barrier Island, the Aldermen Islands, Fiordland, the Three Kings and the Kermadec Islands. He has a fantastic nudibranch gallery.

Underwater Photography Online Forum

Digital imaging for divers. Very active forum with some accomplished photographers posting. Threads on dSLR as well as point and shoot.

Underwater Camera Hire

Club deal with Fish on Film.

Online Underwater Photography Publication

Underwater Photography Web Magazine. UwP is a FREE bi-monthly web-based magazine published on or around the 1st of January, March, May, July, September and November. All you need is a valid email address to download issues.