Underwater Photography

Many visitors want to capture the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef through photographs which they can take home as a memory to share with their family and friends. Focusing on getting that picture means that your client may not be focusing on what their fins are doing to the reef below or may even be interfering with the animals.

As tourism operators you should encourage a 'look but don't touch' approach and, with some guidance from you, the underwater photographer can have little impact on this wonderful underwater world.

Responsible Reef Practices

In general

  • Practice snorkelling and diving without your camera first. Good buoyancy is the key to minimal impact underwater photography. Unless you are a competent diver or snorkeller, you may inadvertently damage the environment around you while focusing on the image you are trying to capture.
  • Check that all your dive gear and photographic equipment is secure before you get into the water. Photographic equipment may add weight so ensure you are properly weighted.
  • Explore the area first to establish the best areas to take photographs.
  • Be aware of your position and the marine life around you. Remember your actions can disturb feeding and mating or provoke aggression so move slowly and calmly through the water and if an animal appears stressed, move on.
  • Avoid disturbing the environment, especially damaging coral or stressing animals.
    • Avoid leaning on, holding onto, or touching any part of the reef
    • Avoid touching any animals or plants
    • Stay more than one metre away from giant clams
    • Avoid relocating any marine life
    • Keep clear of free-swimming animals (such as turtles, whales, and sea snakes). In particular, you must not chase, ride, grab or block the path of these animals.
  • Respect underwater cultural heritage such as shipwrecks and culturally significant sites.
  • If you have a professional photographer on board your vessel, advise them of the best practice methods for underwater photography of the Great Barrier Reef.

When guiding clients

  • Brief divers and snorkellers on responsible reef practices, proper behaviour, rules of the reef, and information about the local marine life.
  • Keep a close eye on divers and snorkellers with cameras.
  • As the guide, swim a little over one metre above the coral. Your clients will likely follow and so be less likely to damage coral with their fins.
  • Ensure your clients do not queue for photographs as repeated flashes may harm the animal.
  • Ensure your clients avoid shining strong lights directly on animals during night photography.

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

  • You must not damage, collect or otherwise ‘take’ or 'possess' coral, including dead coral, and 'take' protected shell species (that is giant triton shell, helmet shell, giant clam) in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit.
    Note: ‘Take’ includes removing, gathering, killing or interfering with, or attempting to take. 'Possess' means to have custody or control of. There may be special arrangements for Traditional Owners.
  • You must not approach closer than 30 metres to a whale or dolphin if you are in the water. If a whale or dolphin approaches you while you are in the water, move slowly away, do not touch or swim towards it.
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