The most important aspect in wildlife photography: Don’t disturb!
The animals we photograph are wild and should be treated with respect. When we interact with them, we have a responsibility to minimize our impact on their environment and behavior. Here are some tips on how to photograph marine wildlife without disturbing the animals:
1) Keep a safe distance
The first and most important rule of wildlife photography is to keep a safe distance from the animals. Different animals have different comfort zones, so research the species you want to photograph to determine what distance is appropriate. A good rule of thumb is to stay at least 50-100 feet away from marine animals.
2) Use a zoom lens
To get close-up shots of marine wildlife without disturbing them, use a long lens. A telephoto lens will allow you to zoom in on the animals from a safe distance. A lens with a focal length of 300mm or more is ideal for wildlife photography. Personally, I use the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM .
3) Be patient (!)
Wildlife photography requires patience. Spend some time observing the animals from a distance and wait for them to come to you. Don’t approach the animals or try to lure them with food. Instead, let them behave naturally and capture their behavior as it happens.
4) Avoid flash photography
Flash photography can startle and disorient animals, so avoid using a flash. Use natural light and adjust your camera settings to compensate for low light conditions. If you must use a flash, use a diffuser to soften the light and reduce the impact on the animals.
5) Don’t disturb their environment
Marine animals are sensitive to changes in their environment. Avoid disturbing their habitat, such as touching or moving rocks or coral. If you’re snorkeling or diving, be mindful of your fins and avoid kicking up sand or disturbing the bottom. In my experience, it’s best to just float in the water and let the animals do their thing. The best encounters (and therefore photos) happen when the animals see you as one of them.