Beneath the lens: Exploring the impacts of underwater photographers in marine-based tourism

Anson T.H. MA, Lewis T.O. CHEUNG, Ching Yee LUI, Sin Yin Alice CHOW, Ke ZHANG, Theresa W.L. LAM, Lincoln FOK

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


As scuba diving proliferates in popularity as a nature-based recreational activity, the associated benefits and impacts are correspondingly emerging. Previous studies showed that underwater photographers are potentially the more impactful group of scuba divers. To further explore the impacts and behaviour of underwater photographers, this study attempted to predict their impacts through three photography-related variables, including species of interest, photography habit, and photography commitment through a case study in Hong Kong. A scuba diver survey was performed in summer 2021 to assess the impacts of divers, a follow-up questionnaire survey was delivered, and a total of 106 samples were collected. Findings showed that underwater photographers caused more negative impacts than ordinary scuba divers. Among underwater photographers, individuals more interested in conspicuous and actively moving species have more frequent contact with marine organisms. In contrast, those more interested in cryptic and sedentary species were more likely to cause intentional contact. Underwater photographers with greater commitment also showed more frequent and more intentional connections. Implications were drawn regarding underwater photographers' behaviors, and relevant suggestions were recommended to address the potential concerns. 

Management implication: This study highlights the significant ecological impacts of underwater photographers who cause higher contact rates with the coral community, which causes more severe damage. The research suggested various policies for the protected areas managers to mitigate the advert ecological impacts from the recreational divers as follows: 

● Train underwater photographers on proper techniques to reduce ecological impact. 

● Regulate the use of professional photography devices in marine environments. 

● Implement comprehensive pre-dive briefings to promote eco-friendly diving practices. 

● Use supervised dives to ensure adherence to environmental guidelines. 

By adopting the above measurements, the marine ecosystem can be protected, which can promote sustainable tourism practices. Copyright © 2024 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100796
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
Early online dateJun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jun 2024


Ma, A. T. H., Cheung, L. T. O., Lui, C. Y., Chow, A. S. Y., Zhang, K., Lam, T. W. L., & Fok, L. (2024). Beneath the lens: Exploring the impacts of underwater photographers in marine-based tourism. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, 47, Article 100796.


  • Recreation
  • Scuba diving
  • Underwater photographer
  • Ecological impact
  • Visitor management
  • Marine-based tourism


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