Is My Child Ready for Underwater Photography?

Although kids can begin diving as young as age 10, that doesn’t mean they’re ready for underwater photography. Consider a number of factors before putting a camera in your child’s hands.

Since certifying three years ago, at 10 years old, my son has logged 79 dives and completed the Advanced Junior Open Water certification. Although he’s been diving for some time, my husband and I only allowed him to use an underwater camera this year. Is your child ready for underwater photography? Read on for a few tips to keep their dives safe — and fun — with a camera.

Start with a dive torch

Our son asked to use both our flashlights and our cameras on occasion. We nixed the camera and told him to remain focused on his diving, buoyancy and gauges. But we did start letting him hold his dad’s torch to adjust lights for a picture. Later, we purchased a bright, compact and lightweight torch for him. He started using it to point out things he wanted to show us. Once comfortable with where he stowed it, he used it on night dives until it became a normal piece of his equipment.  

Pay close attention to their buoyancy

As a new diver, our son, like most of us, struggled with buoyancy. He added too much air if he felt heavy or dumped too much if he had trouble staying down. If he tried to clear his mask or remove and replace it due to a squeeze, or even wanted to write something on his slate, he would start heading to the surface without realizing it. This eventually became less of an issue, but we really watched how he controlled his buoyancy in a variety of situations. By the time we considered letting him take photos, we felt he had learned to manage it well. He was not using his arms to move around. We didn’t have to remind him to watch his gauges. He spent more time looking at marine life than playing with other divers’ bubbles.

Try the phone first

All teenagers — and most adults — treat their phones like an extension of their bodies. Because it is such a familiar piece of equipment, we got our son a waterproof case for his phone. He was then able to use it for pictures and video underwater. He used his torch for lighting, and as he was already so adept at managing his phone, it wasn’t a difficult addition to his gear.

Keep the camera manageable

When we finally let him use a regular underwater camera, we chose a compact model that did not have a large housing, lenses, arms, lights, flash, etc. We chose one that was just slightly larger than his phone had been a waterproof case to keep the size and weight familiar. The compact models also don’t typically have too many settings or adjustments that would distract him from simply focusing on his subject and snapping the picture.

So far, our son enjoys seeing the marine world through a camera lens. He is working on his photography skills, and has engaged seasoned underwater photographers as mentors. We’re still quite mindful of when we let him use his camera, however. We don’t let him shoot macro yet, and he’s only allowed to photograph at a safe distance from the reef. He’s happy with his setup, finding his dad’s bigger camera too bulky to handle. In time, he’ll want to try the bigger camera again. But for now, he understands that he’s operating within his skill level. Ultimately, knowing when your child is ready for underwater photography comes down to careful observation of their behavior underwater. When and if they’re ready (and interested), underwater photography can add a whole new dimension to all your family dives.