6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos

21 June 2022

A whale in the wild is a spectacular sight to behold and a vision to be captured. There’s nothing quite like seeing animals out in their own habitat, and seeing giant whales dramatically leaping, fluking, slapping, and spy hopping in the big blue is such a delight. To make the moment last in the clearest, most stunning way possible, you’ll want to know all the ins and outs of how to photograph whales.

Photographing whales from a boat is a wonderful activity, but to not miss a thing, it’s best to feel equipped with useful whale photography tips. That way, you’ll get the shot, but also remain present and calm while you patiently await this magnificent animal’s exhibition. Let’s deep dive into the world of whale watching photography with these 6 whale photography tips.


1. Use the right camera gear

For the best whale watching photos, use a Mirrorless Camera with a telephoto lens. This will help you capture the “wow factor” of whale watching, as the zoom of the lens lets you take a more up-close photograph, and the DSLR reacts quickly, helping you fire multiple shots in a row for you to pick the best whale photos later. Keep in mind too that the higher the megapixel rating, the better, as it means you can crop the image in the post-production phase without causing too much pixelation.

6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos

Put together your own whale watching photography kit


2. Be prepared and fully charged

6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos

Arrive with spare batteries and memory cards so you don’t miss any of the show. There’s nothing worse during a planned shoot than when your battery goes flat, or you fill up your memory card too quickly. Important too when considering the best whale watching gear is to bring a cleaning kit to manage sea spray, as taking photos from a moving boat will come with its weather-related challenges. And, pack a polarising filter to reduce the glare of the sun on the water.

3. Know the right camera settings to use

You’ll want a fast shutter speed for when a whale flukes into a steeply angled descent, leaving its tail briefly in the air, or when it leaps out of the water entirely. It’s all quite fast. The best camera settings for whale watching would be having the shutter speed set at 1/500 to 1/1000 of a second, and setting your ISO higher than 400. That way, it’s still sensitive enough for light even though the shutter is opening and closing incredibly quickly.

Instead of clicking the shutter release over and over, change the setting to continuous shooting mode so that you can take multiple shots when the whales surface. You’ll have plenty of stellar shots to choose from.

If shooting in manual mode feels a little daunting, use the “shutter priority” mode which allows you to set the shutter speed and all other settings are adjusted automatically by the camera.

6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos

4. Be ready for action

6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos

Whale watching is all about waiting, patiently. You don’t want to be looking through your lens the whole time, therefore missing out on the experience. Be ready for that “now you see me, now you don’t” moment, while also enjoying the views. When that big splashy moment is near, get in position, ready to snap. If you’ve got enough storage on your memory card, it’s better to take more photos than less, just in case.

5. Stay safe

Keep yourself, your gear, and those around you safe by taking note of the safety advice provided by the crew, giving other people enough space, and being prepared for the sea conditions, especially if you’ve not got your sea legs yet. Wear sunscreen and bring waterproofing gear.

6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos

6. Enjoy yourself

6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos6 Tips For Amazing Whale Watching Photos

More important than learning how to photograph whales, and dolphins for that matter, is enjoying the experience. To witness these amazing marine mammals is an absolute delight. Capturing their show is only part of it. If you’ve got everything you need gear-wise, you remember the tips and recommended settings, then it should be possible to enjoy the moment, and not miss the shot. Enjoy the rare, dramatic beauty of whale watching as the experience plays out in front of you.


Get yourself ready with the best camera gear

They’re a playful bunch, whales in the wild. Catching a glimpse of the show in real life or in photographs is an absolute marvel, whether they’re doing a full-on breach, shooting water up into the sky, or powerfully slapping their tails and fins. To find the best camera for whale watching photography, a suitable whale photography lens, and all the gear you’ll need for the trip, browse our site today.


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