Tips For Photographing Whales On Your Whale Watching Tour

by | Jun 2, 2023

Tips For Photographing Whales On Your Whale Watching Tour

Ahoy there, fellow whale watchers! Are you searching for the best tips on how to photograph whales during your upcoming tour? Look no further – I’m here to share my advice as a professional whale watching photographer.

As an experienced shutterbug and guide of the seas, I have countless stories about photographing these majestic creatures. With the right knowledge in hand, you too can capture stunning images that will last a lifetime. So grab your camera, get ready to explore, and take note of what I have to say!

From finding the perfect spot to capturing optimal shots, taking photos while out at sea can be quite challenging. However, with careful preparation and patience, you are sure to come back with beautiful memories captured in stills or videos. Join me on this journey as we go over some useful tips for successfully photographing whales on your next excursion!

Preparation And Planning

Capturing the magnificence of whales on your whale watching tour is like trying to photograph a lightning bolt in a bottle. It can be challenging, but with some preparation and planning, you’ll have an amazing experience. Start by researching the migration patterns of these majestic creatures so that you know when and where they will appear. Also consider the weather conditions and time of day for your excursion; bright sunny days provide optimal lighting while overcast skies create softer images. Finally, decide if you want close-up shots or more distant views; this will determine which lens to bring along with your camera equipment. Moving onto…

Camera Equipment

Now that the preparation and planning are out of the way, it’s time to focus on camera equipment. When photographing whales, having the right camera gear makes a big difference in capturing beautiful, professional-looking shots.

Here are some items you’ll need:

  • A DSLR or mirrorless camera with a long lens capable of reaching a 300mm focal length
  • An underwater housing for your camera (if shooting from a boat)
  • Extra memory cards and batteries

To ensure high-quality photos, make sure those lenses are equipped with image stabilization so you can capture crisp images without motion blur. Also, consider investing in an additional battery grip if your hands tend to shake during longer exposures—this will help reduce blurry pictures. And don’t forget about filters! Neutral density and polarizing filters allow better control over exposure settings and color saturation when shooting outdoors. With all these pieces together, you’re ready to start snapping away! But before hitting the waters, it’s important to do one last thing – location scouting…

Location Scouting

To capture the perfect shot of a whale, location scouting is essential. It can be easy to overlook since you are on a boat in the open sea, but paying attention to your surroundings and environment will help you take great pictures. Rhetorically speaking, being patient is key – as whales aren’t known for their punctuality!

First and foremost, keep an eye out for any signs of marine life activity such as spouts or breaches that may indicate the presence of whales. If these clues surface, it’s time to ready your camera equipment right away so you don’t miss the opportunity when they make their appearance. Moreover, consider how close you’ll get to them; depending on the species of whale (or dolphins too!), some boats allow passengers to approach very closely while others remain at a distance due to safety regulations. When selecting a tour operator, ensure they adhere to proper animal-handling rules so your photographs are ethical and legal.

Another thing to pay attention to during your search is if there are other natural elements like rocks or cliffs nearby which could add perspective and interest into the frame should the animals come near enough for close-up shots. All this adds up – from positioning yourself optimally in relation to where the whales might appear, having short lens focal lengths prepared for rapid movements, or keeping alert for opportunities with good lighting – every detail counts towards making sure your photos turn out successful. Taking all factors into account helps create stunning images worthy of preserving memories from your amazing journey.

With just these tips alone already helping us set ourselves up better for taking memorable photographs, we’re now primed and ready to move onto another crucial factor: weather conditions…

Weather Conditions

When embarking on a whale watching tour, the weather conditions are of utmost importance. As photographers, we need to be prepared for any type of weather that may arise throughout the journey.

Here are some key tips for dealing with different types of inclement weather:

  1.  Bring protective gear such as rain jackets and umbrellas in case it rains unexpectedly.
  2. Wear layers in order to remain comfortable regardless of temperature changes.
  3. Consider obtaining waterproof cases or bags to protect your photography equipment from water damage.
  4. Choose appropriate lens filters based on the amount of sunlight available during cloudy days.
  5. Utilize windbreakers if strong gusts of wind threaten to ruin photos by causing camera shake or subject movement.

These precautions will help ensure that you’re able to take beautiful shots no matter what Mother Nature throws at you!

The next step is learning how to best utilize natural light while photographing whales on your tour.

Natural Light Usage

The sun is an incredible tool for a whale watching tour photographer – it’s free, abundant, and creates beautiful lighting. When you first step onto the boat, take some time to assess your surroundings: what direction will the sunlight be coming from? What kind of shadows are being created on deck? Where is the best place to stand during the excursion? All these considerations come into play when composing shots in natural light.

As whales frequently surface near sunset or sunrise, make sure to capture those moments – there’s nothing quite like witnessing a humpback breaching against a vibrant sky! Utilize long shutter speeds to create dreamy images with soft backgrounds. However, if shooting mid-day, don’t forget about using flash fill to reduce contrast and harsh shadows.

In addition to considering where the light source is coming from, remember that identifying wildlife requires careful observation. Keep your camera ready while scanning the horizon; who knows when you’ll spot something extraordinary!

Finding Whales In The Ocean

Now that you’ve got the basics of natural light usage down, it’s time to find some whales. To get great shots from your whale watching tour, it’s important to know where and how to look for them in the ocean.

First off, always keep an eye out for telltale signs like water spouts or blows – these are sure indicators that a whale is nearby! Also, be on the lookout for seabirds huddling together – they can often lead you right to a feeding ground. Additionally, try listening carefully: whales communicate through sounds and clicks easily detectable above the surface!

To really maximize your chances of locating some killer cetacean photo ops, consider talking with local experts who have intimate knowledge of their habitat and migratory patterns. They will provide invaluable insight into when and where you should be scanning for the creatures beneath the waves. With this insider information, you’ll be well-prepared to capture those perfect images!

Capturing Great Images

Patience pays off when photographing whales on a whale watching tour. Practice positioning your camera at the proper angle and obtain optimum shots of these majestic mammals with patience, practice, and plenty of preparation.

First, plan ahead for success. Know what type of lens to bring; wide-angle lenses are best for capturing more scenery or entire pods, while telephoto lenses allow you to take detailed images from afar. Pack extra batteries too – you never know how long you’ll be out shooting!

Second, get ready before sighting a whale! Position yourself in front of the boat so that you can spot any breaching whales quickly and have enough time to adjust your settings accordingly. You’ll also want to set up a tripod if possible; this helps keep your photos sharp even when shooting in low light conditions. Lastly, make sure to review your camera’s manual prior to departing so that you’re familiar with its basic functions.

Once everything is properly prepared, it’s time to start snapping away – but don’t forget to appreciate the moment as well! Take some mental notes about each species as they pass by and capture them in action as much as possible without disturbing other passengers or putting anyone in danger. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to capture stunning photographs of whales on your next whale watching tour!

Learning About Whale Behaviour

Now that we’ve covered the basics of capturing great images, let’s delve into learning about whale behavior. It’s important to understand this in order to capture meaningful photos during your tour. Before heading out on your trip, take some time to research and familiarise yourself with the species you’ll be seeing. You should know basic facts such as their lifespan, diet, and habitat preferences so you can anticipate how they will act when you encounter them.

Whales often display different behaviors depending on their age, gender, or even just for fun! Knowing these subtle differences can really help make your shots unique and stand out from others. When photographing whales, it’s essential to pay attention to body language and activity levels in order to get natural-looking shots. If a certain type of behavior appears frequently, try positioning yourself accordingly so it looks more interesting in an image. This may require adjusting your angle or getting lower down closer to the waterline – but remember never to put yourself at risk while doing this!

If possible, observe the whales before taking any photographs so you have a better idea of what kind of shot would work best in that particular situation. Taking the time to do this helps ensure that each photograph is special and captures something truly memorable about the experience. Now onto post-processing tips for enhancing those stunning whale watching tour images…

Post-Processing Tips

Once you have your photos from the tour, it’s time to get them looking their best. Post-processing can be a great way to bring out the beauty of your images and make them stand out in your portfolio.

Here are some tips for post-processing whale watching photos:

  • Adjust white balance: Make sure that the colors in each photo look natural and true to life.
  • Remove dust spots: Don’t let pesky specs spoil an otherwise perfect shot! Dust spots can easily be removed with Photoshop or Lightroom.
  • Add clarity/vibrance: Enhance the details in your shots by increasing clarity and vibrance settings on editing tools such as Adobe Camera Raw or VSCO Cam.

When editing your photos, remember not to overdo it—try to keep things natural looking so they still capture the essence of the moment you experienced while whale watching. Aim to enhance rather than change what was actually there when you took the photograph. As you now move on to considering ethical considerations around photographing whales during tours, remember that careful post-processing is just one more tool at your disposal for creating stunning photographs that will last a lifetime.

Ethical Considerations

Skipping swiftly from post-processing tips, it’s time to consider ethical considerations when photographing whales on a whale watching tour. As photographers, we should respect the wildlife and their environment; after all, they are part of our planet and deserve better than intrusive photography. Below are some suggestions for ethically sound behavior while shooting in this situation.

First, always be mindful of the distance between you and your subject. Whales need space to feel comfortable so try to keep your camera lens at least 100 feet away from them. This will also help with capturing clear images and avoiding disturbance or harm to the creatures. Additionally, avoid using flash as it can cause distress or confusion in marine life; if necessary use red light instead which is less disruptive.

Second, pay attention to other people who may want to take photographs too. It’s important to share the joy of taking pictures but don’t let yourself get in somebody else’s way – aim for mutual respect! Finally, check any laws that govern photography activities around whales in your area before setting off – different countries have different regulations about what kind of equipment can be used near these majestic animals, and respecting these rules keeps everyone safe. With these ethical considerations in mind photographers can go out confidently knowing they’re doing right by nature without compromising results!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Go Whale Watching?

If you’re looking for the best time of year to go whale watching, then look no further. The key is to be prepared and know exactly when to go and what kind of whales you’ll see during your tour. I’m here to provide some tips on how to get the most out of your experience!

Generally speaking, springtime is a great season for whale watching tours in many areas around the world. As winter gives way to warmer weather and longer days, an abundance of food sources starts appearing near shorelines – making it easier for these majestic creatures to feed closer to land. This means you have a better chance of seeing them from your boat or shore-based vantage point. Plus, with more daylight hours available, there’s even more opportunity for catching sight of whales as they come up from their deep dives or break through the surface in search of food.

In addition to choosing the right season for viewing whales, finding suitable habitats can also help increase your chances of spotting one or two (or more!) on your excursion. Look for places that are protected by shallow waters and away from busy commercial vessels; such locations will often offer calmer conditions where whales feel comfortable enough to linger and feed within viewable range. And don’t forget about researching local tide charts too! Knowing when high tides occur may give you insight into which times are best suited for spending time at sea so you won’t miss any potential sightings.

So if you want to maximize your chances of snapping some amazing photos while out on a whale watching tour – do your research ahead of time and plan accordingly! With careful preparation, patience, and luck, soon those awe-inspiring shots will be yours!

How Far Offshore Should I Go To Find Whales?

Finding the right spot to observe whales on your whale watching tour is key. How far offshore should one go? That all depends on where you are and the season.

If it’s summertime, look for humpbacks or orcas near shorelines—they tend to congregate in shallower waters when they feed. During spring and fall, however, they head farther out toward the open ocean as they migrate southward and northward respectively. So if you want a glimpse of grays during these times, you’ll need to cast your net farther into deeper waters.

On the other hand, don’t venture too close to them either! Whales can be skittish around boats so keep a respectful distance from them at all times; an ideal view will still be clear even with some separation between the boat and animal. Photographing from afar allows both parties to remain safe yet still capture amazing images that document this magical moment.

Striking such a balance is what makes for great shots of breaching whales or pods swimming together under the sun-drenched sky – moments you won’t soon forget!

What Is The Best Lens To Use For Photographing Whales?

When it comes to photographing whales, the lens you use is key. If you want to capture stunning images of these majestic creatures, then be sure to choose wisely! A good quality zoom lens will give you a great range of shots from far away or up close.

If you don’t have access to a dedicated telephoto lens, then your standard kit lenses can do an adequate job too. Just make sure that if you’re shooting with a wide-angle lens, keep your distance and respect the whale’s space. Also, consider investing in polarizing filters for extra contrast when taking photos through water droplets on the surface.

Finally, remember to take multiple shots as things move fast underwater and lighting conditions can change quickly so having some options will help ensure success!

How Can I Ensure I’m Respecting The Whales While Photographing Them?

Ah, the joys of whale watching! As a photographer on this majestic tour, there’s nothing quite like it- except perhaps respecting the whales while trying to capture that perfect shot. How can I ensure I’m doing so? Well, let me tell you what I’ve learned from my years photographing these gentle giants:

First and foremost, stay back! You don’t want to startle or harass them in any way. Keep your distance at all times; no matter how close they come to you – trust me when I say that having a few extra feet between you and them will make for better photos (and keep everyone safe)! Just think about it: if somebody was running up to you with a camera in their hand every time you went out for some fresh air, wouldn’t you be startled too? So give ’em space. That being said…

Don’t forget your gear! It doesn’t matter whether you’re using an iPhone 11 Pro Max or an old-school Canon EOS 5D – bring whatever equipment fits within your budget and skillset. But here’s the thing: use those tools wisely. No need for flash photography unless absolutely necessary; instead try setting yourself up for success by understanding which lens works best for different distances and angles before hitting ‘capture.’ After all, knowledge is power!

So now we know: keeping our distance and packing the right gear are key elements to successfully respectfully capturing stunning shots of whales whilst still providing them with an environment where they feel secure enough to show off their natural beauty. Now go forth young photographers – happy shooting!

What Post-Processing Techniques Can I Use To Enhance My Whale Photos?

Once you manage to snap some shots of the majestic whales, there are a few post-processing techniques that can help improve your photos even further. Many photographers use editing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop to enhance colors, get rid of noise, and make sure the contrast is just right. This will ensure sharp images with vivid colors that bring out all the beauty in every shot.

One important tip when it comes to post-processing is not to overdo it. You don’t want your photo to look too artificial; keep it natural-looking while still making sure the image looks professional! I usually start by adjusting exposure and highlights first, then move on to white balance, saturation, and vibrance – this helps create a more balanced overall color palette for your photo. To add depth and drama, I like adding subtle vignettes around the edges of my whale shots.

Finally, sharpening is another great way to give an extra level of clarity and detail to your picture without compromising its natural look and feel. Once you’ve tweaked these elements appropriately depending on what kind of effect you’re going for, save your work so you have a copy ready for print or sharing online!


I’m so glad you’ve read my tips for photographing whales on your whale-watching tour! With the right knowledge and preparation, you can capture stunning shots of these majestic creatures.

Take it from me – I’ve been taking photos on whale watching tours since I was a kid. Last summer, I had the amazing opportunity to take some beautiful photographs of a humpback whale off the coast of Maine that were featured in National Geographic magazine! It wasn’t easy: I had to get up early and make sure I was at least five miles offshore before sunrise. But with the correct lens and minimal post-processing techniques, I got great results.

The most important thing is to respect the whales while taking pictures. Make sure not to harass or disturb them by getting too close or staying there for too long; this will give you better quality images as well as help protect them from unnecessary stress.

With all these tips in mind, have fun on your next whale watching trip, and don’t forget to bring along your camera! Who knows – maybe one day you’ll be able to share your incredible photos with friends and family just like I did.

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