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Tips for Taking Great Whale and Dolphin Photos

  • When using a camera that has adjustable settings, Tv or S mode (Shutter Priority) is preferred, with shutter speeds of 1/1000th of a second or faster to keep your shots sharp. If you are using a point and shoot, sports mode may be used but may not push your shutter speed high enough for good results.
  • Ideally keep the aperture at f/8 or higher, as a greater depth of field is often needed with a large animal and it gives you some forgiveness with missed focus.
  • ISO should be kept as low as possible for the light conditions, typically not above ISO 800 if possible depending on your camera.
  • Turn off any ‘auto-off’ feature on your camera to keep it ready to shoot at all times.
  • Use a single auto focus point or a single zone to more tightly control where your camera is focusing.
  • Set your camera on ‘burst mode’ to increase the frames per second.
  • If you are using a point and shoot camera, use the optical zoom only and crop if needed on the computer. Digital zoom negatively impacts image quality.
  • Memory cards with faster write speeds will allow you to take more images without your camera filling up its buffer.
  • Always try to take photographs when the sun is behind you, or at least not behind the whale or dolphin.
  • Use both hands and keep your arms and elbows in to steady the camera.
  • Always have your camera ready by holding it up in front of your face. Always be scanning and avoid fixing your sight into one place. Point the camera where you are looking at all times. Have your finger on the shutter release button so you are able to move and react quickly.
  • For humpback whales: observe the whales’ behavior. The ideal photograph is taken as the whale is headed away from you. Prior to “fluking up,” a whale will arch its back giving you a precious few seconds to take a shot. Zoom in and frame the flukes in the center of the image. Take multiple shots as the animal dives and save the best one for submission.
  • Last but not least, it takes patience.
  • Help research when you donate your photos