Photography of whales in Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Whale Photography

Our staff includes accomplished photographers, as whale photography is a tool for whale research. Photography as a tool serves numerous purposes, including inspiring the public through images related to whale conservation and using photography to support our own research projects and scientific collaboration with other organizations such as HappyWhale. We hope you will join us to share some wonderful moments watching and photographing the Huatulco whales in our marine paradise.

Whale photography information to help you learn.
Information on techniques for whale photography.
What kind of camera is suitable for whale photography?

We do not recommend trying to use a mobile phone or point-and-shoot camera. A DSLR or mirrorless camera body with a zoom lens, fast focus, and decent buffer is important to your success. To capture a good action photo of a whale, your camera should take about 6 photos per second.

What lenses are good for whale photography?

Professional photographers often have multiple lenses, as the whales may be far from the boat (needing a lens longer than 300mm) or the whales may surface right next to the boat (requiring a wide angle lens). For beginners, we recommend starting with a zoom lens that has a significant range (55-200, 70-300, 28-300, etc.). Be sure to use a lens hood, it will block reflections that are very strong in the ocean and prevent salt water from coming into contact with your lens.

Whale photography information, planning and success.
Information on techniques for whale photography.
What camera settings should I use to photograph whales?

Whale photography has more in common with sports photography than nature photography. Whales are always on the move and capturing the most dramatic whale activity requires shutter speeds of over 500 fps. We often shoot in aperture or shutter priority mode. For beginners, we recommend using Aperture Priority mode set to f/8 or f/16 with an ISO high enough that the camera can shoot at least 1/500. We recommend using servo focus to avoid blurry photos and setting the camera to use as many focus points as it allows.

What else do I need to bring for whale photography?

It seems a bit obvious, but spare batteries and memory cards are essential. Especially if you decide to take a video with your camera, taking video uses a lot of battery power. We highly recommend a good hand strap and some sort of harness to control the camera. You should also consider a waterproof bag with a padded camera insert to keep your investment safe.

How do I compose a good whale photo?
Information on techniques for whale photography.
How do I compose a good whale photo?
  1. Know your subject. What type of behaviors does this species of whale typically display? Do they breach? Show the tail when they dive? Is there a way to predict where and when they will surface? Knowing a bit about their behavior can help you prepare for a good photo. A knowledgeable guide is essential and our team of marine biologist guides are there to help.
  2. Get close to the surface of the water. Some larger boats have upper decks where it can be easier to track the whales, but when you are closer to the water, the whale will stick out better from the oceans surface and therefore will stand out better in your photos.
  3. Consider where the sun is. You want the sun behind you, illuminating the whale.
  4. Stay safe and stable. Boats are always moving and unstable. Consider your health and the safety of everyone onboard. Find a way to be stable when shooting.
  5. Be patient. Getting some wonderful whale photos takes time, effort, knowledge, and a great team.