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How to Photograph Sharks

Updated on March 26, 2013

Getting Dramatic Shark Photos and Video

Want some tips on how to photograph sharks? Here's a few tips for various situations. It takes time, skill and good equipment to consistently get great shark photographs. The first step is of course being (relatively) safe and comfortable in and on the water. You can't focus on great photography if you are constantly dealing with your diving equipment or the underwater environment. Once you can handle the diving you need to be comfortable with your underwater photography gear - and good equipment is essential. If you can't operate the camera and housing efficiently you will miss most of your shots while you are fiddling with dials and buttons. After you have the diving and equipment dialed in, then you can concentrate on learning animal behavior and where and how to get those great shots.

Have a backup plan

$*@# happens

Any given trip something is bound to go wrong. Make sure to bring as much backup equipment as you can manage. At least enough of a repair kit to fix minor problems. Personally I always take a completely redundant camera system, but that's usually more than most people can handle. If you are bringing a low cost underwater point and shoot or a GoPro helmet cam - bring 2. It also helps to have a spare boat motor in case a shark chews one off. It can be a long paddle back to shore.

Inspect and test your gear
Inspect and test your gear

Test your gear first (especially if rented)

You should never go into the field with new gear you haven't tested. That said, you should always assemble and test your gear before your trip. I've seen so many people rent underwater housings from their local camera or dive shop, show up on the boat and realize they were not given all the parts and wind up having to leave their camera on the dive table the whole trip. Or having to rent all new equipment from the dive operation once they got there (if they are that lucky). Put your camera and housing together and simulate the distance you will be away from the subject in a pool. Or at least in your living room. Get used to how to operate the controls before you get in the water.

Don't try this at home
Don't try this at home

Be aware of hazards and how to avoid them

Shark diving and photography means rocking boats, slippery surfaces and sharp objects (not always pointy teeth). Make sure you are securely attached to something and prepared for the unexpected. Sometimes you really, really don't want to slip.

Try to avoid the temptation to duck or cower at the back of the cage
Try to avoid the temptation to duck or cower at the back of the cage

Don't be afraid to get close

There is one given in underwater photography - closer is better. If you want a dramatic image you have to get close to the action. Don't be afraid to stick your camera right in the sharks face - this is also sometimes a necessity to keep a great white shark from following your camera into the cage or to protect yourself from an inquisitive shark.

Pleased to meet you
Pleased to meet you

Keep your hands inside the ride at all times

Everyone gets the same old safety briefing every time to the point people just tune it out. Shark diving isn't a ride at Disney Land. And while divemasters sometimes have your back you always need to be aware of what's going on and be respectful of the animals and the environment. Don't try to pet the sharks and know where your hands are at all times. Sharks can mistake your camera flash or your white ungloved hand flapping in the water for a fish. And fish are food. Nuf said.

Breaching great white shark
Breaching great white shark

Be patient - nature happens on its own schedule

If you get the opportunity to try to photograph breaching great white sharks in False Bay, South Africa patience is a virtue. You might have to sit for hours at a time for days in a small rocking boat in bad weather just waiting for the perfect shot - and you'll only have a split second to capture it. This is when a good zoom lens, fast camera and reflexes come in handy.

Schooling hammerhead sharks
Schooling hammerhead sharks

Leave the bubbles behind

Want to photograph the schools of hundreds of hammerhead sharks in Costa Rica? Well, you might just have to invest some time learning how to dive a rebreather unless you want to see the sharks way out in the distance - because they are scared away by the sound of your open circuit scuba diving gear which sounds to them like a freight train underwater. If you want a more up close and personal experience and the best photo ops - use a rebreather.

School of Silky Sharks
School of Silky Sharks

The shark cage is highly overrated

Sometimes you just have to get out of the cage. If you want to see schools of hundreds of silky sharks for example, you can't hang out in a cage off the side of a boat. You have to get out in the deep blue sea and let the sharks find you on their own terms. Just don't let the silky sharks try to peel you away from the group. And get out of the water before dusk...

Take a submarine out to do some shark watching
Take a submarine out to do some shark watching

Dive dry - use a submarine

Okay, this is a bit of a stretch as not too many people get the chance to take a mini submarine ride. Want to see some sharks in more comfy conditions - take a submarine. You might get lucky to spend an hour with a whale shark.

Great White Shark Diving Video - Use a low cost GoPro Hero helmet cam - on a stick

A cheap and easy way to photograph sharks. Stick a GoPro Hero video camera in an underwater mount stuck to the end of a pole from the local lawn and garden center. Okay - its just a little more technical than that. Here's the trick if you want to use your GoPro Hero underwater. Even though the GoPro Hero video camera is waterproof and the housing is rated for a limited depth your images will be blurry due to the curved dome port. You need to get a custom made GoPro Hero flat port mount (see the resource links below on where to get one).

WARNING: There is a little "salty" language in the video soundtrack.

Shark Photography Links

Here are some great resources for shark photography and stuff with sharks on them - like t-shirts, calendars, mugs and other cool stuff. Makes great gifts.

Make Way for Cal Ripfin

Great White Shark in Guadelupe Island, Mexico

Great White Shark in Guadelupe Mexico
Great White Shark in Guadelupe Mexico

Whale shark in Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Whale shark
Whale shark

Flying Great White Shark in False Bay, South Africa

Flying Great White Shark
Flying Great White Shark

Favorite Great White Sharking Place?

Just another day in the "cage"
Just another day in the "cage"

Which is your favorite great white sharking place?

See results

Where are the best places to go shark diving?

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    • profile image

      Annamadagan 6 years ago

      Wow! Great lens!

    • profile image

      DonMiguelito 6 years ago

      I love the pictures! Great lens! :)

    • desa999 lm profile image

      desa999 lm 6 years ago

      I prefer the safety of my bath as sharks really scare me, but I love them in the wild sea. Fantastic photos.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      I was just wondering how to best photograph sharks. Seriously, you are very brave. I stayed out of the ocean for two full years after reading "Jaws." Congratulations on your LOTD honor.

    • CaliforniaGrown profile image

      CaliforniaGrown 6 years ago

      I love that "If I was a great white shark" song! I would love to learn how to play that.. cool lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      learned a lot here this morning, great read about a topic I hadn't thought about but was immediately interested in reading when I read your topic, thank you!

    • Missy Zane profile image

      Missy Zane 6 years ago

      Great lens. I learned a lot.

    • GoAceNate LM profile image

      GoAceNate LM 6 years ago

      Wow incredible lens. What a great idea and cool job to boot. Keep em coming.

    • profile image

      CatJGB 6 years ago

      EEk! I don't want to see Australia as the most preferred great white sharking place, being that I live there....

      Fantastic photography and just a wee bit scary..." And get out of the water before dusk..." sends shivers down my spine...!

    • KhairuZiya profile image

      KhairuZiya 6 years ago

      very informative lens, thank you for sharing

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 6 years ago

      I'm crazy about photography, but you'll find me snapping pictures of the sharks behind aquarium windows. :) My husband, on the other hand, would love to photograph them in person. He is very familiar with your name and your work, so I'll be bringing him back here to see this excellent page.

      Congratulations on making the front page!

    • profile image

      RetiredRebel 6 years ago

      great lens :)

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 6 years ago

      As soon as I read the title "How to Photograph Sharks," my brains answered "From dry land!" :) Seriously, though - beautiful photos and a lovely lens!

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 6 years ago

      The pictures are really great.

    • profile image

      Cagedive 6 years ago

      Aliwal Shoal South Africa scuba diving, free diving and cage diving,

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 6 years ago from Maryland

      Wow, kudos to you. I'm not that brave. In fact, I hate water, so you'd never find me doing that! But, this is an extremely unique and interesting lens...great photos! Enjoyed it a lot! :)

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I'm not sure I would like to go down in a cage and face a great white, but I did go on a shark dive in Dominican Republic and was close to several sharks about 15 feet long in a canyon about 60 feet underwater. Wish I had an underwater camera to record it though. Congratulations on Lens Of The Day.

    • Psycho-Gamer profile image

      MasterPsycho 6 years ago from Earth

      compelled or stunned would not be enough to express my admiration of what u r doing.....amazing photos....and great tips you have gathered...but i prefer to stay away from those prehistoric beasts

    • profile image

      Steve-SEO-UK 6 years ago

      One thing I've found is finding sharks to watch or photograph is very difficult. Over past 30 years I've only seen a shoal of Blue Sharks off southern coast UK. I believe my son has just about every book, dvd, video on sharks. Dream would be for him and I to get in the cage and view the mighty white up close. Great Lens and definitely a thumbs up.

    • myvirtuallady lm profile image

      myvirtuallady lm 6 years ago

      Very impressive and great lens. I approach already some shark but not this SIZE !

      Thank you for stopping by Modern Pin up Girl Victoria too.

    • nbrandt123 profile image

      nbrandt123 6 years ago

      Oh my! Scary job! but it's something very challenging..Thanks for sharing some tips and photos on your lens. awesome!

    • twilson17 profile image

      twilson17 6 years ago

      congratulations on LOTD, pictures are amazing

    • caketech profile image

      caketech 6 years ago

      Great White Sharks have always fascinated me! I don't think I am quite brave enough to dive with them though...I'll leave that to pros like you. Great photos and congrats on LoTD!

    • NightMagic profile image

      NightMagic 6 years ago

      Great lens & congratulations on, Lens of the Day. You have awesome pictures, a great video and very interesting facts. I love lenses like this.

    • Pat Broker profile image

      Pat Broker 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Wow! Very interesting info about sharks and great photographs.

    • DuaneJ profile image

      DuaneJ 6 years ago

      excellent pictures...very interesting and original...sharks are indeed, fascinating creatures!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 6 years ago

      Congratulations on Lens of the Day - pretty awesome stuff here. I've always loved sharks, though I'm not sure I'm daring enough to try to get good photographs of them in the wild.

    • archandha profile image

      archandha 6 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD! This one is really great, thank you for sharing!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 6 years ago

      Congratulation on LOTD. Thank you so much for bringing us closer to the sharks which we do not see up close and personal. 5 stars.

    • profile image

      MELODYLIKINS 6 years ago

      Love your page. Very unique.

    • profile image

      Fatphotographer 6 years ago

      Excellent post and some striking images. I run a photographic web resource, and we'd love to run articals like this, feel free to contact me.

    • profile image

      dfishbac 6 years ago

      Great lens and photography! Congrats on your LOTD! I really enjoyed the video.

    • profile image

      ClarisseCesar 6 years ago

      Amazing shark photography..two thumbs up:)

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      Oh, utterly fascinating! I have only seen a few nurse sharks while snorkeling ... not sure I want to see any others, but they are fascinating.

      Your photos of sharks are amazing!

      Congrats on the LOTD honor.

    • lillianjuares profile image

      lillianjuares 6 years ago

      i not like shark, nice blog is very scary i like the picture and the videos, thanks for the article review i lean here shark is very scary for me.......

    • davidber profile image

      davidber 6 years ago

      Great lens wth awesome photos. Thank you for creating this.

    • ashroc profile image

      ashroc 6 years ago

      wow! great lens, superb photos. I can see why you got lens of the day!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I think patience and safety is the utmost virtues while photographing.

      Congrats on LOTD.

    • CastleRoyLisa profile image

      Lisa 6 years ago from Rhode Island

      Congratulations on LoTD

    • profile image

      SandyPeaks 6 years ago

      This is one scary lens! Congratulations on LOTD.

    • profile image

      PMGillard 6 years ago

      Awesome lens! Loved the photography and video footage of the sharks.

      Thanks, Paul.

    • PropheticBlogge1 profile image

      PropheticBlogge1 6 years ago

      what awesome pictures and a great lens. Congratulations on the lotd title. Good work

    • profile image

      RecipeClassics 6 years ago

      What a read! What pics - truly amazing! Thanks for the lens

    • profile image

      Arc4life 6 years ago

      Amazing photography Ian! Congrats on Lens of the Day- you deserve it.

    • profile image

      cdkelly 6 years ago

      Great article! I photograph weddings and it was a bit funny to read through your lens and see similarities...back up gear, test your gear, etc. Wonderful pics!

    • hysongdesigns profile image

      hysongdesigns 6 years ago

      Congrats on your LotD! cool photo shots, but I don't think I wanna go there. Ever since Jaws, I can't even wade past my knees on the beach ;-)

    • profile image

      runninragged 6 years ago

      Beautiful photos and a great read!

    • Dee Gallemore profile image

      Dee Gallemore 6 years ago

      Absolutely AWESOME! Congrats on LoTD . . . well deserved.

    • Judy Filarecki profile image

      Judy Filarecki 6 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      Terrific lens. I love all the photos. I wish I as so brave.

    • profile image

      candy47 6 years ago

      Congratulations on LoTD! Great reading and the photos are awesome.

    • profile image

      manfield3 6 years ago

      Very interesting, I really enjoyed reading this lens. Congrats on the LOTD!

    • LikinTrikin LM profile image

      LikinTrikin LM 6 years ago

      Congrats on your LotD !

      Although you make it sound extremely thrilling, I think that it's one adventure I may pass on.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 6 years ago

      I don't know but wow!!!!

    • profile image

      Ruthi 6 years ago

      Awesome shark photos and lens, how exciting! Congratulations on Squidoo Lens of the Day! And a lot of luck to you with your photography adventures.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hi IanLauder,

      Wonderfully adventures topic...and C.O.N.G.R.A.T.S for getting nominated this Lens as "Lens of the day" deserveds so !!

    • profile image

      JOHND228 6 years ago

      I LOVE DIVING.I don't think there will be a lot of sharks diving in my future .sharks are dangerous to your work and the pics.

    • profile image

      JOHND228 6 years ago

      I LOVE DIVING.I don't think there will be a lot of sharks diving in my future .sharks are dangerous to your work and the pics.

    • deyanis profile image

      deyanis 6 years ago from Oz

      What a courage you have to photograph sharks!

      The sharks pictures are all amazing. Wow, thank you for sharing your tips and tricks. It will definitely help other adventurous photographers to safely photograph sharks. --- Blessed and I showcased your lens on my Baby Angel lens ---

    • jeremecausing profile image

      Jereme Causing 6 years ago from Philippines

      $*@# Happens.. haha cool...

      Do you guys watch killer whales too? :D

    • profile image

      valiapegli 6 years ago

      I admire your courage and I love diving-but not accompanied with sharks! Good luck with your work!

    • TheBonchy profile image

      Danielle 6 years ago from Australia


      You must lead a pretty interesting life.

    • Goldenpig999 profile image

      Goldenpig999 6 years ago

      Normally I am pretty adventurous but, I don't think there will be a lot of shark diving in my future! Great lens though excellent pictures.

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 6 years ago

      Amazing photos and a lot of courage...I don't dive so can't answer your question, but enjoyed my visit. Congrats on the LOTD

    • tvyps profile image

      Teri Villars 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      From my living room! ha! I wouldn't take photos of sharks unless they were on television or in a big tank, without me in there with them.

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 6 years ago from WNY

      Amazing photos!! This is such an interesting and informative lens, congrats on LotD!!! (:

    • kweni16 profile image

      Quennie 6 years ago from London

      it gives me goosebumps just thinking of the idea "diving" guess i'm really not a diving fan but your shots are amazing! it compensates for people like me who are afraid to find out what's under the sea :D

    • RealMonstrosity profile image

      RealMonstrosity 6 years ago

      Blimey! This is fascinating but completely useless to me, I will NEVER do this stuff! I'm glad that someone, somewhere does, and it was great finding out more about it.

    • Pip Gerard profile image

      Pip Gerard 6 years ago

      Best lense I've ever seen!! Wow!!

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 6 years ago

      I LOVE the photos and your comment that shark diving isn't a ride at Disneyland. Ain't that the truth!

    • elyria profile image

      elyria 6 years ago

      The photo of Great White Shark in Guadelupe Island, Mexico is just WOW! Great lens and amazing photos!

    • seanjennin profile image

      seanjennin 6 years ago

      Great lense and love that great white song too! It rocks!

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 6 years ago from Ireland

      Love the photos, you must be so patient and skilled to get some of them, great white lens! Congrats on LOTD, thoroughly deserved.

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 6 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      Well done on LOTD. You are a crazy man for getting up close with sharks. Love it!

    • MrWidemouth profile image

      MrWidemouth 6 years ago

      Don't think I'll be adding that to my bucket list but what a great lens. Cheers.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Congratulations on your Lens of the Day!

    • nightbear lm profile image

      nightbear lm 6 years ago

      Incredible photos and wonderful lens. The passion you feel just pours through the words and photo. Well deserved LOTD! congratulations. Blessed!

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 6 years ago from Mobile, AL

      I really like the video. Amazing footage. Better than the National Geographic any day.

    • GoAceNate LM profile image

      GoAceNate LM 6 years ago

      Wow super cool lens.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 6 years ago from Washington KS

      The photos are breathtaking. Wonderful lens.

    • profile image

      AdriennePetersen 6 years ago

      Going in a shark cage is on my bucket list! Congrats on LOTD, beautiful lens.

    • anka05 profile image

      anka05 6 years ago

      super lens!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      Just stopping back by to offer my congrats on your LOTD! Way to go!

    • s1fizik profile image

      s1fizik 6 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD. I had a feeling this one would make it the first time I saw it. Very kool.

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 6 years ago

      Simply awesome. Something I would love to try. Congrats on LOTD.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 6 years ago

      Amazing! Blessed and put on my photography angel lens!

    • profile image

      Mieka 6 years ago

      Great lens with beautiful photos! I went shark diving in South Africa 5 years ago, in Hermanus. It was amazing, but also scary as hell! I am terrified of the sea, so this was a big thing for me. Luckily we were in a cage. I don't think I could ever do a free dive :) I do find sharks fascinating creatures though!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Exciting, wonderful, beautiful, and you had me transfixed as I read every word! Congratulations on a wonderfully unique LOTD!

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 6 years ago

      Very cool! Great shots :)

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 6 years ago

      Congratulations on LotD! This is amazing. Love the images. Thanks for sharing.

    • lynnrdavis profile image

      lynnrdavis 6 years ago

      Whoa!!! Awesome stuff. I've been a shark fan since the first JAWS came out when I was a kid. Great lens and congrats on making LOTD

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 6 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      What a trip - thanks for sharing! (Or should I say, scaring -:)

    • rebeccahiatt profile image

      rebeccahiatt 6 years ago

      Wow, some great shots and great information

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      Ruth Coffee 6 years ago from Zionsville, Indiana

      Informative and very interesting. Not in my worst nightmare would I be doing this, but I'm glad people like you are. Loved the video.

    • mahimattphoto profile image

      mahimattphoto 6 years ago

      Phenomenal images!

    • profile image

      vineets12 6 years ago

      Great work did a good job offline too..

    • profile image

      CalamariFritti 6 years ago

      Really amazing shots! And congrats on LOTD.

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 6 years ago

      This is amazing. Thanks for taking the pictures so we can enjoy them.

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 6 years ago from Sweden

      One day I too will be down there with may be a camera. For sure I will be there though

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Amazing, but better you than me.

    • aka sakabato profile image

      aka sakabato 6 years ago

      awesome photos. it is very nice of you to share your experience.