Donate Your Whale or Dolphin Photos

Thank you for your interest in submitting your whale and/or dolphin photos to our research department. The data we collect supports our ongoing research projects. Please read the following guidelines below and submit your suitable photos to research@pacificwhale.org.

You can also read our tips for taking great whale and dolphin photos at the bottom of this page.

How to Donate Your Whale Photo

Our North and South Pacific humpback whale catalogs consist of photos taken by researchers and those donated by the public. The research department is seeking donations from the public of humpback whale tail, or fluke, photos taken in the Pacific Ocean to add to our photo-identification catalogs. 

We have some requirements, as not all fluke photos are of sufficient quality to be used for photo-identification. The photo needs to be of the underside of the tail and the flukes need to be centered and the main subject of the photo. The tail also needs to be well lit, in focus and facing the camera. 

Good Photos

Good whale fluke photo example 1

The best photo is the one where the tail is most “upright” and the pattern of ridges and bumps along the tail’s edge is most clearly seen. If you are unsure, send us what you have. Please make no edits to your photograph prior to sending it to us.

Unsuitable Photos

bad whale fluke photo examples

For each photo we need to know when and where it was taken; so if you were on a Pacific Whale Foundation vessel, we would like the name of the vessel, date and departure time. If you were not on a PWF eco-cruise, we would like to know the location of the sighting in either GPS coordinates or a description of the location, and the date and time the photo was taken. Please only send photos taken within the Pacific Ocean. 

 

 

How to Donate Your Dolphin Photo

Our odontocete catalogs consist of photos taken by researchers and those donated by the public. The research department collects donations year-round from the public of dorsal fin photos taken in Hawaiian waters of the following species:

  • bottlenose dolphins
  • spotted dolphins
  • spinner dolphins
  • false killer whales
  • short-finned pilot whales
  • melon-headed whales
  • rough-toothed dolphins
  • pygmy sperm whales
  • dwarf sperm whales
  • pygmy killer whales

There are requirements, as not all dorsal fin photos meet the criteria for photo-identification. The dorsal fin needs to be centered in the frame and the main subject of the photo. The dorsal fin must also be well lit, in focus and side-on, or perpendicular, to the camera.

Good Photos

Good dolphin photo example 1Good dolphin photo example 2

If you have multiple photos of the same dolphin swimming, please choose only the best photo of that individual to send us. If you have both the left and right side of the dorsal fin, please send photographs of both sides. If you are unsure, send us what you have and we will make the determinations. Please make no edits to your photograph prior to sending it to us.

Unsuitable Photos

Bad dolphin photo examples

For each photo we need to know the dolphin species and when and where the photo was taken; so if you were on a Pacific Whale Foundation vessel, we would like the name of the vessel, date and the departure time. If you were not on a PWF eco-cruise, we would like to know the location of the sighting in either GPS coordinates or a description of the location, and the date and time the photo was taken. At this time we are only accepting dolphin photos taken around the Hawaiian islands.

 

 

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.

 

Jens Curried in field taking photosShannon in field taking photos

Research Team members Jens Currie and Manue Martinez in the field.