Turtle Photography Tips

by Alec Druggan
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orange turtle photograph underwater marine life photography

Marine life is a fantastic subgenre of wildlife photography and photo shoots, most recently, turtle photography, that allows you to capture some of the most surreal animals in their wild habitats, in some of the least pervasive ways possible. Marine and turtle photography in general requires very specialized gear, and often requires non-photography related talents or skills, such as the ability to dive.

One key element of marine and turtle photography that you will need to work on is going to be making sure that you are enacting safe and secure standards while photographing marine life. The best way to familiarize yourself with these standards is going to be by reading the rules and laws and by working with guides while photographing turtles. The combination of these two elements will make sure that you are obeying the laws while having the best experience photographing turtles as possible.

deep sea diving turtle photograph

https://unsplash.com/photos/za9MCg787eI

1. Turtle photography is a slow waiting game

You’re not going to get that perfect once in a lifetime turtle photograph shot in mere seconds. You are dealing with wild animals that are often naturally afraid of predators, like yourself. Take the time to wait for the animals to acclimate to you, and take the time for them to drift and swim to where you can take the photo you want to take. Chances are you are swimming with a heavy gear package that makes you less mobile than on land, so you will need to enact patience the entire time you are underwater. Wait for the turtle photo, and take the photo. Don’t worry about spending too much time on one photo, that’s a large part of taking photos of these turtles.

how to photograph a turtle up close 2

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2. Track the Turtles

Turtles appear on both land and in water, so you might be able to track the journey from land to sea or from sea to land. Documenting a turtle going in to the water or a family of turtles making their way across a beach can result in great images, especially if you use a combination of wider angle and telephoto lenses.

Droves of turtles are not too uncommon, so you can take cool images of a tiny armada of turtles, and shooting from beneath them or lower than their eye levels can make even smaller turtles appear to be gargantuan behemoths, which is a really cool effect.

turtle photograph selfie

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3. You can’t race a turtle

On land, you can probably outrun a turtle. They’re turtles, right? In the water, however, bogged down by a camera, there is no way you’re going to be able to chase down a turtle. If you, instead, let it be, it might spin around and come back to you. Some turtles may be scared off by

the sight of a sole human being, while others may be cautiously testing the waters before approaching. Either way, there is no reason for you to chase the turtle, present yourself as a potential threat, and scare it away.

https://unsplash.com/photos/eILcKg542PI

4. Identify patterns & shapes of turtles

Be it the shell or eyes of a turtle, these animals are beautiful up close. The simple geometry of their different body parts is all you need for a great shot. Try and zoom in a little and take a headshot of a turtle, showcasing interesting parts of it. Shoot turtles from the front, as well as the sides and top, and try to showcase the shell, the limbs, the head, and all the other interesting parts of a turtle. You’ll be surprised later on how much detail there is in each shell, and how different they can be from one another.

family of turtles photograph

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5. Try something different

Turtles are great, and great looking, so it stands that there are already millions of photos of turtles out there. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take photos of turtles, they’re a great subject matter and definitely something worth showcasing through your art, but it does mean that you should feel very free to take as many creative and different photos as you want. Shooting turtles from above, like the image above, is a different way of showcasing turtles in their habitat, and is completely safe for both you and them!

New and different styles can always push your art, and you as an artist, forward, even if the results aren’t as expected, or just plain bad.

Orange turtle photograph featured image: https://unsplash.com/photos/L-2p8fapOA8

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