Six Pro Tips for Taking the Best Photos in Antarctica

Melanie Wright  |  16 September 2022

With credit to Marco Hidalgo

Antarctica is indescribably stunning and photogenic - you just can't help but come home with thousands of photos after you've visited. But how can you make sure you come home with the best photos from your trip to Antarctica?

For many people who visit Antarctica, the photos they take there are their most treasured souvenir. So before you embark on your own Antarctic cruise, taking onboard a few tips from a professional photographer can help to make sure you're ready to capture the best, most professional looking photos that perfectly encapsulate your Antarctic experience.

Because taking photos in Antarctica does present some unique challenges. Besides the obvious cold temperatures, the lighting conditions in Antarctica created by the highly reflective snow, ice and water can often make it more difficult to take great photos. And in a landscape so vast and breathtaking, how do you capture all that with photos that truly reflect how impressive Antarctica is when you're actually there?

Marco Hidalgo is an accomplished photographer who has worked on every continent, including Antarctica. With many years experience in travel photography, Marco has visited over 60 countries as a professional travel photographer. He has kindly shared his expert tips and advice with us, so that you can take the best photos possible on your trip to Antarctica.


How to take the best photos in Antarctica:

1. Control the highlights

2. Every camera can be a good camera

3. Shoot stories

4. Shoot first, frame later

5. Prepare your gear

6. Join a photography workshop onboard your ship 


antarctica landscape photography

1. Control the Highlights

Taking photographs in Antarctica with all its snow and ice can be very tricky for a digital camera or a smart phone. Digital technology tends to blow out the highlights, and we don’t want to lose important detail of those wonderful icebergs and glaciers that make such iconic Antarctic photographs.

Marco's top tip for avoiding this issue in your photographs is to expose to the highlights. You can you this on your phone by tapping onto the brightest part of the image before you take the photo. This will bring the exposure down and retain enough detail.

On a digital camera, enable the histogram on the camera screen and use the -/+ exposure compensation to make sure the graph of the histogram never reaches the right end of the scale. Exposure compensation can be used with P=Program mode, AV=Aperture Priority and TV=Time Value or Shutter priority.


Photographing Antarctica with a camera phone

2. Every camera can be a good camera

Don’t worry if you don’t have the latest and fanciest digital camera or perhaps that massive telephoto lens that can photograph the close-up of Antarctica's iconic Adelie penguin from miles away. The truth is that any camera and lens can achieve fantastic photographs, even in Antarctica.

Cameras with small lenses (short focal length lenses) can be wonderful tools for many applications, from landscapes to unobtrusive shooting in fast moving situations. These images can easily be shot with compact cameras or smartphones, and when successful they are capable of communicating the true essence of a place or situation. Telling stories with simple tools is an art to be explored, and Antarctica can be the perfect destination to practice and hone your skills.


 Photographer in Antarctica

3. Shoot stories

Single photos of Antarctica can be beautiful, but shooting stories is a form of narrative that can be shared and cherished for many years. A single beautiful shot is lonely without all the other aspects of the journey that took us there.

While you're on your Antarctic cruise, look around yourself and be aware of what makes this journey unique. Shoot everything that might be part of your Antarctic journey, think of parts of the vessel, the process of boarding a zodiac, the landings, the landing boots, the parkas, everything that can contribute to creating and telling your own travel story.

Read Antarctica Specialist Pia's Antarctica Photo Journey blog


 Erect-crested Penguins

4. Shoot first, frame later

In Antarctica, the perfect photo is shot at the right moment, not with the right composition. Antarctica's wildlife won't wait for you to perfectly compose your shot, and lighting conditions in Antarctica can change quickly too. Photos can be cropped later on, but if you miss the moment a whale breaches, or a penguin leaps off an iceberg, then no amount of editing can recreate it.

So remember, don’t waste too much time creating the perfectly composed image, but instead be ready for the perfect moment. Those are the true timeless photographs.


 ice penguin

5. Prepare your gear

Whether you use a digital camera or a smart phone, prepare your photography gear every day on your Antarctic cruise. Make sure that it is all fully charged, there is plenty of memory to record images and the lens is clean.

One of the most common mistakes people make is running out of power and memory, but this is easily avoided with a bit of planning. Being surrounded by such incredible Antarctic scenery and wildlife there is just so much to photograph, so keep in mind that your camera is going to have quite a workout each day and you'll need plenty of battery power and memory space to capture it all!

And finally, make sure your photography gear has an adequate protective casing, neck strap or even wrist strap for small devices. With warm gloves and cold temperatures, it is not uncommon for cameras to slip from hands as you rush to photograph a fleeting moment, so it's important to keep your gear safe from knocks and accidents.


Photographing penguins in Antarctica

6. Join a photography workshop onboard your ship

Many cruises to Antarctica offer passengers the chance to improve their photography skills and get the most out of their camera during their trip, by joining a photography workshop onboard. Led by a professional photographer, you'll get expert guidance and support to be able to take stunning pictures with your own camera, and come home from your trip to Antarctica with new photography skills that you can take with you on your next adventure too!

If you're interested in finding an Antarctica cruise that offers this optional activity, contact our Antarctica Destination Specialists - they'll be able to help you choose an Antarctica cruise and itinerary that best suits you.


Happy shooting!

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