Otter Photography Tips

Last Updated on April 14, 2021

otter in river eating a fish

Otters are pretty darn cute, but what’s the best way to photograph them? Whether you’re a beginner wildlife photographer or a seasoned pro looking to start photographing otters this is the article for you.

Here is a list of some great otter photography tips

  1. Put the sun behind you. This will make sure otters are not squinting in the photo, and that your background looks nice and blue.
  2. Use a wide-angle lens to capture more detail in the water and surrounding environment (this one is a given for most photos!).
  3. Use a slower shutter speed so that the water blur stays soft and is not visible in the photo.
  4. Shoot at a higher ISO so you won’t need to use a lot of light to get a good exposure.
  5. Shoot with a shutter priority mode to keep your camera from freezing the action
  6. Move slowly when shooting otters in water (and on land for that matter as well). Use a tripod so you don’t have to worry about camera shake.
  7. Distract the otter with a favorite toy to get some close-ups, or dive in and swim around in the water if you’re brave enough! Just keep a safe distance.
  8. Get down near the water level when taking photos of otters on land so they look large in the frame. If they are too far away in the photo, their heads will appear small making them look more like an animal and less like a pet (which is what most people want).
  9. Shoot at dusk if you want a “golden hour” look.
  10. Change it up and shoot from a higher angle to make the otter appear larger.

Otter Behavior

Otter behavior often involves chasing each other underwater, romping, climbing trees and swimming in and out of the water. If they are playing with a toy, be prepared to have your camera go flying.

A common joke is that this is the most reckless species of wild animal you can find. Otters have been known to drown themselves in their own toys and even drag humans under water when startled or feeling playful! This makes for a pretty entertaining photo.

Where to Find Otters

Otters are found in the wild all over the world. Some of the most common places to find them in the United States include California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii. And if that’s not enough otters are even found in South America and Africa!

Recommended Camera Settings

Although the majority of wildlife photographers are portrait orientated, there are many types of photography to learn. For beginner wildlife photographers, just like many other camera types, there are a few must have settings that you’ll want to know.

Most digital cameras come with preset options that allow you to instantly create a masterpiece in the field. But practice shooting in manual mode and learn the basics of handling your camera settings. This will allow you to really understand your kit and how you can adjust it to get exactly what you want.

Settings For Beginners

Aperture: This setting is used when adjusting the size of the light rays entering the lens during the exposure process. While most cameras have an image that represents a normal sized lens, they also have a larger aperture setting that will give you a wider light-circle (f-number). It is the size of the circle that is important, not necessarily how big it is.

ISO: This setting determines the level of sensitivity of your exposure in relation to film speed. This setting will determine how sensitive your camera sensor is, and the higher it is, the more noise you will have in your photo (unless you want this).

Shutter Speed: This setting determines how long the shutter stays open when the exposure starts. The longer the shutter speed, the more light will get into your camera. The shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second (ie: 1/640th of a second) which is measured in seconds.

Metering Mode: This setting controls how your camera meters for an exposure for any given scene. There are three main metering modes to choose from, centre-weighted, spot and matrix (also known as evaluative).


If you are interested in photographing otters or any other wildlife, don’t be afraid to just dive right in and get your hands dirty (literally). You can always practice with a wide angle lens on land if you want to try it out first without getting too close to the otters.

Once you have a good feel for taking photos, head out to the local zoo or even go out and photograph some otters in the wild. Whichever you decide, just remember to have fun because photography is meant to be a hobby! Make sure to share your photos when you get home with your friends and family!