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Pro Tips for Improving Your Cruise Photography

Pro Tips for Improving Your Cruise Photography

  1. Decide What to Capture
  2. Stay Alert
  3. Avoid Camera Shake
  4. Know the Best Light
  5. Storing Your Memories


Between onboard activities and adventures on land, how in the world are you going to take photos while cruising? You want a meaningful collection of photos to memorialize your vacation, so we’ve put together cruise photography tips to help you capture all those magic moments. It doesn’t matter what type of camera you have, you’ll be a pro at cruise photography in no time. Here are travel photography tips for beginners.

group of people at a table taking a picture

Decide What to Capture

It’s tempting to take many random photos on a vacation. Before you know it, you’ll have spent your entire vacation behind the lens. A helpful way to avoid this would be to think about the things you would like to capture before you start your day. Thinking about this helps you to focus on what you should shoot instead of shooting anything and everything.

Here are some moments you might like to capture during your trip:

  • Smiling faces: Are you going on a family or group cruise? Focus on the joy you’ll see on everyone’s faces while participating on the cruise’s onboard activities. Capture your family having the time of their lives playing Lip Sync Battle™: Carnival. When you’re on shore, snap the happy faces of your kids while they swim with the dolphins in Kona, Hawaii, or horseback ride on the beach in Antigua.
  • Ship architecture: A cruise ship is a magnificently designed vessel that you’ll want to capture in photos. Still life photos of your ship from all angles can be breathtakingly artistic. For example, head to the ship’s atrium, a dynamic space where you can shoot up or down towards other levels to capture the ship’s height.
  • Cuisine: If you want to be a great food photographer, shoot plates straight down in horizontal mode as you’re standing up. Shoot your plates at a low side angle, also horizontal, for a more artistic flair. Fancy drinks and martinis are best shot straight on with the portrait treatment. Imagine yourself on Mardi Gras, taking shots of Creole dishes designed by the famous Emeril Lagasse in his restaurant, Emeril’s Bistro 1396™.

breakfast spread from a carnival ship

  • Landscape: When cruising to Alaska, embrace overcast days for great photography. You may witness a glacier calving (splitting and falling) while cruising. Or, you’ll spot glaciers with extraordinary shades of blue like the famous Mendenhall Glacier while you’re on an excursion. Take that photograph, even if it’s cloudy. Professional photographers swear the blue is more dramatic in a photo taken on an overcast day in Alaska.
  • Culture and history: If you’re taking a cruise because it’s on your bucket list to experience the world’s different cultures, that’ll be your focus. Photograph a day in the life of a Sorrento farm while on a cruise to Naples, Italy. Capture secret tunnels and mysterious dungeons while touring the San Cristobal Fort when cruising to Puerto Rico. Don’t miss a beat when you’re on a Hidden Mexico tour in Puerto Vallarta where you’ll visit the ancient village of El Tuito. One of the joys of a cruise is that you’ll find culture and history in just about every port.

Stay Alert

It’s a bit tricky to take photographs on a ship as it passes a wildlife sighting or a breathtaking vista. Here are a few tricks to help you stay alert and ready for snap-worthy sightings anywhere in the world:

  • Know your ship: Take time to learn the decks and how to navigate them. You may hear an announcement of an animal sighting at the oddest times of the day or night. It helps to know how to quickly get to the bow of the ship if that’s the best place to see. Look for a deck that lets you quickly scoot in any direction between bow to stern, and port to starboard to capture your photo.
  • Take your phone/camera everywhere: If you’re a phone photographer, you’ll find this tip easy and effortless. For some, it is better to keep your phone in a pocket or purse because it eliminates the need run back to your stateroom to grab your camera for a photo opp. Many cruisers eating in the main dining room have had an unexpected visit from a whale coming up for air in plain sight.

couple on a chairlift taking a photo

  • Get creative: If one of your goals is to go on the unforgettable SkyRide®, there’s only one way to take photos of yourself while riding high above the ocean. Mount your smartphone on your head or hat because you can’t carry anything in your hands while on the course.

Avoid Camera Shake

Professional tripods aren’t known to be very reliable on a ship, even if there is subtle movement. Cruise photography requires some tricks on board. Resting your arms on the rail to stabilize your shot is tempting, but could result in a lost phone or camera.

Instead, there are small devices, like the selfie-stick, that grip or screw onto a phone or camera to help steady your device while shooting. You’ll appreciate these tips when passing by marvels, like cruising through the Panama Canal, where you’ll want to capture the complete experience. Before your cruise, practice these tips to take great pictures.

If you’d rather use your body to keep your phone or camera steady, hold your device with both hands and use your thumbs to move it around. You can also hold your elbows close to your body while pointing your device. Or, for taking photos in glass boats, put your elbows to your knees when you can to steady your device.

When on a shore excursion, you might find it helpful to lie down on your stomach and use the ground as your tripod. Do this, for example, when you’re sailing on a luxury catamaran in Bermuda where there’s plenty of room to stretch out.

friends enjoying a luxury catamaran in the caribbean

Know the Best Light

  • Golden hours: You’ll never go wrong taking photos during sunrise and sunset. Cruise to the Caribbean, and you’ll see firsthand how magical a sunrise and sunset can be in this part of the world. The light adds drama to water shots you take from your balcony or from any deck.
  • Nighttime: If possible, don’t use a harsh flash at night. Instead, rely on ambient lighting from lights, candles and the moon. The result will be softer, moodier, more romantic photos. If you’re taking nighttime photos on your stateroom’s balcony, you won’t need a flash. Between the lamps and the moon, you’ll have plenty of lighting.
  • Sunny days: When you’re on a cruise, the sun is always shining during the day. Keep this rule in mind—don’t shoot into the sun. If the sun is behind your subject, you’ll capture a big shadow. When you’re shooting outdoors, make sure your own back is to the sun and that it’s never in front of your camera. Where should the sun be if you’re taking a selfie? The sun should be shining on your face, and it should not be behind your head, or you’ll have that shadowy effect. Remember to keep these tips in mind especially when you’re shooting by onboard pools.

a couple sharing a sunny day onboard a carnival ship

Storing Your Memories

The most important tip of all: Choose a file storage program that synchronizes and uploads all your photos to the cloud if you’re using a phone or other device. Or, bring back up memory cards if you’re carrying a point-and-shoot. You’ll always have the option of getting wireless Internet access onboard a Carnival ship, so saving photos can be a breeze.

Bring a dry bag for your phone or camera, bring extra batteries and chargers, and you’re all set to capture the unique and personal images of your cruise experience.

two friends enjoying a great day at the beach

With these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy your cruise vacation while documenting all of the exiting memories that you’ll be making.

Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.