The Beginner’s Guide to Photography from a Kayak

Photography from a Kayak
Picture taken from a kayak, capturing the serene beauty of nature alongside a peacefully sleeping dog

Photography from a kayak offers a unique perspective that few other forms of photography can match. I remember my first time capturing a serene lake scene from the seat of my kayak, the experience was nothing short of magical.

So, in this article, I’ll explore the ins and outs of kayak photography, from choosing the right kayak and equipment to mastering the techniques of capturing stunning pictures from a kayak.

Why Kayak Photography?

Kayaking on a remote location
Capturing a photograph of a remote location from the tranquility of a kayak

Kayak photography is not just about taking pictures; it’s about immersing yourself in nature and seeing the world from a different angle.

The tranquility of the water, the access to remote locations, and the chance to capture wildlife in their natural habitat make kayak photography a truly adventurous and rewarding pursuit.

Factors when Choosing the Right Kayak for Photography

Just like how a painter needs the right canvas, a kayak photographer needs the right kayak.

So, when choosing a kayak for my photography I always pay attention to a balance between stability, comfort, and maneuverability.

1.      Stability

Stability is paramount when I’m trying to capture that perfect shot. A stable kayak will not only keep me safe but also ensure that my photos aren’t blurred by the boat’s movement.

2.      Comfort

A kayak with a comfortable seat and good back support can make a long day of shooting much more enjoyable.

Adjustable footrests can help you maintain balance and stability, especially when you’re leaning in different directions to get your shots.

3.      The Kayak’s Storage Capacity

You’ll need space to store your camera gear, extra lenses, possibly a tripod, and personal items.

Some kayaks come with waterproof storage compartments, which can be invaluable for protecting the gear from water damage.

4.      Portability

When I’m planning to venture into remote locations, I’ll need a kayak that’s lightweight and easy to transport.

So, inflatable kayaks can be a good option for this, as they are easy to pack and carry, although they may not offer the same level of stability and durability as hard-shell kayaks.

Best Kayak for Photography

In prioritizing my choices for photography from a kayak, I lean towards two specific types of kayaks – pedal kayaks and fishing kayaks, due to their superior stability and ease of use.

Let’s take a deeper look at it.

·         Pedal Kayak for Photography

Pedal kayaks are a popular choice among many kayaking enthusiasts.

I choose them, since they offer hands-free operation, allowing me to focus on my camera and the scene around me. The ability to steer and move using my legs while keeping my hands on the camera can be a game-changer in the world of kayak photography.

·         Fishing Kayak for Photography

Photography from a fishing kayak
A moment from a fishing kayak

Fishing kayaks are another excellent option.

They are designed for stability, often wider and bulkier than regular kayaks.

This stability can be a significant advantage when I’m leaning over to get that low-angle shot or when I’m in choppy waters.

Many fishing kayaks also come with built-in storage compartments, which can be incredibly useful for storing and protecting your photography gear.

·         Top Recommend of Kayaks for Photography in 2023

The followings are some top-rated kayak models I loved.

1.      Hobie Mirage Outback

This pedal fishing kayak is renowned for its stability and comfort. Features:

  • The forward and reversing MirageDrive 180 pedal system allows for full power reverse, making it easy to maneuver
  • Patented Kick-Up Fin Technology
  • Has plenty of storage space for your photography equipment.

2.      Perception Pescador Pilot 12

Perception Pescador Pilot 12 is a more affordable pedal kayak option that doesn’t compromise on quality.

It’s stable, speedy, and has plenty of storage. The pedal system is also removable, giving you flexibility in how you want to navigate.

3.      Wilderness Systems Radar 115

This versatile kayak features the award-winning Helix PD Pedal Drive, known for its lightweight design and high performance.

It’s also compatible with a motor drive for even more flexibility.

4.      Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K 140 Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak

This kayak is 14 feet long and weighs 95 pounds. It has a weight capacity of 400 pounds and features 7 fishing rod holders. It’s compatible with both pedal and trolling motors.

Choosing the Right Equipment

Selecting the right equipment is crucial for kayak photography.

·         Camera

Opt for a weather-sealed DSLR or mirrorless camera that is best suited for this purpose. You can find out my top recommendation on the best cameras for kayaking in 2023 with professional reviews.

·         Lenses

When it comes to lenses, a versatile zoom lens can be a good choice. Something like a 24-70mm or 70-200mm lens can give you a range of focal lengths to work with, allowing you to capture everything from wide landscape shots to close-up wildlife photos.

·         Safety Gear

Water and camera equipment don’t mix well, so protecting your gear is crucial. Protect your gear with waterproof cases and bags, and consider a dedicated camera bag for secure and easy access.

Don’t forget essential accessories like a waterproof tripod, polarizing filters, spare batteries, and memory cards. Always secure your gear to prevent it from falling overboard and consider using floating straps for added safety.

However, the right equipment may require an investment, but it’s worth it for the unique photos you’ll capture.

Techniques for Kayak Photography

Unexpected moment while kayaking
An unexpected moment while kayaking

Taking photos from a kayak presents its own set of challenges and techniques. Balancing on a moving vessel, framing your shot, focusing on your subject, and even choosing the right time of day can all impact the quality of your photos.

Let me tell you some techniques which I follow for handling these challenges.

  1. Balancing: Practice maintaining balance in your kayak. This can help you keep your camera steady for clear shots.
  2. Framing: Experiment with different angles and perspectives. Low angles can be particularly effective in kayak photography.
  3. Focusing: Use autofocus to quickly lock onto your subject, or manual focus for more control, especially for wildlife shots.
  4. Timing: Early morning and late afternoon often provide the best light. Also, consider the tide and water conditions.
  5. Post-Processing: Don’t forget about post-processing. Editing your photos can help enhance colors, adjust exposure, and crop for better composition.
  6. Enjoy the Process: Most importantly, enjoy the process. Kayak photography is as much about the experience as it is about the final photos.

·         Tips for Bird or Wildlife Photography from a Kayak

A photo of an Otter was taken from a kayak
A wildlife photograph was taken from a kayak
  1. Patience is Key: Birds and other animals can be unpredictable. Spend time observing their behavior and be patient for the perfect shot.
  2. Use a Telephoto Lens: This allows you to capture close-up shots without disturbing the birds’ wildlife shots.
  3. Understand Bird Behavior: Knowing the habits of the birds or animals you’re photographing can help you anticipate their actions and capture more dynamic shots.
  4. Focus on the Eyes: If possible, try to shoot at the animal’s eye level. This can create a more intimate and engaging photo.
  5. Practice Panning: Birds move quickly. Practice panning your camera to follow the bird’s movement and capture clear shots.
A bird photograph was taken from a kayak
A bird photograph was taken from a kayak

Besides, if you are more interested in bird photography, the article How do I photograph a sharp flying bird? will best suit you.

Moreover, I found an interesting video related to setting up photography. You can refer to the following video too.

Make sure about Your Safety Considerations

Wearing a life vest while kayaking
Wearing a life vest while kayaking

While kayak photography is an exciting adventure, it’s crucial to prioritize safety.

Knowing how to swim, wearing a life vest, and securing your equipment are just a few of the safety measures you should take.

Be aware of weather and water conditions, and have a communication method for emergencies. Carry a first aid kit, protect yourself from the sun, stay hydrated, and have a navigation method. Always inform someone of your plans.


In conclusion, kayak photography offers a unique perspective on the world, blending the thrill of adventure with the art of capturing stunning images.

From choosing the right kayak and equipment to mastering the techniques of shooting from a moving vessel, this guide provides a comprehensive overview for beginners.

Remember, safety is paramount, and understanding your environment is key. With patience, practice, and respect for nature, you can unlock a whole new realm of photographic opportunities.

So, gear up, paddle out, and let the world of kayak photography inspire you.