Photo Identification

Photo identification is a technique used to study marine mammal populations. Each animals has a unique set of markings that enable us to distinguish it from others in the population. Photo identification of the dorsal fin and tail fluke are often and used to permanently identify the animal and monitor changes over time.

We need your help

Taking photos of marine mammals can be tricky and must take care that you do not cause disturbance to the animal. The best way to achieve this is by using a SLR camera with decent lens so that you are able to maintain some distance between you and the animal. Taking decent photos that are suitable for photo identification takes patience and best photos are often from opportunistic encounters. 

1) Focus mainly on capturing the dorsal fin (and tail fluke for humpback whales)
2) The dorsal fin should be parallel to the photographer at a 90° angle
3) Try to photograph both the left and right sides of the dorsal fin
4) For groups of animals, try to photograph as many individuals in the group as possible
5) Note down the date, time, location and group size of your encounter

You can submit your photographs that are suitable for photo identification to

Porpoise Photo Identification 

We have been photographing porpoise since 2015. Porpoise behaviour makes them very difficult to photograph and generally a lack of distinguishing marks. However, we can use the general shape of the dorsal fin and pigmentation patterns to construct a identification matrix and  identify individuals. 

Many of the photographs in this catalogue have been taken from project participants and boat users on the Clyde. You can contribute to this research by submitting your porpoise encounter photographs to 

View the Porpoise photo identification catalogue