12 Things to Consider When Photographing Boats

By Allan Weitz


12 Things to Consider When Photographing Boats

Photographs © Allan Weitz




Many photographers have niche specialties for which they are known, intentionally or otherwise.

My niche (one of them anyway) is… boat photography, a specialty I innocently and unintentionally stumbled into many years ago.

The following 12 elements are worth considering when setting out to photograph boats, large or small.

Some aspects over which you have control include cameras, lenses, shooting platforms, accessorizing, and the ability to choose when and where you make pictures.

Other issues, such as weather and having the ability to delay or change the times for sunrise or sunset are beyond your control—you have to live by and work around these elements.

1. Light

Photography is about light, and boat photography is no exception.

As with landscape and architectural photography, the best time to photographs boats is almost always early morning and late afternoon.

Boat hulls typically taper toward the waterline. Early morning and late day sunlight illuminate the deeper recesses of the boat’s hull.

As the sun climbs upward, contrast builds and these recesses fall into shadow.

The color balance is also warmer and less contrasty earlier and later in the day, compared to the harsher, colder tones of midday sunlight. 

12 Things to Consider When Photographing Boats

Photographs © Allan Weitz

12 Things to Consider When Photographing Boats

Midday light tends to be cooler and more contrasty, compared to early morning and late afternoon light. Shadows also tend to be darker. You can take good boat pictures during the midday hours, but you have to work within these parameters.

2. Wind

Winds also tend to quiet down at sunrise and sunset, resulting in still waters and better-defined reflections, especially when photographing boats at rest.

If, however you’re photographing sailboats, the lack of wind makes it hard to fill the sails and get the boat moving fast enough to get good running shots.

As a failsafe, many sailboats have auxiliary power that moves the boat along, but be aware—a boat powered by wind cuts through the water and fills its sails differently than a boat under power.

12 Things to Consider When Photographing Boats

12 Things to Consider When Photographing Boats

3. Cameras

You can photograph boats using any camera-and-lens combination, as long as you understand what your camera and/or lens can and cannot do.

Larger sensors produce sharper pictures, but sharpness alone doesn’t define what makes for a good photograph, boat or otherwise.

12 Things to Consider When Photographing Boats

4. Lenses

Firefly, a tandem sliding seat rowing boat, was photographed with an 18mm lens on a full-frame camera.

The photograph of the Hinkley motor yacht was photographed with a 300m lens on a full-frame camera.

When angled properly, wide-angle and telephoto lenses can be used to render boats faithfully and realistically. 

The best focal length to use when photographing a given boat is greatly determined by the camera-to-boat distance. If you’re shooting a boat at rest, fixed focal length lenses are perfectly fine.

Conversely, if you are shooting a boat under way, you’re much better off with a zoom lens, regardless of whether you are shooting from a fixed position on land or from a chase boat.

The key is to maintain a balance between boat, water, and sky.


If you would like to read the rest of this article click here:  Boat Photography


12 Things to Consider When Photographing Boats