Over the last few years as a yacht photographer, covering local regattas, and general events across the harbour, I’ve learnt a few things about how to make photos sharper, more interesting, and of course what types of photos skippers and crew want to see. Here are my top five tips if you are starting out as a yacht photographer.
Tip #1 – Shutter Speed and Moving Boats
Okay, so this one probably took me a good six months to figure out. As yacht photographers, we often shoot from boats that require us to handhold our cameras, what this means, of course, is that we have to have the optimal shutter speed to reduce any motion blur.
Now I’ve found that the ordinary principles don’t precisely apply when you’re on a boat that’s rocking about. The general rule of thumb is to always double your focal length in shutter speed. For example, if you’re shooting on a 400mm telephoto lens, you should have the shutter speed no slower than 1/800. However, these rules apply generally to photographers on land who only need to counteract handshake. I’ve found that I need to times this by three 1/1200 to reduce any blur associated with the motion caused by the ocean.
General tip, shoot on the fastest shutter speed the light will allow while photographing from boats.
Tip #2 – Shoot in RAW
I know this can be quite the controversial topic, however, if you’re shooting a fleet of yachts that are coming at you from all sorts of different angles, you will find more often not that you’re shooting into the sun and away from the sun within seconds. By capturing in raw, it allows you more room to fix any of the hiccups associated with such variable lighting conditions.
Tip #3 – Shoot in Manual
Look, shutter priority mode has its place, and I can see why it would have many pros vs cons, however recently I was shooting a fleet leave the harbour on a light wind day, my camera wasn’t intelligent enough to realise I was photographing black dacron sails and was overexposing all my images. I personally found shooting in manual and adjusting my aperture on the fly a much safer way to ensure I’m getting the best exposures possible.
Tip #4 – The Money Shot
When shooting yachts look out for composition, have you got the crew looking utterly badass with an iconic landmark in the background? This is the sort of shot Billy wants to hang in his pool room for the entire family to see.
Action shots are generally the types of photos crew love, them doing what they do best. Get in nice and close and try and capture the expression on their faces, especially under heavy winds.
Tip: When shooting races, strong wind days are always going to be your time to shine as a photographer as this is when all the good action unfolds. Save light wind days for photos of cruising yachts.
Tip #5 – The Junk in the Trunk
When doing an audit of yacht photos people have purchased in the past, I found a trend in the types of photos skippers and crew want to see.
Take photos of yachts from the aft, an excellent bum shot that shows the majority of the crew is usually a winner.
Skippers love seeing photos of their yacht flying downwind under their big beautiful kite, bonus points if you can get them on the helm in the background.
To be honest, I feel that 50% off all purchases have been from a Bowman, you’ll usually find them peaking out around a sail, pulling a knot out of a kit or just holding on for dear life in a 35-knot bullet.
Yes, that’s correct. Splashes, they look great, they show action and complete badassery. Get photos of yachts crashing into a wave, and you’ve got yourself a winner, winner, chicken dinner.
I hope you’ve found this post useful, now get out on the water and snap up a storm.
Until next time, see you on the water.