How to Photograph a Boat for the Most Dramatic Effect
Photographs of a boat can make or break a sale before the negotiating even begins, because if a boat you’re selling looks shabby or old in the photo, many potential buyers will move on to the next listing without even giving it a second thought. A well-photographed boat, on the other hand, will draw eyes and stir emotion—and that’s the effect we’re looking for.
Getting a good, dramatic photograph of a boat is easier said than done. But you already know this. You’ve probably taken dozens of shots of boats yourself, thought they would come out great, and been a little disappointed when you looked at the final product. What gives? You need to have lighting, angles and the illusion of motion to take a photograph that gets the blood pumping, but first, let’s remember a few basics.
These are simple points common to all good on-the-water photography: make sure the horizon is level; make sure the camera is focused on the boat (not the water around it); and make sure the boat is centered in the frame. But to get some insight into the less obvious factors affecting boat photography, we need advice from an expert — so we went to one of the foremost marine photographers, Forest Johnson, of Forest Johnson Photography.
Johnson, an international, award winning pro with more than three decades of experience, has shot more than 1,500 magazine covers. He’s also made boats look their best for countless catalogs, brochures, videos and web sites. And he can help you make your boat photos look better too by suggesting these three key factors.
1. Create Visual Appeal
“The most important thing is to make sure the boat is front-lit,” Forest said. “You want the sun at your back. Second, make sure the boat is clean. Waterlines should always be scrubbed off before you take your pictures, and any other marks or grime need to be removed.”
2. Provide the Illusion of Motion
Naturally, boats look better when they’re underway as opposed to sitting still. But how they run is also important.
“With the boat on plane, the driver should bring the tabs and/or drives all the way up,” he explained. “You want the bow up and the water breaking off the boat as far aft as possible, because the only illusion of speed is the boat’s attitude. Get the bow to rise, and make sure the water breaks at least three-quarters of the way back on the boat. On some boats, you’ll get a better shot if the boat actually porpoises and you take the photo as the bow comes up.”
3. Consider Shooting Boat-to-Boat
The platform you shoot from also has an impact on how good the photos will look. While overhead shots are the most dramatic, they’re going to be too expensive and time-consuming for the vast majority of the boats being sold. Shooting boat-to-boat can also a good option, one with which Johnson has plenty of experience.
“The toughest thing about shooting from a moving boat is stability,” he said. “You want to move as far aft as possible so there’s as little motion as possible. But if you move too far aft, you’ll have spray flying up from the back of the boat you’re on, and it can ruin the shot. You have to try to find the right spot in between, where you’re as stable as possible but there’s no spray getting in the way.”
Using these tips and tactics, will you be able to take photos like the pros? Don’t bet on it. Even though modern digital cameras have made it easy for most of us to take far better photos than in the past, there are countless other details that take a photo from good to professional level. But if you follow the basic rules and take Johnson’s advice, you can turn those snapshots into strong pictures that grab a buyer’s eye and keep him or her interested in the boats you have to offer. What about shooting close-ups and detail shots? Stay tuned — we’ll cover that Tuesday in part two of this article.