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7 Top Boat Photography Tips For When You're next By The Sea, A Lake Or River

Boats can make really interesting photographic subjects so next time you find yourself on or next to a yacht, canal boat or even a pedalo, we've got 7 top pieces of advice worth considering.

|  Transport
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Boats by a lake


Gear Suggestions 

  • Standard zoom (35mm-80mm range is fine) – wide enough to get the whole boat in but long enough to focus in on the detail.
  • Longer lens (80-200mm) - shoot small detail on boats further away. 
  • Polarising filter – reduce reflections on the water and in paintwork and deepen blue sky.
  • Tripod - extra support when working on uneven surfaces such as wet sand.


Pick A Sunny Day

If you want to capture the postcard shot of colourful boats lined up, reflecting in the water while a bright blue sky frames them from behind you'll have to head out on a sunny day when there's not much of a breeze in the air so the water's still. Make sure you use a polarising filter to saturate the colours and enhance the sky.


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The Tide Is Out

If you get to the harbour and find the tide is out don't think you need to head for fish and chips while the water trickles back in. Instead, photograph the boats which are now stuck in the mud and take advantage of the mooring ropes which are now fully visible, using them as lead-in lines for your photograph. A small aperture is needed to ensure everything from the front of the rope to the distant boat(s) or other objects are sharp.


Boat on a river


Don't Clutter Your Scene

Harbours are bursting with photographic potential but don't make your scene too busy. If you can, single out one boat and place it near the foreground of your shot as this will give the photo more impact and will certainly be better than a shot of several boats that are fighting for your eye's attention.

Further Inland

Away from the coast, you'll still find plenty of boats on canals, rivers and in reservoirs waiting to be photographed. Canals create leading lines that will help with composition while the winding curves of a river will guide the viewer through the image to a boat making its way through the bends. If there's a bridge find a position where you can use it to frame a boat passing under it, just watch your exposure as the light under the bridge will be lower than the outside and it's easy to end up with a shot that's underexposed if the camera's meter reads from the brighter part of the scene. Switch to spot metering where possible, taking a meter reading from the sidewall of the bridge and use that as the starting point.


Activities On And Around The Boat

Barges found on canals are often very colourful and feature flower pots and other accessories that are worth a quick snap. Just remember to use a wide aperture to blur the background. Round the harbour, you can crop in on sails, boat hulls, lifebuoys and fishing nets.


View from a boat on a river



For those who like things to be a little more fast-paced head for a water-sports centre where water-skiing, jet-skiing and other adrenalin-pumping activities take place. A camera which has fast autofocus will help you capture action shots where your subject is pin-sharp. A little blur in the background can enhance the sense of movement/speed in your shots, however. 

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Drighlynne 11 131 1 United Kingdom
30 Mar 2016 3:21PM
davetac 13 69 2 United Kingdom
26 Mar 2018 8:32PM

A very misty weekend at Kinneret (Sea Of Galilee) in Israel.
davetac 13 69 2 United Kingdom
26 Mar 2018 8:35PM
This is what you'd call crowded. Too much for the eye to take in.

davetac 13 69 2 United Kingdom
26 Mar 2018 8:37PM
At Acre, (Acko) in northern Israel. Again a too crowded scene.

pablophotographer 11 2.0k 429
26 Mar 2022 4:33PM
pablophotographer 11 2.0k 429
26 Mar 2022 4:34PM

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