Sailing Photography Tips

Sailing is considered a fine art. It requires skill to master the skills of reading the wind and sea and setting the sails to travel in the correct direction. Many people enjoy this peaceful pastime in the summer because they love the ocean. It’s an opportunity to capture the atmosphere of the sea and the vessel from a photographer’s point of view.

Sailing boats

Sailing Photography - Old sailing boat in the Vele d'Epoca CUP, Imperia, Italy

You need a fast shutter speed to photograph a moving sailboat. To begin, turn the mode dial to TV (Shutter Priority), and select a shutter speed of approximately 1/400th of an second. The camera will automatically select the correct aperture. To automatically refocus the lens on the moving sailboat, set the lens focus mode as AF (Autofocus). You can increase the ISO if you have trouble getting sharp images, although ISO 200 is a good starting place. To capture the whole boat, use a high-quality wide-angle lens.

Beautiful Sunrises

Sailing Photography - Sailing boat floats against beautiful sunrise

Sunrise is one the most beautiful and peaceful parts of the day. You can see it from a boat and in all its beauty. Wake up early to catch sunrise before it disappears. For a wider perspective and a variety in exposures, use a wide-angle lens (10 to 42mm). A tripod or a still surface are essential for capturing natural light. A tripod will not reduce wave motion if you are actually on a boat so make sure you use high ISO and shutter speed. For a better depth of field (DOF), turn the mode dial to AV (Aperture Priority).

Amazing Sunsets

Sunset view from a sailing yacht

Sunsets will bring out strong reds or oranges. Sunrise and sunset photos should be taken in the “golden hours”, which is when there is least sunlight. It is important to work quickly. Place your camera on a tripod and turn off the flash. Next, set the mode dial for AV (Aperture Priority). If you’re new to shooting sunsets, aperture priority mode is the best option. The camera will automatically determine the shutter speed. To keep the entire picture sharp, use a small aperture between f/16 and f/32. Adjust the exposure compensation mode to either -1 or 2. The saturation of colors will be increased if the scene is underexposed.

Shooting Sihouettes

Photograph of a sailing boat anchored in Alicante Beach

A strong background with bright colors and a strong silhouette in the foreground is key to creating a stunning sunset silhouette. Turn off your flash, and choose either spot or multizone metering mode. Take a reading of the only bright area first, then press half the way down on the shutter, point the camera at the subject, and snap the shot.


Regatta sailing action in Meditarranean sea in Croatia.

A portrait shot while sailing is a unique angle. The sky and ship will also be featured in the photo. For the best look, use a wide-angle or standard lens (17mm to50mm) and set the aperture at f/11 to f/32 to preserve the sharpness of the background and foreground. Use fill-in flash to make sure the subject’s face is illuminated, even if the sun is shining. Try different poses. Have the subject stare at you, then turn your back.

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Ship Knotted Onto Pier With White Rope

There are many interesting subjects to photograph of boats, such as the sails, anchors, and fixtures. Special macro lenses (usually 50mm to 200mm) are the best way to get high-quality close-ups. Use a shallow depth-of-field between f/2.8 and f/8 to focus on the object. For good image quality, choose a low ISO and use a tripod to stabilize the shot. Macro shots can be very blurry. To take an image, you will need a cable release or remote control. You can cause slight movements by pressing the shutter button. Any blurred images will become apparent when magnified.


You will experience some movement on boats so ensure that your shutter speed is not too slow to capture the blurred effect. Check your white balance for dramatic colors such as sunsets or sunrises. You can set it to daylight to capture the deep reds. However, you can also change it to tungsten to obtain other colors (still red and violet, but less prominent). The reds, oranges, and purples should be exaggerated. This can be done during post-processing. These colors will look more dramatic if you expose the image too much. For best results, bracketing is a good option.

Recommended Equipment

Standard and wide-angle lenses are both useful for sailing because they are fast and versatile. Wide-angle lenses can capture the entire scene, including the ship and people, in one image. If you’re on a boat, a tripod or beanbag can be useful to provide a stable base and help with the rocking waves. It is possible to try to move in the same way as the waves. However, this takes a lot of skill. To prevent reflections and glare from the water, use a polarizing filter or lens hood. Protect your gear when working near water. A water housing will protect the camera if it is dropped into water. You can also use plastic covers. The strap should always be attached to your body. You can either wear it around your neck, or loop it over your wrist a few times.


Sailing captures the spirit of summer and those sunny days when people are able to relax and have fun. You don’t have to take photos of boats. Pay attention to all the details. Take photos of your fellow sailors and the surrounding environment. Sailing offers unique photographic opportunities that are only possible on the water. Photographing on water is difficult because of the rocking motion caused by waves. To counter waves’ motion blur, you will need to use higher shutter speeds and ISO settings.