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Taking Great Photos in a Yacht

Mobile Photography

Taking Great Photos in a Yacht

Taking great photos in a yacht can be a lot of fun, specially when we want to remember the greatest moments we share with friends and family. These days, anyone with a smart phone and basic photography knowledge can take amazingly great shots that would otherwise be impossible several years ago.

Mobile phones such as iPhone 13 or Samsung Galaxy have evolved into highly sophisticated computers with high precision lenses and shooting modes. If you prefer to watch videos instead of reading, visit the mobile photography tips article, which has all the tips in video.

iPhone and Samsung for yacht photography

Photo Modes: every phone is equipped with various modes to manage different aspects of the shot; in Samsung phones there is auto and manual (pro) mode, Panorama, Food mode (blurs the background, focuses on the food), Live Focus (similar but for regular, not close up shots), night mode (increases ISO and sensitivity, decreases noise) and Single take which takes several photos to later decide on the best one.

iPhone 13 introduced “Photographic Styles”: Choose Vibrant to make photos bright and vivid. Rich Contrast for darker shadows and deeper colors. Warm or Cool to accentuate golden or blue undertones. Now you can get more creative, great for iPhone users.

Shoot Like a Pro

mobile photography in a yacht
Shoot like a pro with your mobile phone

Those two brands have multiple lenses dating back a few models ago, a wide and regular one. Some have a third lens, which is ultra or super wide. iPhone phones have photo, portrait, square and pano modes. Since there’s no manual/pro mode in iPhones, whoever wants that sort of exposure power over the camera ( ISO, Aperture, White Balance) needs to download a pro camera app for iPhone. Procam 8 is a good choice.

an overhead shot
Wide angle shot from overhead

Light Direction: Photography is essentially, light. If you use the existing light to your advantage, then you’re halfway done. Never shoot against the light, be it natural or artificial. Unless you know what you’re doing to add drama and flares to the photo. The best sunlight will be sideways of the subjects if too strong, and facing them if it is gentle.

Artificial light usually works great, specially if they’re casting a soft light, not too direct and harsh over the subject.  The advantage of taking photos in a yacht is, the yacht can be turned around. If you want a perfect shot but the sun is in the way, just tell the captain to steer the ship the other way so the sun is sideways or behind you.

Couple shot
Foreground blur in overhead shot
modeling pose from behind
Low shot from behind

Time of day: although smart phones today will process images very efficiently, if you can take advantage of the best times to shoot when the sun delivers the best exposures, it helps a lot. Simply put, sunlight is best early to mid morning, the same in the afternoon between 4-7pm depending on time zone and location.

The golden hour delivers the smoothest, gentlest light which happens one hour after sunrise and before sunset. The best exposed outdoor images can be taken between 8:30am-11am or 2-7pm; the infographic below gives a good idea but remember: time zone and location are factors to consider. Both iPhone and Samsung flagship phones can shoot at any time, just avoid the noon hours at all costs.

Best time for photos -infographic
Natural light is best earlier and later in the day.

Best Angles/ Composition: Taking a regular photo is ok, just facing the subject and snapping. What if you move the camera sideways, to take them from a side angle that shows the beautiful background? or lower to show a blurred towel roll in the lounger, focusing on the face? changing the angle is called composition, and that is what makes a photo uniquely professional.

High, low, side, facing front, facing back, never stop varying the angle and later you will see the difference. Low angle shots with a super wide lens offer incredible perspectives. The rule of thirds mean you frame the shot two thirds to the left or right, something you notice in many movie scenes. It is fairly easy to do and gives more depth to the photo.

Side shot
Spontaneous side view shot
girls in the yacht deck
Snap the fun in the bow

Telephoto Shots: Whenever you want to capture a close up with some background blur, the best option is the telephoto lens. If you focus on the face this lens will give you less distortion and crisper images if you keep zooming at a minimum. On the iPhone, the telephoto lens is a 3x,78mm equivalent with a f/2.8 aperture.

The Samsung s22 Ultra has a 10mp, 70mm telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom and f/2.4 aperture. Always take close ups with this lens unless you want a lot of the surroundings in the frame. The Samsung also has a dual pixel,10mp, 230mm periscope telephoto lens, with 10x optical zoom and 100x digital zoom (a virtual telescope); Imagine the possibilities.

wide angle shot
Wide Angle Shot
wide angle low shot
Ultra Wide Shot

Wide Shots: wide shots are great to take in more of the overall background, something most people want. The wide lens in the iPhone 13 is a 26mm equivalent, with a nice f/1.5 aperture, that is the reason you can get blur on the background, for nicer shots. The Samsung has a 108mp 23mm wide lens with laser autofocus and f/1.8 aperture.

This 108mp lens in the Samsung can truly make magic happen as it packs such a high resolution like no other phone. I’d say I would take 70% of yacht photos with that lens if I shoot people in a yacht party or cruise trip. People like close ups with good quality, showing their personality. And the high resolution will be perfect for prints and framing.

super wide shot
Ultra wide shot is great to get the big picture.

Ultra Wide: The ultra wide shots create a much wider field of view, allowing us to get closer to the subject while keeping a lot of the scene in the frame, or just take a dramatically wide photo with some interesting distortion on the sides. In the iPhone 13 the Ultra wide lens is a 13mm equivalent with an f/1.8 aperture – something amazing in a phone.

Samsung has a 12mp, 13mm dual pixel ultra wide lens with f/2.2 aperture. The lower the aperture, the more light enters a lens, as the aperture is the size of the retina opening in the camera. This lens is recommended for various power yacht types, as the bigger the yacht, the wider a field of view will be needed to get the optimal framing.

Manual (Pro) Mode: In manual mode, the phone behaves like any other professional camera; you can tweak ISO ( light sensitivity of the camera sensor), and shutter speed ( how fast the photo is taken). In some cases the aperture ( the iris opening size ). In many cases only with a third party pro camera app we get to control the full spectrum of options. Why use pro mode? whenever the ambient conditions are not helping and you need to have more control over the camera.  

close up shot
A smiling close up shot
close up
A great shot using the 2 third rule.

Panorama Mode: Take a sweeping 180 degree photo using the panorama mode, this mode is available in both iPhone and Samsung. You’ll need to choose a starting point, and the end point as you sweep the camera for as long as you consider needed.

panoramic shot
Panoramic photos take the whole landscape.

Flash Use: Even during the day, flash has its uses. When someone is under the sun, shadows can darken the person’s face, more if the subject is wearing a hat. Flash used during daytime is basically fill flash. In interiors where the lighting is acceptably good, try a test shot without flash, then decide if you need it.

 Food Photos: Smart phones cameras are perfect to shoot food, try the narrow lenses most of the time, telephoto from a distance will add blur to the background, commonly known as Bokeh. The wide lens placed near the food, creates a great composition.


Food shot
Food photography is easy with smart phones.

Drone Shots: nowadays photography has taken to the skies, thanks to camera drones. The current models are so small that they fit in the palm of your hand. Photo quality is excellent and the results close to perfection. DJI minis are good enough as not too expensive as the bigger ones.

Puerto Plata party boat anchored in Sosua
Photo taken with a DJI Mavic drone in Sosua Bay.

The Mavic Mini Pro has 4k video, 48mp photos and 34 minutes flight time. It only weights 249 grams, very practical and costs around US$750.00; the Mavic 3 Pro has a larger sensor, Hasselblad camera, and up to 5.1k prores video. Cost? US$2,000 which is fine if you need it.

dji mini pro drone
DJI Mini Pro drone
Mavic 3 Pro Cine

Underwater Photos: If we’re talking yachting here, some photos will be taken underwater. There are many options of waterproof covers for mobiles, such as the YOGRE iPhone and Samsung Diving Phone Case. It has a large viewport, which fits virtually any phone.

iPhone diving case
The Yogre looks very sturdy.

Another product that works underwater is the Gdome Port for mobiles, which allows you to take split 50/50 photos that show above and below the water line. Click the image below to enlarge it and see the shots you can get with this dome.

gdome for mobile
GDome is a great option for split photos.
GDome is perfect for mobile phones.

Editing: Mobile photography editing can be done in the phone with the native apps, or download more sophisticated third party apps. Light Room, Photoshop, and dozens of great apps are available in the app store. The video below is a tutorial from Jake Rich, a great photographer.

Using the fast boat or dinghy: If you do not have a drone or can`t fly it due to area restrictions, use the dinghy to take a few shots of the group in the yacht, from the water. Ask the skipper to circle the yacht so you can take multiple photos from all the angles. This can be one at the end of the charter, 10 minutes before departure.

Safety First:

Please remember boating requires coordination and plenty of free hands to move around. Taking photos in a yacht or catamaran should not be risky, always follow the yachting safety tips. It can save you from a fall and save your smart phone from being overboard or broken.


Do you need a professional photo session with DSLR cameras, and drone shots? our photographer is available for a 2-3 hour session, just visit the services page for more information.

Note: The products shown here are for reference only, this is not a sponsored article.