If you’re sailing or cruising, then you better be shooting. A camera that is!
For me and Jereme, making memories that will last a lifetime is one thing, but capturing photos of our adventures so that we can enjoy them for years to come is just as priceless. …So we, of course, want to make sure those images look great in the process!
Whether you’re an aspiring or pro photographer, or anything in between, having the most expensive equipment isn’t always necessary for beautiful photos, but knowing how to use the tools you have is!
As a professional family photographer myself, I’m here to share some of what I’ve learned along the way and how I’ve applied that knowledge to my sailing and cruising photos.
>>Disclaimer: I consider myself constantly learning when it comes to photography. Because really, when does the learning process ever end? In my case, I hope never! So this is really just a bit of what I do know, and what works best for me.
What’s in my camera bag?
*Photos taken on lahowind.com use the following equipment…
- Canon EOS 7D. My camera body. (You can order camera bodies with or without a lens — however the lenses that typically come as a set with the camera body are “not so great” in my opinion.) The white balance on the 7D is excellent! And the auto-ISO feature is super convenient. It can also take 8 pictures per second, which is fun when taking photos of our poodle Oliver.
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 Lens. As a family photographer, I normally use this lens for portraits. It’s a prime lens, which means it does not zoom in or out at all. If you want to zoom in or out on your subject you have to move closer or further with your feet! 😉 The low aperture (“F” value) gives that beautiful, super-blurred background (like in the photo above — the shell/hand is the focus and everything else is blurry).
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II Lens. This is actually on my cruising photography wish list. I recently tested out this lens by renting one from borrowlenses.com. (I would highly recommend trying out any lens you are thinking of purchasing before you actually bite the bullet. Sometimes, what you think may be the perfect lens isn’t really so great once you start shooting.) This particular one will easily become my “go-to” cruising photography lens once I make the purchase (hopefully soon). If you can only have one lens, and you’re not sure what kind of lighting or space situation you’ll be up against, this or a similar zoom lens is one you would probably want in your arsenal. Update! This bad boy has been officially added to my arsenal!
- Canon PowerShot G12 Camera. My Canon Powershot G12 point-n-shoot is just fun. I’ve had it for about 3 or so years, and it really does take pretty amazing photos. It’s great to grab and stick in my purse or take along when I just don’t want to lug around the “big” camera. Plus, the 3-inch LCD display is super nice!
- GoPro HERO3. The newest addition to my bag and a super awesome birthday gift from Jereme (he’s the best!). I was dying for something that was A. waterproof and B. very durable. The GoPro is just that. Although I’ve pretty much only used it for video, it has lots of other great uses that I hope to try out soon. Here are some of the fun videos we’ve made using the GoPro (and iMovie).
- iPhone 5. The iPhone’s camera really can take a very nice looking photo if you know how to use it right. And if you don’t have any other equipment, why not make the best of what you have? I am kinda-sorta obsessed with instagram and utilize iPhone photos exclusively. I also post a recap of some of our insta-photos here on the blog every few weeks. But when using an iPhone for photos, make sure you only zoom with your feet. In other words, never ever use the little slider at the bottom of your screen – unless you like low quality images. Also, use two hands when taking a picture. Keeping the phone stabilized will result in a much sharper and crisp result. And finally, why not try a photo editing app? My go-to favorite is VSCO CAM. Some of my all-time favorite photos have actually been taken on my iPhone…
Post-Processing Makes a World of Difference…
Straight-out-of-the-camera (SOOC) photos can almost always stand to be tweaked, both to maximize the image captured and also to better fit your own personal preferences.
I shoot in RAW format (as opposed to JPEG) and use Photoshop CS5 to edit all of my photos (except my iPhone ones – I use VSCO CAM). RAW is a file format that captures all image data recorded by the sensor when you take a photo. When shooting in a format like JPEG, image information is compressed and lost. Because no information is compressed with RAW, you’re able to produce higher quality images, as well as correct problems (like over/under exposure or adjusting the white balance) that would be unrecoverable if shot in the JPEG format. And many many cameras these days shoot RAW, including point and shoots (like the Canon G12)! One note of caution… RAW files take up WAY more space than JPEGs — both on your hard drive and memory card. Make sure you have adequate storage capacity before you change up your camera’s settings.
Back to post-processing. Several years back, I had a very generous employer pay for me to attend multiple Photoshop training courses. Although these were more design related, I’ve been able to apply that knowledge to photos over the years. And believe you me, the “healing brush” and “liquify tool” can quickly become your best friend. 😉 (Both VERY helpful now that I’m 31! Just saying.) If you are looking to start using Photoshop and aren’t sure where to begin, I would suggest watching any of the million YouTube tutorials on “Photoshop for Beginners” and then Google any specific Photoshop questions you run into once you get started. (Side note: Photoshop recently launched a subscription model for their programs where you can pay per month or annually for Photoshop or the entire Creative Cloud.)
Personally, I like for my photos to have a clean, vibrant look. I have created my own personal editing workflow and style using various actions (like Paint the Moon and Florabella among others) that are available for purchase online, along with other steps that I have come to know and love. My black and white images are processed in a similar way.
Post processing videos is a bit different. I am a super beginner iMovie user and have quickly fallen in love with making movies from my GoPro and G12.
Using Natural Light to Your Advantage…
Natural light is one of the most important and powerful tools available to photographers, and (bonus!) it’s free! Understanding how natural light works and how to work it to your advantage is one way you can improve your photography without spending more money on fancy photo equipment. So, when photographing outdoors utilizing only natural light (which applies to most sailors/cruisers), here are a few things you want to remember.
- “Golden Hour” or “Magic Hour” is your best friend in terms of light. This is that last hour before sunset (or during) where the light is low in the sky, very golden, and as such creates less shadows and more even lighting across your subject.
- If you have to shoot during the mid-day sun, then use shade to your advantage. Shooting in open shade can help you create even light and even skin tones with no harsh shadows.
- Watch for shadows on faces. Shadows under the eyes (raccoon eyes), under the nose, or off to the side of the nose are not flattering in photographs. I use whatever tools I can to avoid these shadows in any photograph.
Stop Shooting in Auto!
There are tons of great tutorials on the web that give basic introductions to SLR photography, so I’m not going to bore you with too many technical details on how to use your camera. However, I highly recommend really learning how to use your SLR camera so that you can get the most out of it and have confidence in taking it off the dreaded auto mode.
Observe the Rule of Thirds!
The rule of thirds is an essential photography technique. It can be applied to any subject to improve the composition and balance of your images. Position horizons one third up or down the height of the image, and people one third in from the left or right.
Other Helpful Resources…
- This handy dandy floating hand grip for the GoPro camera is my new bff! The last thing I want to do is drop my new GoPro into the ocean and watch it sink to the bottom. 😉
- This flexible tripod is on my wishlist to purchase and use with my other cameras.
- The book Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is a great resource. It gives a deeper understanding of camera settings and SLR photography, and explains everything in small words that are easy to understand!
- Here’s where you can watch Deke McClelland’s (aka Mr. Photoshop) tutorials.
>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing.