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Both Rebecca and I enjoy taking photos although as you might have gathered, the camera does tend to be in my hand more often than it is in hers. We take our trusty little Canon PowerShot D10 with us pretty much everywhere we go and it is not uncommon for us to come back to the boat with a hundred or more shots if we’ve been out exploring (we took 173 photos during our recent trip to the caves in Barbuda). Because we so often receive compliments on our pics, I thought that I’d share some info on exactly what happens before the shots get posted on this blog or on our Facebook page.

My “amateur” digital photography tips for bloggers:

  • Most important… take photos. Lots of them. This isn’t film that you need to pay to develop and pixels are free. If you don’t take photos, you won’t have them to enjoy later.
  • Try to pay attention to the lighting. Unless you’re going for a specific effect, or shooting a sunrise/sunset, photos will look much better with the sun or light behind you.
  • Learn your camera’s various features. Just the other day I figured out some cool things that our camera can do that I wasn’t aware of.
  • Give some thought to the composition of the shot as you are framing it in the camera’s view finder.
  • Although most pros shoot digital pics in Raw format, we record them as .jpgs. We do use the highest resolution setting that the camera offers though.
  • When we get back to the boat, we download all of the shots onto our computer. We do this daily so that, in the event that the camera gets damaged or lost, we won’t lose precious shots with it. Also, I do not typically delete the shots off the memory card right away. I instead wait until they have been backed up before doing so.

Almost all of the photo editing that we do takes place in Apple’s iPhoto (version 9.1.1 currently). Occasionally I will use Adobe Photoshop if I am trying to do something more complicated but this happens rarely. In iPhoto I will:

  • Crop the photo to emphasize the subject (if necessary).
  • Straighten the photo if the horizon is not level (unless I tilted it a lot on purpose).
  • Occasionally I will use iPhoto’sEnhance” feature to make the shot more vivid. I will also pay attention to the “Shadows/Highlights” features in case they need to be adjusted.
  • Increase the photo’s “Definition.”

All of the above can be done in Photoshop or other image editing software if you don’t use a Mac. Photos are then exported from iPhoto. For web use I set the quality on medium and adjust the size according to where they will be uploaded (for example, all shots on this blog are 596 px wide).

As you might imagine, going through this process for 100 or more shots can take a while. I do think the end result is worth it though.

Rebecca took this shot of s/v Earthling as they passed in front of the rising sun yesterday during our trip from Barbuda to Antigua. It was tweaked in iPhoto as I described above.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Now go take some pics of your loved ones!


  1. Hello Mike and Rebecca! A couple more picture taking tip for your readers. First, try dividing your view finder/screen into a 9 box grid (tic tac toe board). The subject of the picture should be on or very close to one of the grid’s intersections. If you look at the two pics on your website home page you will see what I mean. Both of you are right of center in the pic on your cat (your faces are the focal point) and your cat is left of center in your banner pic (both great btw). Lastly, try putting the horizon\waterline on either the bottom third or top third of the picture. You will be surprised how much better your pictures will look using these two simple tips. Love the blog!!!

  2. Beautiful photo! I’m sure s/v Earthling will love this shot! Happy Valentine’s Day to you both!

  3. Thanks for the tips! We definitely Love taking pics also. One day I am looking forward to them being Mostly about sailing instead of Engine Replacements and Sailboat Refits!!
    Happy Valentines Day to you two..Your love shines through<3

  4. Great tips. My personal pet peeve – people who use the “sunset option” on the camera which tweaks the colors so much that it doesn’t look like what they actually saw with their eyes. Hyper color for scenery makes me feel tricked.

  5. We all think your pics and their editing are worth it too. The result is thoroughly enjoyable and I for one, look back to some of your previous posts specifically to enjoy them.

    Well done and thank-you!


  6. Your pics are always awesome! Thanks for sharing your dream with us!

  7. I love that shot of Earthling in front of the sun… beautiful. It’s perfectly OK to break certain rules of composition, if it gives the effect you want. That’s the sort of shot you frame to hang on a bulkhead….

    If I may offer a few technical suggestions:

    Photoshop’s expensive. GIMP ( ) can do all the same things, except for a few printing features used in pro shops, and it’s free open-source software. Works on Linux, Windows and Mac.

    Raw format is only useful if you are planning to do careful post-processing of every shot. You still have to get the shot right in the first place- even in raw, it’s impossible to correct blown highlights (over-exposure) or bad lighting. What it does offer is the ability to do more extensive retouching without introducing additional noise or compression artefacts. That’s all.

    All modern cameras smaller than CX or micro4/3 format, i.e. all cameras that fit in a coat pocket, have a limiting resolution that is dictated mostly by the lens, not the sensor. The pixels of a >6MP sensor in a small camera are actually far smaller than the Airy disk, i.e. the finest point of light that the lens can focus. In other words, shooting at 15MP doesn’t actually give you any more resolution than shooting at 6MP in these cameras- it just gives a larger file. If you zoom waaaay in, everything’s smeared out at the pixel level. Pocket cameras are usually best if set to 5-6 MP, which lets you fit more shots on a card and is more than enough to print at 8″x10″ if you got a good sharp shot in the first place.

    • Interesting Matt. I was not aware of that. I would have assumed that a 15 megapixel camera would be able to take much better shots than a 10 megapixel one, assuming the lenses were comparable.

      • That’s only true if the sensor (and therefore the pixels) are large. On a DSLR, yes, more megapixels means you can blow the print up larger before you start to see the pixels- but its sensor is the size of an old-school film frame. A pocket camera’s sensor is half the size of a postage stamp.

        At f/8, the limit (for a perfect lens) is about 4 microns. The average pocket camera’s pixels are about 2 microns. So even a perfectly focused feature blurs over several pixels.

        Above f/8 in a small lens (f/16 or so in a DSLR), diffraction takes over and you can’t get a perfect focus anyway.

        At lower f/numbers, the ideal Airy disk shrinks, but spherical aberration increases, so you don’t see any actual improvement. The only way around that is to spend $1000+ on the lens.

        If in doubt, try taking the exact same shot at 4 MP and at 16 MP, print both out at 8″x10″, and try to figure out which is which. I’ve never come across a sub-$1600 camera where you can tell the difference.

  8. It’s Feb 14th 2013 and I’m actually one year behind your current time table….. I’m loving this blog so much and I cant wait to tell you more about the impact of your blog! Trying and succeeding not to read any spoilers as to where you are now.

    Wishing you guys a Happy V day and send you many good thoughts!

    keep up the very delightful and useful dialog and I love the pictures and watching you become such great sailors! just a few weeks ago you could hardly swim!! ( my time not yours lol)…


  9. The pic of S/V Earthling is beautiful

  10. Hi guys. I just found this via a link on your post “Editing underwater pics for Dummies.” Great easy tips for newbies. Some of your shots are truly stunning, like the one of S/V Earthling above. Do you earn income with your photos on places like Shutterstock, Shutterfly or other such sites?

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