How To Sell Your Boat With Photos And Videos

If you’re serious about selling your boat online, capturing and uploading high quality images of your vessel (both photo and video) must be a part of your sales strategy. Why? To put it simply, this is the best tool a seller has for making their listing stand out from the crowd. With the world becoming increasingly virtual during COVID-19, this is even more important.

Here we’ll explore some of the basics on how to leverage the power of digital media – from using the best smart phones with the greatest cameras and 4K video, to hiring a pro with a DSLR, drone, editing software and social media prowess – to get the most out of your boat listings on Boat Trader.

Sell Your Boat Online on Boat Trader

The Hero Image: Why It Matters

It is said that the great American stage and film actor Will Rogers, once remarked, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” and we couldn’t agree more. The “hero image” is your first impression for your listing – it’s the one you choose to show up in our search results as a thumbnail that shoppers will click on to view the rest of the boat details. So it has to be a strong, compelling photo.

5 Basic Tips For Successful Hero Images

1. Careful Composition: Ideally the boat should be fully visible from stern to bow. We suggest a side profile since that shows the vessel in its entirety the best, although a slight angle looking from in front of the bow towards the stern from either starboard or port works well too. If you have a drone, or a friend with one (doesn’t everyone these days?) than a slightly elevated shot looking down at the boat from just in front of the bow can make for a commanding, attention-grabbing image.

2. The Right Setting: Ideally, the boat should be on the water. Sure it’s easy to walk out to the driveway and snap a photo with that old flip phone. But remember, you’re trying to SELL something here. You may have outgrown the boat, but the buyer hasn’t. You want them to get excited – like you were the first time you laid your eyes on that boat of your dreams! If you live near the boat ramp, take her down, launch her and have someone snap some photos while you drive by the shore. At Boat Trader, we have noticed that images of boats in warehouses or empty parking lots are not flattering and don’t get as many views. These types of photos are easily dismiss-able and quickly forgotten. Instead, showcase your boat doing what it does best: floating!

3. Best Resolution / Size: These days, a smartphone like an iPhone (we highly recommend the iPhone 11, 12 or 12 Pro Max), Samsung Galaxy (the S21 Ultra or Note 20) or Google Pixel (the Pixel 4 or 5) can be used to capture a great amount of detail in high-resolution image formats that can be more than acceptable (stunning even) for online imagery. Make sure the phone is set to its highest possible resolution (in the camera settings) and also make sure you transfer and upload it in original format without downsizing (many make the mistake of emailing downscaled versions of the photos and videos to themselves before uploading, which degrades the quality – again, this is a setting on your phone).

4. Grab Action Shots: It’s true! Running shots and aerials grab the most attention by far! Try it yourself – go browse Boat Trader listings right now, and notice what you’re drawn to. What do you naturally click on? Is it the boat sitting in a crowded dark marina behind a gas pump, or the unwashed motor yacht on stands in back of a dirty warehouse? Probably neither. Was it a center console jumping a wave, silhouetted by a setting sun in the background? Or maybe it was simple, clean boat on a trailer in a nice location, like the one below, that tempted you to click to learn more?

A 23 Robalo Cuddy Cabin boat

Above the seller of this clean, 23-foot Robalo cuddy cabin boat positioned her in an uncluttered area of the yard on a beautiful sunny day. Although the vessel is on land, on a trailer, it looks presentable and appealing, communicating this is likely a caring owner who maintained the boat well.

If you’ve owned and enjoyed your boat for years, you may already have some great action shots or photographs of your boat on a nice day. If not, maybe it’s time to consider one more day out there with your friends to capture this imagery? Any excuse for another boating day, we say! If you have friends that own their own boats, another great option here is to ask them if you can use their vessel as a “chase boat” for a few hours to help you capture boat-to-boat shots of the vessel your selling. It might just be worth the cost of gas.

5. Perfect Lighting: OK, we don’t expect everyone selling a boat to be Ansel Adams, but there are some fairly easy techniques and tricks available to anyone to show their boat in the best light possible. First, make sure your boat is well-lit (at least a back light and fill light – and if you don’t know what those are, than just stick with natural sunlight and avoid the shade). This is particularly important if you are shooting with a smartphone or consumer camera as they are notoriously bad in low light. If you have a better camera or more experience with your iPhone, Golden Hour (the hour before the sun sets or after it rises) can be a great time to capture the vessel in a flattering way, when a golden hue and tones of yellow and orange can make even a trash can look more appealing.

Pro Tip: Clean up your boat and hire a local photographer for the day to capture your boat floating on the water down at the local boat tramp. That way you don’t have to learn all the skills and drama of filming on boats and can just focus on the important thing: selling your boat.

Now that you’ve read those 5 tips, below are some great examples of outstanding hero images we’ve seen perform well on Boat Trader.

1997 Hatteras Convertible Sportfishing Yacht

Depicting a beautiful 1997 Hatteras 54 Convertible sportfishing yacht, this running photo is taken from slightly above the vessel off the port side looking down in a bird’s eye style view. Note how the entire vessel is visible from bow to stern, including the flybridge / tower, rigging and aft deck, making it an ideal “hero image”.

You can almost feel the adrenaline in the above boat-to-boat action photo of a 2013 Custom Carolina 26 center console. Built by Outer Banks Boatworks the image shows her twin Suzuki 200 four stroke engines rigged to the transom while accenting her sharp, Carolina-flared, full-composite hull, specific characteristics this builder is known for and buyers are likely to appreciate.

1993 Buddy Davis 43 Custom Carolina

Above, this epic photo shows “Wake Maker”, a 1993 Buddy Davis 44 Express Custom Carolina yacht that was listed on Boat Trader in 2020. A clear example of a top-notch hero image the photo grabs attention and prompts those browsing through listings to click and see more.

Jupiter 30 Center Console Boat

You don’t need a drone to get a great photo of a boat! Even if you can’t get a running shot, it pays to bring her to the local boat ramp and take a few photos of the vessel floating in the water. Here the seller of this 30-foot Jupiter center console placed the boat right in the center of the photo with an uncluttered, eye-pleasing natural background that accentuates her sleek lines, factory hardtop and twin white F300 Yamaha outboards.

The Importance Of Video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video can be worth a thousand pictures. In fact, our data shows listings with videos get seen exponentially more – and listings with good videos perform even better!

Once you’ve mastered the hero image, the next step to amplify your listing is to shoot and upload some great video footage of the boat. Depending on the type of boat your selling, this video footage can be as simple, as a short but clear “running video” of the boat passing by the camera on the water, or a longer walkthrough video from stern to bow, showcasing the key features of your model and illustrating the value buyers would be getting by purchasing your boat (essentially a virtual tour).

Short Clips And Highlight Reels

Whether or not you go for a full walkthrough video or just a few great video clips to show potential buyers your boat in action, any video will help sell your boat more than no video at all. Below is an example of a short “highlight” or “sizzle reel” we produced with World Cat and Bosun’s Marine onboard a sea trial of a brand new 2021 280CC-X power cat center console.

In this video we captured aerial footage of the boat from all different angles using a Phantom Pro 4 drone that shoots 4K video (i.e. four times regular 1080HD resolution) at 60-frames-per-second (60FPS), then edited and slowed down the footage in Adobe Premiere (one of the top professional choices for editing in 2021, along with Final Cut Pro). However, you could also shoot some similar passing footage with a friend holding your smartphone very steady as you drive the boat by a dock (try shooting in the highest frame rate possible on your device), and then edit some of the clips together using more affordable, simpler editing software such as Apple’s iMovie, Nero Video or Corel VideoStudio. Another even simpler option would be to use a mobile video editing tool right on your phone such as Premiere Rush (Adobe’s mobile video editor), the GoPro editing app, the iMovie app or LumaFusion (for iOS) and KineMaster (for Android).

Pro Tip: Hiring a local, professional video production company for a few hours to get the best possible footage of your boat might be worth saving the time and hassle of doing it yourself (unless you really enjoy this sort of thing).

Filming A Boat “Walkthrough” Video

Boat shoppers and buyers really want to see every feature of the boat and how they can be used and enjoyed. A video is a really great way to allow them to do this remotely. During the COVID-19 pandemic video has become even more important, as many at home, online boat shoppers look to virtual tours when doing their research to find their perfect dream boat.

While “hero videos” of a boat running out on the water can get attention – brief, well-planned walkthrough videos can help seal the deal (or at least get the buyer to inquire for more). If you have a quiet place to walk through the boat from stern to bow in under two or three minutes, this can be a great way to explain to the buyer the unique and key aspects of your boat.

Below is an example of what we think is a great walkthrough video that we filmed with Lenny Rudow showcasing a Pursuit S 288 center console fishing boat.

There’s nothing fancy going on in the video, as the boat is sitting in a parking lot at the dealer, but it showcases the model and explains the virtues of its design. Lenny describes in detail how guests and family members can enjoy classy accents and premium upholstery throughout this boat, while anglers and captains will appreciates features like fold away cockpit seating, 4 standard rod holders, a 24-gallon livewell, 45-gallon in-floor fish boxes, raw water washdown, anchor storage compartment and power windlass controlled directly from the helm.

If you’re filming a boat walkthrough video on a smartphone, have a friend hold the phone horizontally for YouTube and other video players (or vertically if you plan to share the video on certain social media channels like Facebook or Instagram Stories). Make sure you are in a quiet place the that you are close enough to the phone to be able to be heard clearly (consider using a professional external microphone such as the ).

Pro Tip: Hiring a Social Media expert on uploading and sharing video boat walkthroughs to different platforms may be worth the time saved figuring it out for yourself. 

Helpful Tips For Shooting Boat Videos

Here are some more helpful tips from our help desk to help you shoot the best photos and videos of your boat:

  • Plan and prep: remove all personal items and thoroughly clean the boat.
  • Schedule a time and set aside at least an hour, possibly longer for bigger boats.
  • Find a well-lit, quiet place with minimal background noise (avoid low-light scenarios)
  • Avoid filming boats on a trailer, as they do not look as attractive to buyers. If you cannot avoid this, try to position the boat in an uncluttered area.
  • Shoot boats on the water whenever possible.
  • Decide the length of your video – we suggest 1-3 minutes for a full walk-through.
  • Write down a boat-specific shot list prior to filming. The shot list will make sure you don’t miss anything important. It is generally easiest to go from bow to stern or vice versa. An example boat shot list would be: engines, stern/transom, aft deck, cockpit and helm, controls and dash, cabin & berths (if applicable), head, seats/upholstery, bow area, bow, exterior hull (all sides) and any special features.
  • If you’re filming a walkthrough, it is helpful for buyers to include important key technical specifications of the boat such as length overall (LOA), draft, beam (width), weight, propulsion/horsepower and storage capacities.

General Video Guidelines

Finally, it’s important to pause and note that video production is a whole industry in and of itself, and everything that goes into producing great videos is beyond the scope of this one article alone. Nevertheless, there are some basic guidelines to follow and common mistakes to avoid if you plan to shoot a video of your boat yourself. From pre-production (i.e. planning) to production (shooting) and post production (editing/uploading), below is a brief roundup to read through and consider:

  • Pre-Production
    • Plan your location and clean and prep your boat thoroughly
    • Familiarize yourself with your camera and its settings (including resolution, frame rate, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, lenses etc)
    • Make sure you charge your batteries fully before shooting
    • Make sure you have enough storage capacity available on your memory cards
  • Production
    • Provide ample lighting for your camera / lens setup
    • Minimize camera shake – from lens strap techniques to tripods, stabilizers and “steadicams” there are a slew of ways you can stabilize your camera or smartphone.
    • Shoot some slow motion footage if possible (There’s a reason so many car commercials are in slow motion – people love it. Slow motion footage can make mundane objects become extraordinary, giving them a surreal, dreamlike air).
    • If you plan to record sound, use an external microphone and/or audio field recorder and make sure there is minimal background noise. Bad quality audio can ruin an otherwise great video. (Some good options for microphones are the Comica Audio CVM-WS50B and the Rode wireless GO microphone system).
  • Post-Production
    • Avoid effects and fancy titles or transitions. Focus on the boat. (Yes – you can do some pretty neat things in iMovie these days but it’s probably better to keep it simple)
    • Don’t use unlicensed music in your video. (Sure, it’s tempting to pair your favorite AC/DC song with ole “Carpe Diem” leaping over that breaker in the inlet – but it’ll likely get you a copyright infringement claim on YouTube or other platforms.) If you want to include some great stock music, check out sites like Pond5, Soundstripe or Shutterstock where you can license royalty-free music that can kick your videos up a notch).
    • Make sure not to downsample or degrade the video files when transferring to your computer or uploading. This is a common mistake and can make all your hard work pointless if buyers can’t view the video the way you intended.
    • Use the right aspect ratio and video orientation (i.e. vertical or horizontal) for your intended platform. Planning on marketing the boat on Instagram? You’ll want to create photos and videos for the feed in a 1:1 square aspect ratio (1080×1080 pixels) and videos less than 60-seconds (unless you want them to be IGTV videos) or vertical (1080 x 1920 pixels) for the story (with a maximum length of 15-seconds). Of course, these specifications are always changing so always check the latest recommendations on Instagram and Facebook.

Sell Your Boat Online on Boat Trader

Written by: Ryan McVinney

C. Ryan McVinney is a film director, writer and producer. As an experienced boater he regularly produces and directs on-the-water video shoots for major boat manufacturers, yacht brokers and dealers, as well as independent film and media companies. He is president of the National Soho House Film Club with chapters in Miami, FL, Manhattan, NY and Los Angeles, CA and regularly contributes content to YachtWorld, boats.com and Boat Trader.

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