BTS – Yacht Shoot for Resident Magazine

Every month or so, I get a call from Resident Magazine about an amazing photo shoot that I jump and say yes to, before they are even done with the proposition.

This is one of them.

The setup was perfect.  We would be shooting aboard a 93' yacht.  There would be 3 female models and 1 male model.  We had full range of the yacht and we had 6 hours to shoot enough shots for a 9 page spread.

Of course.. not everything works out the way you want it to.  But that's what brings out the pro in a photographer.

The full list of gear for this shoot:

Sony a7RII x2
Sony 24-70 GM lens
Phottix Indra 500 light (with battery) x2
Phottix Indra AC Adapter
Phottix Odin II (Sony) trigger
Tiffen Polarizer
Ellinchrom Boom pole x2
Fishing Rod Holder x2
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Phottix 5 in 1 43' reflector with handles

I called up APM Models and enlisted 3 amazing and gorgeous female models:


I then called a male model I had worked with before from One Management and got him aboard.


I then needed to get the rest of the crew together.  For hair was Dion and the stylist was Engie, both whom I've worked with before as well.  The makeup artist, Virgina, I hadn't worked with before, but she has worked with Dion, so I knew she was good.

Through a friend, I was connected with Rob, a drone pilot with the DJI Inspire.  I was really excited about this, as I've been wanting to use a drone for my BTS video footage.

For my photography assistants, I brought along 3, as I had many duties, including needing 2 at all times to be holding boom poles (I'll explain farther below).


Finally, the art director of the magazine, "EJ", agreed to be the retoucher for all the shots that were featured in the magazine.

So now I had a full crew!  We were excited and ready to conquer this shoot.

There was just one kink.  The yacht was in Sag Harbor, NY.  So we had to drive from my photo studio in midtown Manhattan, which was a 2-3 hour car trip.. each way.

Check out the video below about the shoot, then read on to how we made it happen!


We decided to do hair and makeup at my studio first.  This of course took a few hours for 4 models.

While they were getting ready, I packed my bags.  Since we were traveling so far and then being surrounded by water, I packed extra.  Primary equipment, then backup equipment, and then backup of backups.  I ended up not needing 80% of everything I brought, but it was great to have it just in case.

For example, I packed 5 Sony lenses worth a total of about $10,000.

  • Sony 24-70 GM
  • Sony 85mm 1.4 GM
  • Sony 35mm 1.4 Distagon
  • Sony 90mm 2.8 Macro
  • Sony 24-240mm

In the end, I only ended up using one.  Again, I will explain down below 🙂

I also brought along a second Sony a7RII as a backup, but used it as well for the video my assistant shot during the shoot.

Finally, we were ready!  We loaded a total of 16 people into cars and started the almost 3 hour drive.

Since I'm the photographer, I made sure to have the models driven in my car.  A little bonding time makes everyone feel more comfortable with each other.  This shows when the shooting begins.

And then we finally arrived.  But disaster struck.  There was a delay getting us on the yacht.  This was due to unforeseen circumstances and at no fault to the crew of the yacht or ourselves.  But this is photography life and we have to roll with the punches.

Finally, we could board and we jumped on the boat tender and were on the way to the yacht!

We boarded the yacht, no one fell in the water plus no equipment was dropped.  This was honestly 2 of my biggest concerns for the day.

Then I started the unpacking and building of my equipment.

I had brought stands and tripods, but knowing that we couldn't put the rubber feet down on the flooring of the yacht due to concerns about scuff marks, we tried taping towels to the bottom of the feet.  While this worked, I feared the stability of the tripod so ended up not using it.

While I was unpacking, the models took this time to for retouching of makeup and hair plus trying on the outfits the stylist had brought.

After I was done setting up all the equipment, which took about 20-30 min, I went on a tour of the gorgeous yacht to select the best spots for the shoot.

Now, other professionals will already have the spots selected, the clothing and style selected, etc days or even weeks in advance.  Since none of us, including the magazine, had a chance to visit the yacht previously, we were winging it.  Which I've actually become quite good at.

I then checked the time.  Because of the delay in getting aboard, we only had less than THREE hours to shoot.  This was literally less than half the allotted time we had planned for.  So we were in a rush and I had to limit the locations and scenes we were shooting.

Of course, bad news likes to come in pairs. We set up for the first scene, to be on a couch on the bow (front) of the yacht.  And it was soo windy!  Hair was flying and whipping back and forth.  And because misery loves company, Rob came over to me and told me that it was way too windy for his drone to be able to fly.  This was something he had warned me about when we were discussing the shoot.  It sucked, but it was better than the drone crashing into the water, or even worse, into the multi million dollar yacht.

Honestly, this was the second hardest shot to take, because of the wind.  With 4 models, they had to be in sync and their hair has to be perfect.  And because of the wind.. they weren't.

When I shoot for the magazine, I tether myself to my Surface Pro 4 tablet, so the Editor in Chief of the magazine, Hillary, can see the results of my photos instantly.  She can then decide if she wants different poses, clothing, makeup, etc.

Of course I anticipated that the sun was going to be crazy bright, so I brought a towel to cover ourselves while looking at the screen.  It's not the cleanest way of doing this, but it makes for funny BTS shots!

Now as you can see in the left photo above, we were using boom poles, as it was way too windy to use stands.  Since the Phottix Indra 500 lights are pretty light, due to the battery packs and AC adapter being a separate unit, they are pretty easy to handle.  But, the way my assistant Mason had it tucked in his pants was not going to work, especially for the girls holding the booms.  But I had anticipated this and came up with a solution.

Fishing pole holders!

And they worked!  They are basically what fisherman use when pulling in a large fish.  It mounts around your waist and fits the boom pole perfectly, distributing the weight around you, while adding padding to the front.

Since we were limited in space for this shoot, I sat above and relied on Hillary and Mason to check the screen and tell me if I needed to change any settings on my camera or if we needed to fix the model's positioning.  It's kind of like flying an airplane where you can see the controls of the plane and what you can see out the window, but you can't see how any changes you made to the controls effect how you are flying.

Of course, after ALL this, the magazine ended up not even using this scene.  But, because I love my readers, I edited the photo myself and present to you the first picture from the shoot!

Sony 24-70mm GM lens @ 42mm - f/5, 1/2000th, ISO 100

The next shot REALLY shows off what high speed sync (HSS) can do.  Since I was shooting in direct sunlight, I had to raise the speed of my shutter so as not to have the models too bright in the glare of the sun.

But doing that, made the models darker as well, so I had to raise the light on them.  To do that, I needed to shoot this entire yacht shoot in HSS mode on the flash.

Here is a before and after so you can see the difference.  I didn't add or remove any extra lighting in Photoshop:

Both shots are @ 24mm, f/5, 1/1600th, ISO100

As you can see, HSS is amazing and really enhanced the lighting in that really fast shutter speed.

To get this shot, I had to stand on the couch on the bow of the boat, but since that wasn't tall enough, I had to add a cooler that I stood on top of.  Since that wasn't too sturdy on a rocking boat, I had an assistant hold on to me do I didn't fall.

Of course, this photo didn't end up in the magazine spread either, so here are 2 quick Photoshopped versions, just for you guys

Sony 24-70 GM lens @ 41mm - f/5, 1/1600th, ISO100
Sony 24-70 GM lens @ 41mm - f/5, 1/1600th, ISO100

At this point, I realized I just didn't have any time to keep changing lenses.  So I just shot the entire shoot with the Sony 24-70 GM lens, which was more than up to the task.

Next, I shot Andrew in a solo scene in the same location.

This picture was so amazing, that the magazine ran two of the same scene!

35mm, f/5, 1/1600th, ISO100
63mm, f/5, 1/1600th, ISO100

Next we did a solo with Joyce in same location

The result:

40mm, f/6.3, 1/2000th, ISO100

Of course, since everyone else got a solo, I decided to have my own as well!

62mm, f2.8, 1/2500th, ISO 100

At this point, I heard a whirring above me.. and Rob delivered the great news.  The wind had finally died down.. and the drone was in the air!

Now we are at the hardest shot I took on the yacht.

Well.. I wasn't really on the yacht for this shot.

We wanted to shoot 2 models standing on the stern (back) of the yacht, right off the water.  To do this, I had to get on the tender and shoot the boat from 20-30 feet away.  Shooting from 1 bobbing and weaving boat to another bobbing and weaving boat is no picnic.  Plus, we were constantly drifting around the yacht, so we were always on the move.

And just to add to the mix, since we were so close to the water in the tender, the spray of the sea water disallowed me from using my lights.  So we brought out the large reflector we had.

Luckily the sun was setting, so it was low enough on the horizon and aimed right at us, so we could reflect it back onto the models.  And... Unfortunately, the sun was aimed right at us.. so I had miserable amount of glare on me.

By the way, notice the first drone pics above?  Amazing having that as a behind the scenes shooter.  I recommend it for all photographers.

Sometimes, the pain and suffering.. is all worth it when you see the final shot!

44mm, f/5, 1/640th, ISO100

Of course all my models and staff were having the times of their lives while I sweated away shooting each of them

And the drone flew around taking spectacular shots..

Sunset was rapidly approaching.  So we had to get the last 4 shots in before it became too dark.

The next shot featured all 4 of our models at the jacuzzi

Nailed it!

33mm, f/5.6, 1/320th, ISO100

We were now racing the clock.  Adrenaline was high.  We had to finish before sunset was over, but at the same time, we anted to take advantage of sunset's colors as much as possible.

This next shot featured 2 of our models sitting on chairs on the top deck.

Got it!

30mm, f/3.2, 1/3200th, ISO100

Two shots left!  We could make it!

The next shot was shooting Joyce solo in a gorgeous flowing green dress.

I don't even know if the dress or the model makes this shot.. devastating!

34mm, f/3.2, 1/100th, ISO100

It was now getting too dark for the drone, so I will leave you with it's final images

We were now at our final shot.  We had done it!  We were exhilarated and proud!

We lined up Andrew for one last solo shot against the final bit of sunset.  And of course I had to take a quick shot with him... Don't we look twins?  🙂

What you have all been waiting for:

35mm, f/3.2, 1/640th. ISO100

The shoot was finally over!  I had shot 9 different looks/scenes in less than 3 hours all over the yacht.  That must be some kind of record.

I hope you enjoyed this long but gorgeous behind the scenes look at my yacht shoot.

To see the beautiful spread in print, please pick up the latest issue of Resident magazine.  You can also view the digital format here