Learning Boat Deck Measurement

This page provides a starting point and enough training material to learn how to use the PhotoModeler software and its target systems for doing boat deck measurements without using physical templates.

Learning How

Please follow these four steps to learn the system.

We strongly recommend that when first learning this procedure, you watch and then follow the steps of this first video using your own photos.  Do not try your first PhotoModeler project on a boat – simulate the project instead, as the video depicts.  The document is a quick review of laying down targets and taking photos. See note about Outlines.

This video and document review the procedures for laying out targets and taking photos on a boat.

This video shows how to use the PhotoModeler software to convert your photos and targets into a CAD outline.

This video is a continuation and shows how to use PhotoModeler to add new panels, verify measurements, use tools such as image enhancement, and how to flatten from a 3D model for a 2D CAD export.

Outlines vs Surface Draw

Deck tracing is done in one photo on a user-defined surface. The original method for doing this was called Surface Draw. The decking tutorials all use Surface Draw. The new Outlines replace Surface Draw. Outlines are more CAD-like and have more advanced features. At this time the Decking tutorials have not been re-recorded using Outlines, but using Surface Draw during your learning is not lost. You can easily switch to using Outlines later if you so wish and the skills will transfer.

More detail
Once you have duplicated the learning exercise above, you can study further with these documents and tutorial videos:

Equipment Needed

  • A camera (see note below)
  • PhotoModeler Standard (permanent standalone license, or a monthly subscription)
  • Letter Sheet Targets (printing Letter Sheets)
  • A method of scaling (included with Letter Sheets, but optionally a tape measure or yard/meter stick)
  • Optional selfie stick or monopod for higher photo shots

What Camera To Use

Almost any camera can be used, but we recommend a high-quality, high-resolution camera with a fixed, prime (non-zoom) lens. You can use a mobile phone, a point-n-shoot, a mirrorless, or a DSLR camera. We do recommend at least a 20-megapixel resolution. As well try to avoid cameras with in-body or in-lens optical image stabilizations. A good place to study camera choices is this site.

Some notes on mobile phone cameras: They do not all work well. Some newer mobile phone cameras modify the images, which may lower accuracy and make solutions trickier. Several phone cameras released after 2016 have OIS (optical image stabilization), which can degrade measurement quality. In addition, it can be more challenging to get photos off a mobile phone in the correct format. If you had the choice between a phone camera and a DSLR or mirrorless camera, pick the latter. Having said that, some customers use mobile phone cameras with extra care.

Many cameras work with PhotoModeler for deck measurement work and our general recommendations for best results are:

  • 20 MPixel or higher resolution
  • Prime, non-zoom lens with around 20 to 35mm focal length (or a zoom that can be externally fixed)
  • No optical (lens or body) image stabilization
  • Mirrorless or DSLR (or non-zoom point-and-shoot)

Here are cameras you can use in order of increasing cost (and usually in the order of increasing accuracy as well):

  1. Mobile phone cameras (not the least expensive, but most people have one, so we’ll consider the cost $0).
  2. Point-and-shoot ($50 to $400 camera) – with no zoom lens is preferred. 16MP and up if possible.
  3. Mirror-less camera with a prime lens  ($500 to $2000) {advantage over DSLR is they are smaller and lighter}.
  4. DSLR with a prime lens ($700+).

If you have a camera in mind and want to check it with us, please send the make and model to support@photomodeler.com, and they can let you know.


These pages describe some common problems and solutions when executing deck measurement projects.

Where to get help

As a PhotoModeler customer (or evaluating customer), please do not hesitate to contact the PhotoModeler Support department at support@photomodeler.com to ask questions or get help with any issue.  The support team will help you get going!

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