How to Shoot Snowboard Photos

Shooting tips from Onboard’s Photo Editor.

We posted this last year, but with winter getting closer many of you will be looking forward to busting out camera and snapping your buddies’ bangers, so we decided to re-post this How To… Shoot Snowboard Photos to give all budding sharpshooters out there the 411 from our photo ed.

How To… Shoot Basic Snowboard Photos

Sami Tuoriniemi is Onboard’s photo editor. Each year he reckons he will have looked through 20,000 photos and monthly, he has to make the call on hundreds of epic shots. In short, he has bags of experience of snowboard photography. Here he gives a quick 101 on the basics of shooting the shred.

Basic Equipment Needed to Shoot Snowboarding

You should invest in an SLR (film) or DSLR (Digital) camera, plus lenses and, of course, film and/or memory cards. When I was young I tried to shoot snowboarding with point-and-shoot cameras, but they turned out really bad as you can’t focus in the right spot and the quality is crap as they generally have automatic- or semi-automatic settings that have little scope for adjustment. If you are thinking about shooting anything other than tourist snaps, you’ll need an SLR or DSLR camera.

Film vs Digi

It’s much easier these days to start with digital, but if your photography becomes more serious you should definitely shoot film as well. With film there is a certain feeling that I think is still lacking in digi, and you can create different kinds of effects and emotions with film. You can also achieve similar things with digi in Photoshop, but I think that’s lame. In the end, that makes you a computer nerd, not a photographer.

Kicker, dude getting wicked, landing. First rule? Check. Photo: Cole Barash.
Kicker, dude getting wicked, landing. First rule? Check. Mark Landvik. Photo: Cole Barash.

First Rule of Snowboard Photography

You need points of reference: the shot must give you some kind of idea about what’s going on, where the rider’s come from and where he’s going. There’s nothing worse than the ‘guy in the sky’ shot that mainstream people think is so rad. However, on very rare occasions you can break this rule.

How Important is Good Riding?

There’s an old saying that your shot is only as good as the rider, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. If the quality of the riding is epic it’s easy to get good shots, but if the riding is not so good then it is more of a challenge to make a shot work.

Composition?

Whatever kind of photography it is, if the subject is bang in the middle then 9 times out of 10 it won’t work. Google the ‘rule of thirds’ but remember rules are there to be broken. When shooting a photo it’s kind of like a film set – to some extent you have control over everything in the frame, so think of what looks interesting, or complements your angle, or gives depth and so on. If you don’t like it, move.

Rider in one third, Russian bird in the other and the rail’s depth shown by the angle. Epic composition jazzed more by a tilt-shift lens. Kareem El Rafie. Photo: Matt Georges.

How to Make a Trick Look Bigger or Better

You can make a trick look bigger and better with different angles and lenses. For example, a fisheye in the pipe can visually increase height – go close and low. Telephoto lenses have a sweet spot where the distance of a jump can be maximised. For example, if you shot the Onboard issue 99′s Travis Rice cover from any lower, the landing would move closer to the kicker and made the gap look smaller; higher and Travis looks closer to the knuckle, again making the gap less impressive.

Choice of Lens

If you can only afford one lens, the money-maker for snowboarding is the 70-200 f2.8. There’s a cheaper f4 version that would work just as well image-wise, but it’s not so good in low light.

Depth of Field

Depth of field is important: with messy background you can use a shallow depth of field to make the rider stand out better, therefore use an f-stop of 4 or bigger. But sometimes you’ll really want to show the background, in which case you will have to opt for a small f-stop.

Shutter Speed/Film Speed

If it’s bluebird, 1/1000 second and f5.6 with a film speed of 100 ISO should see you right. When cloudy, it’s more complicated and you’ll need to measure the light. If shooting snowboarding from the side of the kicker, when you really see the rider’s speed, you should try to keep to 1/1000 second. If it gets darker or cloudy you can just increase the ISO or open up the aperture. Shooting at a rider or behind them, you can use a slower shutter speed and still freeze the action.

Lighting

When you’ve dialled the basics of ambient light, you can buy flashes and radio slaves. Bear in mind that on-camera flashes rarely work in snowboard photography.

Dressing Your Rider

More often than not, the rider is the most important element in your photo so it is important to see them clearly. Make sure they dress in bright, distinctive colours. Shooting action in the backcountry with trees and rocks in the background, with a rider in camo or dark clothing rarely works. However, if you want a silhouette shot, then go dark. Also, if you’re shooting in town and there are nice colours in the architecture, you might want to think about having the rider don some outerwear that complements it.

Imagine this dude in all black and you’ll see how a great shot can be ruined by bad clothing colours. Trevor Jacobs. Photo: Cole Barash.

Shooting For a Magazine

If you’re thinking of getting shots into mags, be honest with yourself and think whether your shots are up to standard. Consider the title you’re submitting to – regional mags tend to feature home-grown talent with a smattering of international A-listers. Think of what section of the magazine your shots suit. If you’ve done a trip, don’t just shoot action: shoot portraits, lifestyle, potential openers and so on. If no-one buys the whole story you’ll still have portraits and singles that might be used for something

How to Get Your Shots Past a Moody Photo Ed?

If you submit to a magazine, only send in new shots. Make a tight submission – 20 max – and tell the photo ed you have more. It is better to send 15 good shots than a rough edit of 200. Every single shot should be labelled with Rider_Trick_Location_Photographer. This should be in the file name, but in the metadata is also OK.  Get your submissions out early as the first issue of a regional magazine gets put together in July, while our first deadline is in spring.

Most importantly, enjoy shooting!

  1. Alex

    What would you submit it as, a story for example with the wording etc and the colums or would you send them in as photos even if say it wasn’t a comp but a photoshoot?

  2. noxphoto.

    the explication are really good and very clear!
    thanks a lot sami.
    one question… when is the deadline for photo submission for onboard?
    its just a question… :)

    peace

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