Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Do's and Don'ts of Skiing Photography

I've read a lot of articles about skiing photography, and none seem to cover many vital details.  The pictures are always outdated, and the articles are about creating a sharp image of the skier with blur around him.  Often times fully-sharp focused images look WAY better!  This is why I've created the Do's and Don'ts of Skiing Photography.  Below is a list of details (Including Safety) that every skiing photographer should know.

We'll start with what you SHOULD do-

- Dress warm (it's better to overheat than to freeze and your shots will reflect this!)
- Buy some Swany Toaster mittens. (These have a liner with a zip out side, just zip the side and you keep the mittens on, but still have the warmth of the thin liner while you shoot.)
- Over-expose your images by and average of 0.7 because snow will look gray otherwise.
- Stand far enough away from the skier's line to not get hit, but also get as close as you are comfortable with.
- Use a comfortable backpack that has plenty of padding for your camera in case you fall.
- Go wide and close to capture the element as well as the athlete.
- Use your zoom when conditions are not safe enough to be in close.
- Shoot on sunny and partly cloudy days.
- Research the types of photos that editors and companies are purchasing from other photographers.  This will give you some idea of what they are looking for.
- Show at least the takeoff, or the landing, or both of a feature.
- Zoom in close on small details (putting ski's on, standing at the top of a line)
- Rely on Continuous Auto-Focus for head-on powder skiing shots.
- Rely on Pre-Focus for Cliff's, jumps, and rails.  (anything you have a point of reference to establish pre-focus.)
- Use skis to get around.  Snowboards work, but it's much tougher to reposition on a snowboard.
- Take an avalanche training course and learn where it is safest to stand.  As a photographer you are in a dangerous position with a skier above you, if he triggers a slide, you could get buried.
- Wear an AvaLung, it disperses your carbon dioxide exhalations behind you, and lets you survive under the snow for up to 2 hours!
- Wear a beacon to be found if a slide occurs.
- Carry a shovel to dig out the athlete if they are involved in a slide.
- Capture other part's of the ski day where there is no real action.  Lifestyle shots will sell through stock agencies.
- Listen to what the athlete thinks will look best.  They probably know the tricks better then you.

Here's what you SHOULD NOT do-

- Zoom in on an athlete in midair without showing takeoff, landing, or scenery. (There are MILLIONS of these shots out there and photo editors are not looking for this.
- Alway's rely on a telephoto (again, too many photographers do this and your work will not be unique.)
- Trust your safety in avalanche country to the opinions of your skiers (If it doesn't seem safe don't do it!)
-Weigh yourself down with too much gear. (traveling lightly makes life easy!)
- Waste your time shooting too much when it is gray and not snowing outside (These shots won't sell, they are however good practice.)
- Shoot powder shots in areas that have lots of tracks.  (People like to imagine skiing down an untracked field when they see a photo, and tracks will ruin this vibe.)
- Rely on Continuous Auto-Focus for cliffs, jumps, and rails.  It's better to pre-set a point and stick with it.
- Run the athlete around and have them hit features they are not comfortable with.
- Spend time shooting on days when the snow is crappy.  Get some office work finished, or head out and ski for the fun of it.
- Talk condescendingly to the athlete.  You'll get better photos if you work with, and not against the athlete.
- Wear cotton, you will freeze.
- Hit anything too crazy with your camera on you, you don't want to break it!

I'll add more details as I think of them.  But for now I think this is a good starting point for aspiring skiing photographers.

If you have something you'd like to add, please e-mail me at

That's the BUZZ for today!  Please check back soon for more!


Anonymous said...

As usually, great usefull information.

thank you.

Munro said...

I like that you emphasize safety, no shot is worth getting seriously injured, which in the moment of trying to get that perfect shot can be forgotten while your focus is on the subject and not your own environment

Mishk said...

Thanks a lot. I just got new wide-focus lens and gonna try it in skiing photography. Your wide-focus pics look great.

Gerardo said...

niceeee!! thank you a lot!

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