8 Tips for SkateBoard Shooting - Digital Photography School

8 Tips for SkateBoard Shooting

Want to get creative with some of the most unique and independent artists on the street? Hit the pavement and make some friends with the skateboard community.

skateboard-shooting.jpg

1. Capture Motion [Shutter Speed Priority]

What makes for the greatest shots of skateboarding? Ones that capture motion, movement, frozen moments in time. For this purpose, you will want to shoot on Shutter Speed priority, so your camera will designate the appropriate aperture settings for a proper exposure. Remember your shutter speed will need to be set according to how fast your subject is moving, but start at a general 1/250fps.

2. Set for multiple shots

Speed and motion will go hand in hand with skateboard shots. Just miliseconds can separate a bad action shot from a fantastic one. For this reason, set your camera for multiple exposures and shoot in bursts to capture that perfect shot.

3. Understand the Culture

Skateboarders consider themselves to be athletes and gravity defying artists. The best kind of action shots of skateboarders are the ones that best describe this culture.

4. Be unconventional

Don’t take shots that are straight on, flat, or typical. Identify yourself with the mindset of the Skateboarders and try new things that have not been achieved before.To accomplish this, use a variety of angles, depth, and motion to achieve the perfect shot.

5. Go for “Air”

Anticipate the moments when your skateboarders will take air. Take a shot before, during, and after he or she is “airborn” to get a crisp and in-focus shot.

6. Try for “Urban Grunge”

Arrange your elements to be a sort of organzied chaos. Set the scene by incorporating the surrounding buildings, concrete, etc. Skateboarders defy the laws of nature, so create images that have attitude, are gritty, and strong.

7. Use unique angles

Shoot from the ground up, or from above depending on what you want to achieve in the end shot. Take shots from around curves, beneath the pipes, standing on benches, etc. Whatever you can do to take your shots from a “new” angle, do.

8. Work with the Skateboarders

As creatives themselves, skateboarders have a variety of ideas for shots themselves. If you are just looking for practice, or are interested in making new friends, spend some time with the skateboarders. You may find that getting the perfect shot becomes secondary to reaching out to another group of really cool people.

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Christina N Dickson is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography www.BrideInspired.com and leadership with www.RevMediaBlog.com.

  • http://greystaticmedia.com Vi

    Thanks for the tips. I know I need more practice on my action shots. Can’t wait to try them out!

    Feel free to follow me @vi_rox =]

  • http://www.howiseelife.com Kari

    Also try using a wide-angle lens. You have to get a lot closer to the action (obviously!) but the perspective it offers is unique. Here’s one I took: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsbluff/3406580352/in/set-72157612036322471/

  • Rich

    Fish eye lenses are also common in skateboarding photography. Also, before going on a skateboarding shoot, flip through a skateboarding magazine or watch some YouTube videos to get an idea what to expect and what to shoot.

  • http://www.grtaylor2photo.com Greg Taylor

    Skateboarding basically put a camera in my hands. I have a lot of respect for the people who make photographing this sport easy. Check out the work of J. Grant Brittain, Atiba Jefferson, Dave Swift and Glen E. Friedman.

    Talk to the skater (if possible) and ask what trick is he going to do. This will tell you where to set up and where to have your focus. Know the sport a little – anyone can take a photo of skateboarding but not everyone can take a skate shot.

    Two of the biggest suggestions for skate photos are: Don’t take what is referred to as butt shots. This is where you are behind the action and all you see is someone’s back and not a lot of the action. There have been some exceptions but rule of thumb for regular stanced skaters: for a frontside trick be positioned to the left of the action and for a backside trick be positioned on the right, (If you don’t know what frontside or backside is look it up or ask – it’s that important) this way you’ll capture facial expressions and more of the open body.
    Two, take the shot at the height of the action (the apex). There has never been a great photo of someone on the way up or on the way down. There is a moment where the trick reaches it’s peak – capture that.

    There are a lot of good skateboarding videos on YouTube etc. for you to familiarize yourself with the sport.

    A wide angle lens is super important along with shooting at a shutter speed to capture stillness.

  • http://www.thesquirrelcam.com/ Robert W Gilcrease

    What a coincident I was just at the skateboard park here in Corpus Christi yesterday and you came out with this article. It must be true, that genius do think a like. LOL Check out the two shots I posted on my blog: http://www.thesquirrelcam.com/2009/12/03/defying-gravity/

  • http://www.designfollow.com designfollow

    Thank you very much this will be very helpfull

  • http://issuu.com/gerhardengelbrecht/docs/jean-marc_johannes_story?mode=embed&documentId=080307171647-7084fb6ce251432392736a90fabca4f4&layout=grey Gerhard

    Great article.

    Greg Taylor has some valid suggestions. I’d like to mention the importance of showing context when shooting action/tricks. It’s important to depict where the skateboarder is coming from as well as where he’s landing. Those images of a guy against a blue sky are nice but just how high is he? Include the context.

    Photographing skateboarding is also a great place to try out your off camera flash techniques. A lot of top skateboard photographers will set up anywhere between two to four flashes to illuminate an action shot.

    Have fun :-)

    Some of my images can be seen here: http://issuu.com/gerhardengelbrecht/docs/jean-marc_johannes_story?mode=embed&documentId=080307171647-7084fb6ce251432392736a90fabca4f4&layout=grey

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/noarau/ noar

    It’s nice the take some time talking about an skate boarding photography

    Skatebording magazines are a great ressource for those kind photography (as are snowboarding or surf magzines), but the photographers tend to over use their fisheyes.
    Wide angle=yes
    Fisheye= only for a certain purpose.

    Here are some pictures I took this summer
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/noarau/4162782458/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/noarau/4162780822

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmourati Demetri Mouratis

    I’ve been taking skate photos for the past few months. Lately, because of the early sunsets, I’ve been shooting night time with flashes. Here are some tips to go along with what has already been said.

    1. Start from a unique angle. Here’s a tip. If you are standing upright, your angle will come across as a snapshot. You have 360 degrees to work in, use them.

    2. Try to frame the skater against a solid background. Anything that interferes with the skater will detract from the over all composition.

    3. It helps to have a skater who wants to work on a particular trick. It sometimes takes a few tries for them to land it. In the meantime, you can setup your shot and be ready when they do.

    I have some details on the lighting for my shots on my flickr. I’d appreciate any feedback, comments, or criticisms. I’m off to shoot again tonight!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmourati/collections/72157622057052255/

  • http://www.flickr.com/romeotangolima Ronnie Lechowicz

    I went to a skateboard competition during the summer. First time doing sports photography. They are posted on my Flickr account.

  • http://www.flickr.com/romeotangolima Ronnie Lechowicz
  • Janel
  • http://www.mbdigitalprod.com Michael Brown

    Well, I beg to differ emphatically on one of your points.

    Regarding the tip “Set for Multiple Shots’ – your tip is 100% innacurate! I was a motorsports photojournalist for 8 years, and I only used a motor drive to steady the camera, and shot only single frame.

    When you are shooting action, at any particular spot there is only one moment that is peak action. When you try to shoot with a burst, the odds are very high that you will just miss that perfect moment, either just before or after a frame. You must watch carefully to see when and where the perfect moment of action occurs, and then practice panning to catch that moment with a single planned shot

    I have had many, many people say the same thing, but you really need to know your subject, watch for the right spot and perfect moment for the peak action, anticipate when the subject will hit that point, and then get it with one shot.

  • http://www.padp.com T Schulz

    I just recently entered my first photography contest. It happened to be open to residents city-wide so there were a lot of entries. Each person could submit two photos. I took 3rd place in the general photography category but I took 1st place in Sports with a picture I took of a kid “riding the pipe” at a local skating park.

    It’s the last picture in the second row.
    http://www.ci.neenah.wi.us/departments/parks-and-recreation/special-events/2009-summer-photo-contest.html

    While hanging out at the park taking pictures a few skater dudes came up and asked what I was doing. I told them i was just trying to build a portfolio. I asked them if they could do some really wild stuff. So they went to town flipping up and over off the ramps with their skateboards and their bikes. They were all really nice and very accomodating.

    This was a whole lot of fun and I learned a lot in the process.

  • D. Mac

    Snapped this one on a walkabout of Sydney. I’m pretty sure a comp had finished somewhere in the CBD and these guys had come spilling out completely psyched and dying to attempt tricks of their own.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dafuriousd/3469139241/

  • Oringwall

    As a skateboarder/snowboarder first and a photographer secondly it is clear the people who commented on this post no more about skateboard photography then the poster herself. The most important tip that has been left out so far is about going to the park in the first place. Go with someone you know, or go and develop a relationship and come back another time. Get to know the people you are working with before you even turn your camera on. You don’t want to be that guy lurking in the corner taking photos that no one knows. Also maybe even more importantly is observe the skatepark AND DONT GET IN THE WAY. A good skatepark has flow, kids will skate fast and continuously from one element to another, often trying new ways to gap and get from one bank to the next. I can not count the number of times I have either been at a skatepark shooting, or skating and seen clueless people get in the way of a skater. Not only is it extremely dangerous, but you will most definitely extend your welcome for taking pictures.

    Also on a more technical aspect, Bring a strobe with you at all times (even in the middle of the day!)! Switch your camera onto manual, and speed up your shutter and meter yourself down one or two stops, then use your exposure compensation on the strobe and shoot away. Your under exposed background mixed with the correctly exposed foreground will add a lot of character to your shot while at the same time increase your saturation and reduce the need for any post production. Goodluck!

  • Bob Russo

    I owned and operated a skate park for 7 years, and I can tell you the skaters LOVE to have their pictures taken. They are a subculture with big egos, believing, as most young teenagers do, that they will live forever and never get injured. I took some really interesting pictures during the time. The absolute best were candid when the kids did not know they were being photographed. Talk to them. They are great kids. Offer them some prints and you will see the world of skateboarding open up to you.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvdfranco dvd

    Hi all… what about mines?

    [eimg link=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvdfranco/3979918481/’ title=’Girls on Wheels – SOS da Vida 2009 – 13′ url=’http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2540/3979918481_cba22c0b1a.jpg’]

    [eimg link=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvdfranco/3979870509/’ title=’Girls on Wheels – SOS da Vida 2009 – 4′ url=’http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2622/3979870509_aec1a2db5e.jpg’]

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvdfranco

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvdfranco dvd

    Great shot,
    I like to shot macro details of skaters, not much fan of jumping photos and all

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhatzipopphoto Jon

    One thing that I have always noticed that makes a great still of a skateboarder is to compose your photo based around the object that the skater is doing the trick on (the curb, rail, ramp, stairs, gap, ect ect…) and NOT the skater. In fact, you rarely see a photo in a skateboard magazine that makes the skateboarder the focal point of the photograph (unless it is an interview or something like that, in which there is a portrait-type picture most of the time).

    Try setting your shot up to focus on what the skater is attempting their trick on, see what happens.

  • Benjamin

    Awsome article.

    I’m very new to action photography and my biggest issue is getting the focus correctly. I allways end up with some kind of blur or out of focus that ruins the picture. How do you guys handle the focusing?

  • JayBird

    you gotta skate if your going to take good skateboarding pics so you know whats up and whats going down!

  • Meaghan Paige Morton

    Make sure you get the shot as soon as the skater hits the trick. don’t get them floating above the rail get it when the board hits the rail. Finding different, not average, angles is very important too. Use flash to illuminate the skater. It’s always good to have kind of a clean background (not a ton of people, or objects behind the skater) so the skater will be the main focal point. But if it adds to the story, it’s cool to have people in the shot. Make sure, in the picture that you show where the skater came from, what trick he is doing, and where the skater will land. It’s really good if someone can tell what trick the skater is doing just from looking at your picture. Ultimately, it is your time. Do what you think is best, and just experiment. Practice with friends first. They will be happy to help and give advice. Just have fun with it.

Some older comments

  • JayBird

    March 9, 2011 04:11 am

    you gotta skate if your going to take good skateboarding pics so you know whats up and whats going down!

  • Benjamin

    April 21, 2010 10:34 am

    Awsome article.

    I'm very new to action photography and my biggest issue is getting the focus correctly. I allways end up with some kind of blur or out of focus that ruins the picture. How do you guys handle the focusing?

  • Jon

    March 8, 2010 04:11 am

    One thing that I have always noticed that makes a great still of a skateboarder is to compose your photo based around the object that the skater is doing the trick on (the curb, rail, ramp, stairs, gap, ect ect...) and NOT the skater. In fact, you rarely see a photo in a skateboard magazine that makes the skateboarder the focal point of the photograph (unless it is an interview or something like that, in which there is a portrait-type picture most of the time).

    Try setting your shot up to focus on what the skater is attempting their trick on, see what happens.

  • dvd

    December 11, 2009 10:31 pm

    Great shot,
    I like to shot macro details of skaters, not much fan of jumping photos and all

  • dvd

    December 11, 2009 10:27 pm

    Hi all... what about mines?

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvdfranco/3979918481/' title='Girls on Wheels - SOS da Vida 2009 - 13' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2540/3979918481_cba22c0b1a.jpg']

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvdfranco/3979870509/' title='Girls on Wheels - SOS da Vida 2009 - 4' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2622/3979870509_aec1a2db5e.jpg']

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvdfranco

  • Bob Russo

    December 11, 2009 10:04 pm

    I owned and operated a skate park for 7 years, and I can tell you the skaters LOVE to have their pictures taken. They are a subculture with big egos, believing, as most young teenagers do, that they will live forever and never get injured. I took some really interesting pictures during the time. The absolute best were candid when the kids did not know they were being photographed. Talk to them. They are great kids. Offer them some prints and you will see the world of skateboarding open up to you.

  • Oringwall

    December 11, 2009 11:23 am

    As a skateboarder/snowboarder first and a photographer secondly it is clear the people who commented on this post no more about skateboard photography then the poster herself. The most important tip that has been left out so far is about going to the park in the first place. Go with someone you know, or go and develop a relationship and come back another time. Get to know the people you are working with before you even turn your camera on. You don't want to be that guy lurking in the corner taking photos that no one knows. Also maybe even more importantly is observe the skatepark AND DONT GET IN THE WAY. A good skatepark has flow, kids will skate fast and continuously from one element to another, often trying new ways to gap and get from one bank to the next. I can not count the number of times I have either been at a skatepark shooting, or skating and seen clueless people get in the way of a skater. Not only is it extremely dangerous, but you will most definitely extend your welcome for taking pictures.

    Also on a more technical aspect, Bring a strobe with you at all times (even in the middle of the day!)! Switch your camera onto manual, and speed up your shutter and meter yourself down one or two stops, then use your exposure compensation on the strobe and shoot away. Your under exposed background mixed with the correctly exposed foreground will add a lot of character to your shot while at the same time increase your saturation and reduce the need for any post production. Goodluck!

  • D. Mac

    December 11, 2009 09:36 am

    Snapped this one on a walkabout of Sydney. I'm pretty sure a comp had finished somewhere in the CBD and these guys had come spilling out completely psyched and dying to attempt tricks of their own.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dafuriousd/3469139241/

  • T Schulz

    December 11, 2009 04:20 am

    I just recently entered my first photography contest. It happened to be open to residents city-wide so there were a lot of entries. Each person could submit two photos. I took 3rd place in the general photography category but I took 1st place in Sports with a picture I took of a kid "riding the pipe" at a local skating park.

    It's the last picture in the second row.
    http://www.ci.neenah.wi.us/departments/parks-and-recreation/special-events/2009-summer-photo-contest.html

    While hanging out at the park taking pictures a few skater dudes came up and asked what I was doing. I told them i was just trying to build a portfolio. I asked them if they could do some really wild stuff. So they went to town flipping up and over off the ramps with their skateboards and their bikes. They were all really nice and very accomodating.

    This was a whole lot of fun and I learned a lot in the process.

  • Michael Brown

    December 11, 2009 04:05 am

    Well, I beg to differ emphatically on one of your points.

    Regarding the tip "Set for Multiple Shots' - your tip is 100% innacurate! I was a motorsports photojournalist for 8 years, and I only used a motor drive to steady the camera, and shot only single frame.

    When you are shooting action, at any particular spot there is only one moment that is peak action. When you try to shoot with a burst, the odds are very high that you will just miss that perfect moment, either just before or after a frame. You must watch carefully to see when and where the perfect moment of action occurs, and then practice panning to catch that moment with a single planned shot

    I have had many, many people say the same thing, but you really need to know your subject, watch for the right spot and perfect moment for the peak action, anticipate when the subject will hit that point, and then get it with one shot.

  • Janel

    December 11, 2009 02:58 am

    Here's one I took! http://www.flickr.com/photos/janeldudleybeads/4173976669/

  • Ronnie Lechowicz

    December 11, 2009 02:41 am

    www.flickr.com/romeotangolima

  • Ronnie Lechowicz

    December 11, 2009 02:41 am

    I went to a skateboard competition during the summer. First time doing sports photography. They are posted on my Flickr account.

  • Demetri Mouratis

    December 10, 2009 07:46 am

    I've been taking skate photos for the past few months. Lately, because of the early sunsets, I've been shooting night time with flashes. Here are some tips to go along with what has already been said.

    1. Start from a unique angle. Here's a tip. If you are standing upright, your angle will come across as a snapshot. You have 360 degrees to work in, use them.

    2. Try to frame the skater against a solid background. Anything that interferes with the skater will detract from the over all composition.

    3. It helps to have a skater who wants to work on a particular trick. It sometimes takes a few tries for them to land it. In the meantime, you can setup your shot and be ready when they do.

    I have some details on the lighting for my shots on my flickr. I'd appreciate any feedback, comments, or criticisms. I'm off to shoot again tonight!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmourati/collections/72157622057052255/

  • noar

    December 7, 2009 06:05 pm

    It's nice the take some time talking about an skate boarding photography

    Skatebording magazines are a great ressource for those kind photography (as are snowboarding or surf magzines), but the photographers tend to over use their fisheyes.
    Wide angle=yes
    Fisheye= only for a certain purpose.

    Here are some pictures I took this summer
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/noarau/4162782458/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/noarau/4162780822

  • Gerhard

    December 6, 2009 04:32 pm

    Great article.

    Greg Taylor has some valid suggestions. I'd like to mention the importance of showing context when shooting action/tricks. It's important to depict where the skateboarder is coming from as well as where he's landing. Those images of a guy against a blue sky are nice but just how high is he? Include the context.

    Photographing skateboarding is also a great place to try out your off camera flash techniques. A lot of top skateboard photographers will set up anywhere between two to four flashes to illuminate an action shot.

    Have fun :-)

    Some of my images can be seen here: http://issuu.com/gerhardengelbrecht/docs/jean-marc_johannes_story?mode=embed&documentId=080307171647-7084fb6ce251432392736a90fabca4f4&layout=grey

  • designfollow

    December 6, 2009 12:08 pm

    Thank you very much this will be very helpfull

  • Robert W Gilcrease

    December 6, 2009 11:52 am

    What a coincident I was just at the skateboard park here in Corpus Christi yesterday and you came out with this article. It must be true, that genius do think a like. LOL Check out the two shots I posted on my blog: http://www.thesquirrelcam.com/2009/12/03/defying-gravity/

  • Greg Taylor

    December 6, 2009 10:18 am

    Skateboarding basically put a camera in my hands. I have a lot of respect for the people who make photographing this sport easy. Check out the work of J. Grant Brittain, Atiba Jefferson, Dave Swift and Glen E. Friedman.

    Talk to the skater (if possible) and ask what trick is he going to do. This will tell you where to set up and where to have your focus. Know the sport a little - anyone can take a photo of skateboarding but not everyone can take a skate shot.

    Two of the biggest suggestions for skate photos are: Don't take what is referred to as butt shots. This is where you are behind the action and all you see is someone's back and not a lot of the action. There have been some exceptions but rule of thumb for regular stanced skaters: for a frontside trick be positioned to the left of the action and for a backside trick be positioned on the right, (If you don't know what frontside or backside is look it up or ask - it's that important) this way you'll capture facial expressions and more of the open body.
    Two, take the shot at the height of the action (the apex). There has never been a great photo of someone on the way up or on the way down. There is a moment where the trick reaches it's peak - capture that.

    There are a lot of good skateboarding videos on YouTube etc. for you to familiarize yourself with the sport.

    A wide angle lens is super important along with shooting at a shutter speed to capture stillness.

  • Rich

    December 6, 2009 08:43 am

    Fish eye lenses are also common in skateboarding photography. Also, before going on a skateboarding shoot, flip through a skateboarding magazine or watch some YouTube videos to get an idea what to expect and what to shoot.

  • Kari

    December 6, 2009 07:21 am

    Also try using a wide-angle lens. You have to get a lot closer to the action (obviously!) but the perspective it offers is unique. Here's one I took: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsbluff/3406580352/in/set-72157612036322471/

  • Vi

    December 6, 2009 06:43 am

    Thanks for the tips. I know I need more practice on my action shots. Can't wait to try them out!

    Feel free to follow me @vi_rox =]

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