How to Photograph Skateboarding

6You might know skateboarding for the terminology they use (that I’m not cool enough to use in everyday conversation), or for the high risk high reward tricks they perform. However, it’s time to recognize the art of skateboard photography as a serious talent that takes hard work and a lot of creativity to pull off.

Just like skateboarding, skateboard photography is a fairly new field with boundaries that are constantly being tested and pushed. Before you start to shoot extreme action, it’s important to know a little bit about how to photograph skateboarding.

Essential Gear

Next time you get the chance, take a look at skateboard photos. You will quickly notice that they have a very unique look that separates them from other sports photosThat’s because there are some pieces of gear that are very unique to shooting skateboarding.

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This photo was shot using a fisheye lens

The first piece of gear is a fisheye lensFisheye lenses distort photos that make the image look more bulbous or round (see the example to the left). Shooting with fisheye lenses has been used with skateboard photography for a very long time, so the look is easily recognizable and creative for the sport.

You also might want to look into 50mm prime lenses. Both the Canon and Nikon versions are very fast lenses with extremely wide aperture capabilities that are great for sports.

If you don’t have a DSLR yet, or you are looking to upgrade, be sure to look for frames per second (FPS) more carefully. Faster FPS will allow you to take more shoots in a row and give you better chances of nailing the perfect shot during fast action. I would recommend either the Canon 5D Mark III  or the Nikon D810  (both of which can be found on my recommended gear page). The D810 shoots at 5 FPS and the 5D Mark III shoots at 6 FPS. Both are incredibly fast.

Lastly, I want to talk about flash. Flash is very important with skateboard photography because it’s important to light the front of your subject in dark conditions. I highly recommend this flash because it’s cheap, compatible with most DSLR models, and it can be easily triggered away from the camera using wireless flash triggersIf you are having trouble learning the settings on your flash, read this post.

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Alright, now that I’m done geeking out over photography gear, it’s time to understand some interesting angles you can achieve while shooting skateboarding.

The great thing about skateboard photography is that your subject gets high off of the ground very often, which is unlike other sports. Because skateboarders are up in the air so much, a very popular shot is to get low, below the skater, shooting up.

Whether they are skating on flat ground or on a ramp, position yourself so that you’ll be low and in front of them. You don’t want a shot of their back, you want to include their front and face.

The photo on the right is a great example of a can’t fail angle to shoot skateboarding. A remote flash (like I talked about above) was used to light the front of the skateboarder!

Composition

Well designed composition isn’t just for landscape or portrait photographers. It can be used effectively by sports photographers as well! Composition is very important in skateboard photography because there are so many different styles that the athletes skate with. Each style is a story, and photographers tell their story through composition.

For example, if a skater is doing a trick, it’s important to show where they take off and where they can land and roll away. Adding those elements to your photos will help the viewer understand exactly how difficult or how creative the trick was. I created the example below to help you understand:

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In the photo, you can see where the skater took off and where they will land. Now you can see the way they had to move in order to successfully land the trick. If the photo was zoomed in on the skater, it would be confusing where they were, where they will land, or how they even got up there!

Another important composition tactic is to frame the skater properly within the photo. In the same example photo, the skater is clearly seen in the sky without any distraction. If they were framed against a lot of trees, it would be more difficult to clearly find and see the skater.

The beauty of skateboard photography is that most skaters are more than willing to work with you to design shoots to make the photo look amazing. You can tell them where you will be and how you want the photo to look, and they can tell you want trick would look best for that shot. That’s unlike team sports where you are at the mercy of split second moments. With skateboarding, you can try a shot, work to make it better, and try it again!

IMG_2538Get Creative

One of the most fun things about skateboard photography is that you can get more creative as the shoot progresses. Work to come up with new ideas, always look for interesting lighting, watch for any angles that would look great, and look for new locations to shoot! Since you can shoot street skating anywhere, always be on the lookout for unique locations to shoot.

You can also get more creative in post processing. In the photo on the right, I was able to combine multiple images after I shot at a fast FPS in continuous shooting mode. While the process in Photoshop is tedious, the result is awesome! Learn how to combine multiple images here!

The most important thing about skateboard photography is staying loose and having fun. For more priceless tips and information on skateboard photography, listen to my interview with professional skateboard photographer Matt Price!


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4 Responses to How to Photograph Skateboarding

  1. Gloria September 30, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Thank you David for all of this great information. I like shooting skateboarding now I will go properly equipped and have some fun.

  2. Gloria September 30, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    I really like your style of writing along with your photograph. Thank you for making it comprehensible.

    • David Johnston September 30, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

      I’m glad you’re finding it fun and easy to understand!