As with any type of sports photography, photographing skateboarding takes a bit of insider information. It will be easier to photograph if you know a little bit about the sport. Prior knowledge can help you predict the movements of a skater and also give you an understanding of where you need to be to get the best photograph. Of course, that’s not all there is to know about skateboard photography as pro photographer Michael Burnett explains very well in his two part video tutorial here:
One the most important tips Burnett shared in his video series was that on composition. As with any style of photography, composition is very important, but what sets skateboard photography apart from the others is the amount of effort you’ll probably have to put in to get it right.
“In skating, context is very important. You need to show what the obstacle is. Communicate where the skater took off and where he landed, that stuff is very important. Skaters are sophisticated viewers and they need all that information.”
As Burnett explained, he was often lying on the ground or using ladders to frame a shot so that the skater is photographed on a uncluttered background such as the sky or a billboard.
Another point worth noting is when cropping your photographs, crop your image in a way that makes the obstacle look larger and the skater higher up in the air. Photographers are often quick to crop the ground out of image, which can make the trick the skater is performing appear weak.
Additionally, when composing your photograph, try to utilize any lines or geometric shapes that can be naturally found in the scene. It’s an excellent way to add that extra something to a photograph without necessarily taking away from the skater.
As far as depth of field goes, it can be a little tricky with skate photography. More often than not, a shallow depth of field will improve an action shot. Unfortunately, skaters are often moving very quickly, and it can be difficult to stay in focus when using a shallow depth of field. One way around this is to opt for a larger aperture and track—or follow with your camera—your moving subject. This will freeze the action of the subject and create motion blur on the background.
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