This guest post is by Brian Auer – a photography enthusiast, blogger, photoblogger, and podcaster.

Skateboard photography can be quite interesting and exciting for a photographer. Skaters can be found in most cities and towns, either in skate parks or out on the streets. Below, you’ll find a collection of skateboard photography tips and great example photos.

The tips aren’t massively in-depth because the intent isn’t to lecture about these things. Instead, take what you can from them, build on them with your own knowledge, and study the photos for inspiration. You’ll also notice that many of these tips can be applied to other types of photography, so keep an open mind while reading.

1. PORTRAITS

Even though the exciting part of photographing skaters is when they’re in action, you shouldn’t forget that they’re still people with a face. If you don’t know the skaters, you might try working up the courage to ask them for a portrait. A lot of these folks are interesting and outgoing – the perfect ingredients for a great portrait.

2. PERSPECTIVE

Shooting at your normal stance is so 2005. Shooting from a crouch is a little better. But if you want some really interesting stuff, get down on the ground and make giants of the skaters. If you’re really brave, let somebody jump over your head (of course, use caution and don’t be stupid about it).

3. SUBJECT

The skaters aren’t the only good subjects out there – shoot the boards too! Focusing the attention on the board and allowing the legs and feet to become secondary subjects can be quite powerful.

4. TILT

Adding tilt to your composition naturally creates a feeling of uneasiness and slight chaos. That type of mood goes quite well with extreme sports such as skateboarding.

5. PREMONITION

Watch your subjects (or even just one subject) and take note of what they’re doing. I had been watching this guy skate for 15 or 20 minutes and I saw him move the trash can in front of the ledge he’d been jumping from. It was obvious what he was going to be doing, so I positioned myself, got the camera ready, and fired one off right at the perfect moment.

6. ACTION SEQUENCE

If you happen to have a tripod with you (or a really steady hand), you can leave the camera pointed in one direction and rapid fire as the subject crosses your path. Then use a little post-processing trickery to create a composite, and you’ve got a slick little action sequence.

7. ALTERNATIVE SEQUENCE

Catch a bunch of different poses from one of the skaters and slap them all together. Go beyond the typical diptych or triptych – four or five makes for a pretty cool image.

8. NIGHT

Working at night can help you isolate your subject better than during the day. And depending on your light source, you can really add some intensity and contrast. Alternatively, working at a high ISO can produce beautifully gritty photos (especially if you go black and white).

9. UP CLOSE

Don’t just sit off on the sidelines trying to keep your entire subject inside the frame. Get up close and focus on different parts of the skaters – just stay out of the way or you’ll tick people off and kill your chances of finishing the session. If you’re unsure, talk with them and let them make suggestions for getting close-ups (you can bet they’ll have some good ideas).

10. SILHOUETTE

If the lighting is all wrong for your typical photos, work with it and go for the silhouette shot. This works best if the sun is somewhere other than straight above (preferably behind the skater and in front of you) and if you use manual exposure settings or play with your exposure compensation.

11. SPEED

Rather than freezing the action in every shot, try mixing it up by slowing down that shutter speed and conveying the motion of the skaters.

12. WIDE ANGLE

Using wide angles will allow you to get fairly close while including much of the surrounding scene. Pay attention to the shapes and structures around the skaters and include them in the photo for more visual impact.

13. SHADOWS

If it’s nice and sunny, pay attention to the shadows. Sometimes they can be quite interesting subjects – especially if you cut out part of the person creating that shadow.

14. FLASH

On the flip side of slowing down and capturing motion, sometimes you’ll want to freeze the subject completely. Unless it’s bright and sunny, you may need to use a flash to accomplish this. Try working with an off-camera flash for more interesting results.

15. STREETS

Not all skaters stick to the skate parks – with a little luck, you can find skaters in just about any city. Look for rails, steps, ramps, or any other structure that could be used as a skater playground. Capturing skaters away from a park can make your photos more raw and real.

16. ODDITIES

Always keep your eyes open (and your camera ready) for the oddball encounters. You never know who or what might cross your path unexpectedly.

17. CHARACTERS

Likewise, watch out for interesting characters.

18. STEP BACK

Not every skateboarding shot needs to be up close and tightly cropped. Step back a little and make the skater a small, but important, part of the scene. Also, if you’re near any structures, try going vertical and shoot down onto your subjects.

19. CANDIDS

Make good use of longer lenses to give yourself more working distance – this allows you to stay out of the way while catching true moments candidly. And don’t put the camera down as soon as the action is over. Sometimes you’ll find great shots when the skater isn’t even skating.

This is part of the Beyond Phototips Birthday Special Series. Go here to see all the posts so far.

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About The Author

Susheel Chandradhas

Susheel Chandradhas is a Photographer and Web Designer. His passions include photography and parkour. He is also the webmaster of Beyond Phototips.

51 Responses to 19 Radical Skateboard Photography Tips

  1. 19 Radical Skateboard Photography Tips – Beyond Phototips…

    Guest post by Brian Auer: Skateboard photography can be quite interesting and exciting for a photographer. Skaters can be found in most cities and towns, either in skate parks or out on the streets. Below, you’ll find a collection of skateboard photo…

  2. […] 19 Radical Skateboard Photography Tips Lessons in Creativity that you can learn from Parkour 7 Ways To A More Observant Life How did you all get so good? Lenses for Sports Photography The Fine Art of Observation Kung-Fu For Your Photography Beyond Phototips Beyond Phototips has officially turned 1! Happy Birthday! And to celebrate, my good buddy Susheel has been going on a post frenzy. He’s pushing out some really awesome articles written by himself and several guest bloggers (myself included). Definitely worth checking out and following. […]

  3. Brian,

    Did I mention how cool this post is? Rockin’ dude!

    Thank you for sharing it with our readers!

  4. Brian Auer says:

    My pleasure Susheel! I had a lot of fun putting this one together!

  5. […] » 19 Radical Skateboard Photography Tips – Beyond Phototips (tags: tips sports photography) […]

  6. Richard Wong says:

    Great article Brian. A lot of good ideas here.

  7. latoga says:

    Ask and thou shall receive Brian…great post! A lot of these tips can be applied to photographing any subject, not just skaters…especially #18 and #19. Both of those are favorites of mine when photographing weddings or events.

  8. Raquel says:

    This goes beyond just radical skateboard photography…just about any human (or animal) action sport can make good on these excellent photo tips. The photos are truly amazing!

  9. […] It’s all about perspective and anticipating what your subject is going to do. Check out these photos of skateboarders, and learn a thing or two about perspective and capturing a photo that speaks […]

  10. […] It’s all about perspective and anticipating what your subject is going to do. Check out these photos of skateboarders, and learn a thing or two about perspective and capturing a photo that speaks […]

  11. James Nater says:

    I have to STRONGLY disagree with tips #3 and a little bit of #9 and #13. RULE#1 in Skateboard photography, NEVER cut off the skaters heads in a photo. No skateboard magazine will publish those photos.

    #1 Skateboard Photography Tip should be: RESEARCH. Pick up a skateboard magazine. Look at other photos in the magazines. Read the articles. Understand what the audience wants to see. They don’t want to see a board, kids look up to these pros as well as the tricks they do. These kids know every sponsor a pro has, and every trick they’ve done at every famous spot or skate park. There is way way way more to it than just a mag full of photos.

    Any photographer aiming to shoot skateboarding must have some sort of background in skateboarding, if not, you’ll need to do A LOT of research if you want know how to make your photos more appealing to a skateboarder audience and skateboard magazines. FYI: Most skateboarders hate seeing photos in non-skateboarding magazines or newspapers, because almost every time, the photographer, who has no skateboarding background or knowledge, only uses techniques familiar to him or her and THINKS it’s a good photo.

    Skateboarders can INSTANTLY tell if the photo was taken by a real skateboard photographer or not.

  12. Worsl says:

    #2, #3, and #4 really!? #2- Shooting underneath the skater is so 2005! How many shots from underneath do you ever see in a mag? #3- Never, never cut off the skater, looks terrible, you want to see his face. Also, wont be in a mag. #4- I think that was the only shot where the shot was tilted. The half decent shots shown above were always horizontally or vertically straight.

  13. Glen says:

    I must say that these are rather spectacular. I am looking to go for skating photography in the near future so these tips have given me great advice.

    Thanks for posting!

  14. ryan hunter says:

    its obvious that whoever did this article isnt a skate photographer and if he is he cant be into skating all that some of this is really bad advvice. If you want to get better at taking photos you should probably be into skateboarding and check out magazines and see what other people are doing

  15. WOZNY says:

    Dope website bro! I like it, keep em comin, I’ll read it!

  16. Take me some pics dude!

  17. Awesome mang. Real helpful.

  18. PIPOO says:

    DUDEE BRIAN!!
    Amazing!, I just started to photograph skaters, as I think it’s hell interesting and amazing way to spend time.. and you really helped me out, as I was cutting short of ideas!
    Rock on man! and keep ‘em comin’!
    :):)

  19. WML says:

    Holy shit…pic in tip14 is my school….and great tips.

  20. Owen says:

    I completely disagree with #2 and #3. Sometimes I use tilt like in #4, but only when we’re hitting launch ramps.

  21. Jeff says:

    If you wish to join the boring masses of photogs in skate magazines, by all means, shoot the same shot that everyone else has. If you have some actual creativity, think & see outside the norm. Great tips for real photographers.

  22. wizz says:

    you should learn a little bit more about skateboarding if you want to take good skate photos…

    cutting off a skater head like tips #9 is a bad idea..

    and, skate mag aren’t boring!…, so read it.

    a good skate photo is not about photography technique.
    it’s about skateboarding.

    the trick a skater does,
    who the skater is,
    the obstacle the skater jump off, slide or grind…
    is much more important.

  23. Erica says:

    This is rad. Thanks for posting it :D

  24. todd george says:

    yeah i agree with the skaters here i am a skater/photographer and cutting off the skaters heads is a bad idea. thats why we use fish eye lens so we can still get close up shots without cutting off the heads or any part of the body also another tip you can use is to use your surrounding like if you can find a peep whole or between trees or bushes. well im gunna go so peace and hope you learn more just go and have fun.

  25. Ryan says:

    Great Tips, Awesome Job On The Blog.
    Ryan

  26. Cep Giydir says:

    Nice tips. What usually the focusing mode when capturing these action stopping shots? AI servo or AI focus?

  27. Felix says:

    Hey those are really great tips! I’m taking photos with my digital camera (panasonic lumix DMC-FX150) and working it good, but I’m thinking of getting a more powerful device.. I really don’t know much about cameras so I don’t know what I might be looking for.. any ideas? I heard 35mm are good for sport photography in general.
    Thanks

  28. Yes, 35mm cameras, more specifically, SLRs are better for sport photography. Because of the speed of the action, SLR cameras are necessary to really understand what you’re capturing in the frame.

  29. On the canon, I would go with AI Servo, and ensure that my focus point selector is in the right place when I click the shutter release.

  30. Cameronhodges says:

    some of the tips just might help me

  31. skate shops says:

    Wow really good to know about your article. keep up the great job and the spirit. If you want to know more about the skateboarding then please go through Skate Shops’. thank you…

  32. Ryan says:

    Good article here, however i must say that this isn’t what a skateboarder photographer would take as an opinion as a starter. As a fellow skateboarder and photographer myself, these photos arent what you would see in say, a skateboarding magazine like Thrasher or Skateboard Mag. The kind of photos you’ll see a skateboard photographer has taken and what a non skateboard photographer are completely different, as these are hints to a non skateboard photographer.

    None-the-less good article, i am impressed.

    Check out the kind of skateboarding photos a skateboarding photographer takes on my flickr.

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

  33. M says:

    Two years later, still a great post.
    Thanks. :-)

  34. Mark Klecha says:

    I’m a photographer/skater and I only enjoyed 8 12 14 15. For the people that think these shots are cliche because its all over a skate magazine your wrong. All these shots are cliche everything has been done. What makes a good skate photograph is the scene, the trick being done and the size of the gap or set of stairs they are doing the trick on. Also its about the skaters style you need him entirely in the frame. You also need the area where he will be landing in the frame as well and where he came from. Photographing Skateboarders is different from other sports because its more of an art then a competition and most skateboarders are photographers and videographers themselves. So if you don’t have any skateboard history do us a favor and stay away from skateboarding you’ll make it look stupid.

  35. Silapolxxzz says:

    Hello !

    I’m new on this forum so I introduce me…

    My name is Jason I’m 24 years old, I’m Belgian.

    I like: Tennis and dogs…

    Nice to meet you

  36. Acid Paranoia says:

    First off I would like to say that if more people bothered to refrain from criticisms and get proactive as you have done – (@MARK KLECHA #So if you don’t have any skateboard history do us a favor and stay away from skateboarding you’ll make it look stupid.) they might just understand that is an artform (oh he did say that didnt he?) and that there are no rules. I enjoyed the varied shots here that you wont always find in the skate mags as most published fill some niche that is accepted unless of course you have paid your dues. But photography is a hobby, a passion, and it doesnt take a skater to see what is a good photo. Moreso to a good photographer. I skated for a lifetime and took photos and little hints like this would have given some clout to some of my underwhelming photos.

    Enjoyed it and all artists need not to live by any code. Long as their work pleases them. Well IMHO that is. Good stuff.

  37. Brad says:

    Brian, thank you very much for posting this. Im 15 and i started photography about 2 months ago and this post is a lot of help to me so thank you again for the help!!!

  38. Mr. X says:

    Read skateboard magazines like Thrasher and Trans World to see the shots that are being published.

  39. Liam Sim says:

    aww i have so many shots i could send that would be perfect in here, i love the ones used very nice x

  40. Immanuel says:

    I sometimes wonder why we as skaters tend to become everything we hate when we become defensive. Closed minded, non accepting and fearing. Some of the things said here make us no better then the people who don’t understand us and tell us not to skate. Yes you have a major gap advantage if you are a skater yourself….but if your a skater and cant shoot for crap then really its no advantage. This dude isn’t saying hes going to go and try to publish these in Thrasher. He’s just giving his perspective. For the people who do want to get published in skate mags….you have to start somewhere. Most people that want to get published in skate mags are skaters anyway.He said “take what you can from them.” ….meaning take whatever knowledge is there. I understand some people will take this to every letter and try to follow it to the last period. Those are the people that have no creativity and will hang themselves out to dry anyway. So don’t worry about those people. Skating boarding is as universal as a smile. Just do what you love & have fun. Its called freedom.

  41. undesidedly says:

    What modes are best to set the camera? Sometimes the image comes out wrong for me D:

  42. Typically I’d suggest trying manual settings so that you get a feel for what the camera is doing. However, if you prefer to let the camera do the work, set it in ‘sports’ or ‘action’ mode. Else, use Shutter Priority (Tv on the mode dial) and set the shutter speed to something above 1/250 of a second (assuming you have sufficient light for that shutterspeed). Hope that helps.

  43. nicola says:

    I like this post and the pictures a lot (but I agree with the other people about cutting skater’s head)

  44. Mark Klecha says:

    I was talking directly too Jeff who said

    “If you wish to join the boring masses of photogs in skate magazines, by all means, shoot the same shot that everyone else has. If you have some actual creativity, think & see outside the norm. Great tips for real photographers”

    In fact I like this article it has good ideas for photography and I know this guy isn’t trying to publish these in a thrasher. But what Jeff said about cliche photos in skate magazines just hit a nerve. The pictures in mags have allot of work and depth to them like I said in my previous post and I guess it takes a skater to know what I’m talking about. Also the last thing i said about staying way from skateboard photography was meant for people that think they can do a better job then whats in a skate magazine which was also directed to Jeff.

  45. Miguel r. says:

    I’m photographer/skater too, I think that in a skate photo you have to try to capture the things that Mark said but you also have to be creative. I read the Thrasher, Transworld, SkateboardMag and more and what I see in every photo is more than just the gap, I think that you have to capture the moment, the emotion of the skater. If you don’t try to do new things the public becomes bored. I think that all of the skate pics you see in the skate mags have to be always creative and inovative. But one thing is certain never, but never cut the face of the skater you must always capture the skater and the “obstaclle” he is trying to overcome.
    But neither less it is in fact

  46. Alicia Cortez says:

    Skateboarding tricks are very raw too catch. They have the most interesting pictures if you know how to take them.

  47. Mike M. says:

    As a skateboarder as well, I’ll have to agree with some of the other skaters commenting on this; No you can not cut off the skaters head, and No you can not shoot a “guy in the sky”. It is still of course important to think “outside the box” on certain shots, but you can also tell by looking at the magazines that there are overall criteria that must be met. So as much as this was an informative article, at the end of the day there are some rules of skateboard photography that can not be broken.
    Cheers!

  48. Pedro lopez says:

    nice
    nice
    nice

  49. John Burtoft says:

    Ive been a skater and photographer for many years, what i enjoy about both is the freedom of expression and the ability to not conform to rules. I cut the heads off skaters if i want, depends on what your taking a photo of, if im taking a landscape shot its sometimes good to break the rule of thirds, conforming to rules all the time will stifle creativity. I hate commercial photography as you have to adhere to a set of rules, many technically perfect shots have been taken over the years which is fine, but sometimes technically perfect does not always make the most interesting photo, also some of the things you dont see but are suggested can be as important as a clearly defined image. Remember skating has no rules and neither doea non commercial photography. On a side note i take sufing photos, but i dont surf, i take food photos, but im not a chef, i take landscape photos, but im not a gardener, to say people should not take photos if they are not skaters is closed minded ignorance, the same attitudes i deplore from people who think all skaters are wasters.

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