If there’s one thing you can count on when it comes to mainstream coverage of snowboarding, it is epic guy-in-the-sky shots. People flailing haplessly through the air, captured at the exact moment they look the absolute worst. So how does every AP and Getty photographer manage to get the exact same amazing images year after year? They follow these rules. Read up if you would like to have any sort of chance of shooting snowboarding photos yourself someday.
Rule 1: Get Close
Nothing piques the viewers interest of a close up of something that is obviously far away, so zoom in! This up close and personal approach enables the viewer to feel like they truly have a front row seat at the Games, and also eliminates any distracting background noise or unnecessary context.
Rule 2: Make sure the rider is not grabbing, and preferably upside down
Occasionally snowboarders will touch their snowboard midair. This is not when you want to capture the image, because it is a stagnant moment in an otherwise action-packed maneuver. When snowboarders are pictured with their arms out in the air, it is clear that they are in the middle of something very difficult. It also adds excitement and movement to your composition and screams, “this guy is crazy!” That’s the kind of material that sells papers, people.
Rule 3:Â No Context is Key
With the addition of disciplines in snowboarding such as slopestyle, it’s important that photos lack the obstacle from which the snowboarder sprung. This enables the photo to be used while talking about any type of snowboarding. Is he in the halfpipe? Is he on a jump? Who cares, all that matters is he’s obviously catching air.
Rule 4: Timing
Get creative. Shoot the drop in. This moment defines the riders success from that point on in the run. Therefore it tells a story.Â Or better yet, capture the explosive moment where the rider is going up the lip, long before they will perform their stunt. It’s a moment of anticipation and focus. A moment that should be captured. The entire story can be told with the drop in or up the lip photo.
Rule 5: Everything is a sequence
You have no idea what you’re looking for, so start rattling off on the shutter the moment they drop. With 400-some odd photos of a 20 second run, you’re bound to get that super tight in shot of extreme athleticism you’re looking for. Never mind that the professional snowboard photographer next to you only shot one frame. He has no idea what he’s doing.
Rule 6: When a rider is knocked out or broken, shoot more
This is where you can really capture the prize. The carnage. A seasoned snow photographer might be too attached to the subject to to disrespect his peril with shutter clicks. While that guy is checking on his friend, go for the front pager. After all, your audience wants to see two things: people going upside down, and people in serious distress. Capture that distasteful moment of anguish. Put your morals aside. Click away. This is akin to war photography, and you’re one step from the Pulitzer. Yes, team managers and other athletes will call you an asshole and potentially kick your photo-vest-wearing journalistic ass, but you got the shot.