How To

The Perfect Shot

Timmy Curran going HUGE!!!
Sean Tully gets a good one.
Eric Geiselman
Foot work
Surfer pulls in
Hang Five
Adam Virs
nice turn
Kai Ellison

The Perfect Shot. By Ryan Cardone

Surf photography is not easy. Looking at many surf magazines through the years and admiring the works of Art Brewer, Larry "Flame" Moore, Jeff Divine, and even local Ventura Photographer David Pu'u. I always wondered how they got such great shots. I now know what lengths photographers go to get the perfect shot. We have to get up early and put our bodies in very dangerous situations. Try not to drown. All the while trying to get the perfect shot. That perfect shot is what keeps us coming back day after day. So have you ever wondered how to get that perfect shot? Here are a few tips you can try.

Equipment: I have to buy what

You do not have to have the most expensive photo equipment to get a great a surf photo.


If you want to take pictures in the water there are many choices. If you are just a beginner, Fuji and Kodak both make throw away water proof cameras. These are great to learn with. Pentax and Olympus both make digital underwater cameras, they run in the $300 price range. These work great and I have shot with both and have been happy with the results. Remember with point and shoot digital cameras, there is a lag before the picture is actually taken. The trick to making better pictures with these is to learn how long that lag time actually is, then you can estimate when to push the button. Another option is a water housing, basically a box that keeps your camera dry. Water housings can be bought for point shoot digital cameras (range in the $400-$1000) to professional SLR (range in the $1500 and up). I use a SPL water housing made for my Nikon F100 and am having one made for my Nikon D200. Other brands for professional SLR are Del Mar water housings, and AquaTech. Having a comfortable pair of swim fins helps and a helmet is a very smart and safe choice as well.

Lighting: Let the sun shine

What makes a good photograph from a great photograph? I would say 99% is the lighting. If you pick the right time of day to shoot it will make your photo that much better. It can be that simple. So what light is good? Early morning sunlight is amazing for surf photography. Most of the photos you see in the magazines use early morning light also called "front lit." Shooting around sunset time will give you "back lit" light. I love this kind of light. The colors are often great. It usually will silhouette the surfer and look very artistic. The worst time to shoot is around the middle of the day. This is when you get to surf.

The best time to shoot is when it is sunny. What if it is cloudy or overcast? Try switching to black and white. Color is pretty dull when it is overcast or cloudy so a good way to solve that is to take away the color.

Location: Where am I

You don't have to have the $10,000 telephoto lens to get a great surf photo. A little creative positioning will give any camera a decent chance of getting the shot. Shooting from piers is a great way to get closer to the action. Also beach breaks usually break closer to the beach. This is perfect to get you close and personal. Be creative and do not always think you have to be close. Try walking down the beach to shoot at a different angle. Try wide shots, meaning do not be always zoomed in. Line up shots are some of my favorite photos. Use depth of field to your advantage. Put something (an object, person, etc) in the foreground and have the surfer in the background. Use a tree branch or something to crop the top of the photo to bring the viewers eye to where you want them to look. Push yourself to look for opportunities to shoot something in a different way.

Practice, pratice, practice

With the boom of digital photography it is very inexpensive to take a lot of pictures, this is a perfect way to learn if. Go back and critique your work. Take note of what you did right and wrong, I believe this is the best way to learn how to get better. The trick is to get the perfect shot, not the 5000 ok shots.

The last tip....HAVE FUN!

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