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Surf related materials

Surf Photography 101

Wanna Be a Surf Photographer?

There are many things to consider when taking a surf photo but it might not be as confusing you think. We’ve compiled a list of things you will need and how to use them to get started in your new profession. This tutorial will provide information for surf photography from the land.

DSLR/Digital Camera   Any digital SLR camera will work. Don’t buy into the hype you have to have a 5d to take a good photo. Budget your camera choice with a good lens in mind. We recommend Nikon or Canon.

Zoom lens  200-500mm lens are what we would recommend shooting from your local beach breaks. We use 400 and 500mm 4.5 Sigmas. You can buy a $3500 2.8  300mm when you become pro but for now start with some average yet good quality glass. The further outside your break the longer the lens you will need. Your photos do not have to be super zoomed in. If you have scenic backdrops and nice foregrounds you can make a beautiful photo with a 200mm.[/one_half][one_half_last]

Monopod/Tripod a must if you plan on taking surf photos. For video you will need a tripod with a nice fluid head to keep footage from being shaky. If you solely take surf photos a monopod allows freedom to move and find that perfect spot.

Computer/Mac with Lightroom or Aperture – unless you’re ready to spend years learning Adobe Photoshop we recommend starting with something much simpler and more effective when dealing with a large amount of photos. Lightroom and Aperture are perfect programs for batching/post processing and bringing your photos to life. They both have 30 day full working trails and can be downloaded online.[/one_half_last]





Okay, now that you’ve assembled everything and your ready to hit the beach comes the most important part “the light and settings”. Check the time of the day and the position of the sun.  Rule of light with photography is you’re going to want to keep the subject in front of you and the sun behind you to get that perfect color. If the sun is above your head we would recommend coming back another morning or evening when you can see colors. If the sky is not blue you’re photos are going to require more work because they will be natively be over/under-exposed. There are exceptions but unless you’re ready to shoot artsy silhouettes we recommend starting with the basics.[/one_half] [one_half_last]

You’ve got the sun positioned behind you and you can clearly see the lineup now you’re ready to adjust the camera settings. Shutter speeds for surfing work best at 800-1200 for us. If it is below 800 it starts to get blurry because the subject is in motion. If it is above 1200 it starts to get dark because not enough light enters the camera.  Start on 1000 and adjust accordingly. For Aperture/f-stop we recommend f7-f9 (although Matt Vaughan goes to f10 at times). It allows great detail to the photo and captures a blue sky.  The aperture tells the camera how much light to let in while the shutter tells it how long to stay open. The final setting is the ISO. The ISO sets the gain of the amplifier that’s between the CCD output and the analogue-to-digital converter that generates the digital data. On really bright days we recommend using a 100-200 ISO but if it’s a little cloudy you can go as high as 400 before the photo start to become a little grainy. In a nut shell these are the settings we shoot our photos with. It’s up to you to learn how to set them in your camera Manual setting.[/one_half_last]

Playa Guiones Setup:
Sunny Day 7-10am =Shutter 1000-1250/Aperture f7-9 ISO 100-200
Cloudy Day =Shutter 800 Aperture f8 ISO 300
Really Bright day =Shutter 1200 Aperture F9 ISO 100

These are very basic settings for capturing a surfer in motion while keeping the surrounding from being over/under-exposed. Every camera will shoot just a little different. We recommend you take a few sample photos to see if your subject is visible and the sky is blue and adjust accordingly. If the photo is too dark lower your Shutter and Aperture one drop and vice versa if it’s too bright. Always follow the surfer before snapping the photo.  The more you get familiar with surfing the more you’ll learn when to take the photo. Snaps, laybacks, airs, tubes, and any other trick captured with a camera require timing and knowledge of surfing. If you rely on sequences to get your photos you will be sitting on a large workload of edits. Some sequences are 8 frames in one second, meaning if you take a full turn you’re stuck with 16 photos or more. Looking through the viewfinder always try to keep your horizon level and the subject somewhat centered but if you don’t thanks to the digital revolution post processing programs will allow you to quickly crop and rotate your photo.

So now that you’ve got a couple hundred photos of your friends ripping it’s time to bring them to life. Import your photos into your editing program so you can start to develop them. The more you learn your program the more you’ll be able to do but let’s start this tutorial with a couple of necessities.

Crop the photo so as to not leave a bunch of empty space on the outsides of the subject. If you have mountains in the horizons and beach in the foreground try to use a little of both while keeping your surfer the main subject.
Rotate the image to keep your horizon level. (if you have a horizon) [/one_half] [one_half_last]

Sharpen your image 25 percent . You don’t want it to look so sharp it’s almost grainy or fake

add a little black or contrast to pop your shadows out and make it come to life. Just don’t overdo or it becomes fake looking.[/one_half_last]

Export and you’re done! You’re now ready to photograph any surfer from the land in Playa Guiones . Our next tutorial will talk about our water settings.


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Written by Graham Swindell[/author_info] [/author]