Everything You Wanted To Know About Skateboard Photography

Look in a recent issue of Transworld SKATEboarding Magazine. If your photos are as good as the ones printed, send them in. Presently, we are running mostly very recent street-skating. We would most likely run technical tricks, big stuff (gaps, ollies, drops, etc.), and switch-stance tricks. We are interested in other forms of skating though: mini-ramp, ditch, vert-ramp, but the same rules apply (high tech or switch-stance).

If you have never shot a roll of Fuji Velvia or Fuji Provia, check them out, they are the best! You might want to experiment with pushing them a stop or two and push processing them at a professional color lab. Don’t take it to a cheapo drive-thru fotomat type place.

There are a couple of other kinds of film that are nice, Kodachrome 64 and 200. The 64 is a good daytime film and the 200 is better for twilight, night and indoor shooting, Again, Have it developed at a custom lab. Don’t shoot the Ektachrome films, They’re kind of weak! Also don’t use fast color films(400 asa or faster), there is really no reason, Fast action doesn’t necessarily mean “fast film”, it means “fast shutter speed”. Faster films are granier and colors are duller. Black and White film is pretty basic. We use Kodak T-Max 100, 400, and 3200, They’re all really nice. It’s also loads cheaper to shoot black and white if you have your own darkroom.

We like our black and white prints pretty rich in contrast, that is black-blacks,white-whites and all the gray tones. Make sure your prints aren’t too gray, Once printed in the mag, They will look look flat and muddy. send us glossy 8x10s. I’m not against using other kinds of films and I’m not trying to squash anyone’s creativity, but these films are all well tested by our staff of seasoned professionals.

Let’s get to the basics of skate photography. You are going to need to shoot with a 35mm camera with manual capabilities, don’t use a disc,Polaroid or an auto point&shoot idiot camera, you can, but don’t send the photos to me. you need quality gear for quality photos. Most skate photogs are using Canon or Nikon equipment. The lens you use is probably your most crucial piece of gear. Focus is the key to a sharp photo, stay away from off brand lenses, buy a lens the same make as your camera.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a fish-eye lens to shoot skating, a fish-eye is just a handy accessory to have. Actually, I enjoy using my normal and telephoto lenses, but I stay away from the 17, 20, 24, 28 and 35mm wide-angles(just a personal preference).

Skateboarding is a very fast activity, therefore you need a very fast shutter-speed for daytime shooting. You are going to need to shoot at 1/500th of a second (when not using a flash) in order to freeze the skater. Any slower than that and we are talking blur-o-rama. In order to shoot with a flash during the day, you’ll need a camera with a flash synch of at least 1/250th of a second (nikon fm-2, f-4, f-5 and canon t-90, eos-1, etc.). Older cameras usually have a 1/60/sec flash synch, shooting at that speed during the day you1re going to have one big blurrrfest! If you shoot faster than your flash synch, you will have half black frames because the flash and shutter aren’t in synch with one another (ah, go read a photo book). Twilight, night and indoor flash shots are a whole different soccer match. You can get as creative as you want,slow shutter speeds,multiple flashes and color filters(on flash) and scary masks are just a few of the endless possibilities. The key word is “experiment”.When shooting with flash, you’ll definitely want to use more than one flash with a small slave-unit attached off to the side of the scene in order to throw a bit more light on the skater or background. This will help pop the skater out from the background and give your photo a more three dimensional look. The number of flashes is up to you, but my motto is: “the more, the merrier!” the Only rule I try to stick with is, try to keep your flashes out of frame, it looks cleaner, think of it as a movie, you don’t see the set lights in Jurrasic Park (only dinosaurs, baby!). Oh yeah, move your camera bag out of the frame too. I like dogs in skate photos though, snarling dobermans will make your photos look punk!

Okay, what we’re really into at Transworld is quality. We are looking for photos which stand out from the rest. We get a lot of photos that are way booty…I am talkin’ stinkers, phew!

Okay boys and girls, let’s talk

about composing and previsualizing your photo. You should have the photo already up in your noggin before you press the shutter button. You should be surveying the scene, checking the light, background and expose accordingly. The great architect, Mies Van Der Rohe coined the phrase, “less is more”. This is the basic rule when shooting, watch those busy backgrounds, telephone poles and wires, trees, etc. a skater with a pole coming out of his head looks dumb. a skater isolated in the sky or against a blank building stands out from the background alot better especially when his clothes contrast with the background. Keep it basic!

Another point I’d like to mention is about what I call “reference point”, this refers to showing where the skater is coming from, what he is going over and where he is going to land, listen up snowboard photographers! This shows us how far and high the skater is, is he four feet or four inches out? The bottom line is to get out there and burn through some rolls, maybe take a class and have fun. It’s all just a combination of timing, action, light, composition, exposure, skill and a little bit of luck. My only last bit advice is “Break all the rules”