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A Comprehensive Guid To Surf Photography

Keen to become a world class surf photographer? Want to learn how to photograph surfers and waves? Check out our surf photography beginner's guide.

surf photography guid


Surf photography appears to be a simple task. Get a nice camera, position it at the surfer, and watch the magic unfold. A good surf shot speaks for itself. While this can be advantageous to the lensman, it also presents a number of significant obstacles.

Great surf shots are uncommon, and the number of unforgettable photographs that have remained imprinted in the minds of millions is even fewer. In this industry, practice actually does make perfect, and there's no reason why you can't outperform top surf photographers if you stay true to yourself and literally train your vision.

Everything is important.

The amount of scene, the arrangement of the elements, the light, and your assessment of the surfer's timing as he draws his line on the wide wave face or takes it to the air are all important factors in surf photography. So, definitely, taking beautiful surf shots may be considered an art.

Your frames should convey a message – a tale, a sentiment, an immortal moment, or even a bizarre relationship between the rider and Mother Nature. Study the light and capture the soul of surfing with surf photos on Shutterstock. A skilled surf photographer must be able to create great images both in and out of the water. However, each shot should always have a reason.

An amateur surf photographer may now compete with legends and generate high-quality, award-winning images. The final goal is to depict a surfer who is fulfilling his dream. Obstacles should be viewed as tremendous opportunities. To produce breathtaking images, feel free to incorporate the dunes, buildings, fisherman, boats, trees, cliffs, piers, animals, and even the sun and clouds.

surf photography water housings under water


A great surfing photo isn't often one of a surfer completing a fantastic aerial maneuver. The surrounds, challenges, geography, and even the weather conditions all play a role. You may struggle with underwater surf photography at first because it is really challenging. Shooting the surf in the lineup, though, is not difficult.

That is why you should research, look at the work of some of the best surf photographers in the world, and get ideas for your frames. Plan your angles and learn where to position yourself in the lineup for surf photography | Red Bull/Noyle photo

Get the Right Equipment

Prepare for your photo shoot. Do you want to photograph the surfer when he is being covered by the wave's lip, or do you want to photograph him exiting the barrel? All of this is significant. Knowing your aim and your equipment is essential.

The following is a list of what you'll need:

1. A good DSLR or Mirrorless camera that can shoot HD video;

2. A lens with a wide field of view;

3. A few high-capacity memory cards;

4. A camera case for your photographic gear;

5. A great waterproof surf housing that is light and compact 

6. A wrist leash to keep you camera from floating away if you loose grip of it

Picture above of the GDome XL Waterproof Housing


Find out what you need to know before starting a career as a surf photographer:

1. Experiment with your camera: Read the owner's manual thoroughly and put all of the functions, mechanics, and gimmicks to the test;

2. Recognize exposure: with surf photography, brightness is key, so know your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.

3. Check the weather: is it sunny, cloudy, or rainy? What time is it, exactly?

4. Look at depth of field choices by calculating the distance between the closest and distant objects.

5. Find new camera angles: be inventive and discover new viewpoints.

6. Understand composition: grasp the rule of thirds, negative space, and balance by studying the principles of photography.

7. Don't over-process your photos: photo editing is great, but when boundaries are crossed, the shot is eternally lost;

8. Get your five senses involved in each shot: timing is crucial.

9. Learn from the best photographers and photojournalists: information is power.

10. Gain a better understanding of the ocean by learning how waves form and break.

11. Find the correct camera angle for tube surfing in surf photography | Shutterstock

Practical Advice

Let's go into the basics of surf photography now that the theory has been explained:

1. Proper positioning is essential: choose new shooting locations for each session.

2. Examine your surroundings: look for fascinating objects and notable landmarks to work with.

3. Maintain the sharpness of your surfer: a fuzzy frame is never a good photo;

4. Get close: you're photographing a surfer, not a football squad;

5. Shoot from several perspectives: a diverse repertory provides limitless possibilities;

6. Avoid shadows: Light is a photographer's best friend, but it can also be a lens' worst enemy;

7. Create a straight horizon line by aligning the top of your photo camera screen with the horizon.

8. Keep your attention on the action: the surfer is supposed to be the focal point of the shot.

9. Predict when and which actions the surfer will execute next;

10. Talk to the surfer about your plans and what he can help you with.

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  • Shoot surfers on the beach, people walking down the boardwalk, and slow-moving vessels as your first foray into surf photography. 
  • Take images in various lighting conditions. 
  • After carefully evaluating your first photographs, move on to surfing competitions, where you'll be able to capture both the social aspect and the furious action on the sea. 
  • Just remember to trust your instincts with each click. When the event is over, download the photos and go through them carefully. 
  • Choose the top ten frames out of 200 and ask a professional photographer for feedback, advise, and assistance. 
  • When you're satisfied with your work and believe you've formed a personal style, post it to an online photo community like Flickr, 1x, or Light Stalking for feedback. 
  • If you want to make money with your surf photos, you can always sell them on 500px, Shutterstock, or iStock, or submit them to international surf magazines. 


Remember that the only way to establish oneself as a well-known and respected surf photographer is to construct a solid and high-quality portfolio so get out there and start shooting! 



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