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How To Skateboard Photography-An Introduction with Philipp Schuster

How to Skateboard Photography: An Introduction with Philipp Schuster

Philipp Schuster has been a skateboarder for 18 years, a pro for eleven years and a passionate photographer for almost just as long. Initially, Philipp wanted photography to be a supporting activity besides skateboarding so he took his camera with him to skate spots, took photographs of his friends and occasionally handed the camera over to them with his chosen presets. He's spending almost as much time behind the lens as he's performing in front of it by now.  That's why we double-booked him for the Cyprus Hill Tour – to achieve optimal results in front of AND behind the camera.

If you're interested in photography yourself, let Philipp give you a short introduction into skateboard photography:

1. The most expensive equipment doesn't automatically take the best photos! In theory, you could use a recent smartphone to take decent photos as well and you'll even find additional lenses to increase versatility, such as fisheye or wide-angle lenses. However, if you want to take quality to a higher level, Philipp recommends starting with a low-budget, entry-level DSLR body.

2. Don't bother with too much equipment at first! Just getting started and getting to know camera techniques, a 50mm prime lens (fixed focal length) is the way to go and usually reasonably priced. Too much equipment – like different lenses, flash units etc. – makes you lose focus on what's really important.

Philipp Schuster

"A starter setup with an entry-level DSLR Body and a 50mm lens doesn't cost much and will bring you a lot of joy in the beginning!"

Don't buy too much equipment right away. And remember: Good equipment doesn't have to be expensive.

3. Learn to master the prime source of light: the sun! Before you acquire flash units and other artificial light sources, learn to work with natural lighting first.

4. Lenses with larger apertures offer you more creative options, i.e. by isolating the objects from its surroundings through a shallow depth of field.

The right lens for the right job - you decide what to put the focus on.

5. A shutter speed of 1/1000s or less guarantees a sharp photo with little to no motion blur – which, on the other hand, can also be used intentionally.

6. Gather first experience with friends – you know each other, which tricks are possible and what looks good in the process. But don't let your own skateboarding skills fall short and hand the camera over to your friends.

Take your camera and try different settings. A little trying never hurt nobody.

7. There's no limit for your creativity! Please consider the following advice anyway:

  • Try to capture the skateboarder in front of a steady background to make him stand out against it.

  • Play with proportions – the skateboarder shouldn't get lost in the photograph. That effect, however, can be used artistically, i.e. to put focus on a particularly beautiful scenery 

  • The perfect moment of the trick – every skatboarder has his/her own style. One might flip the board very fast while the next one drags the flip over the whole time of being in the air. The optimal shot for a photo highly depends on that style and differs a lot. Try capturing different moments and get some inspiration from skateboard magazines like Thrasher, Solo, Irregular or the like and look at what they consider the perfect shot.

  • Post-production is easier than ever nowadays. You'll find a range of software – from freeware to very professional software. Try to experiment with different software and find the one which suits your needs and your budget. Most costly software offers a free trial so the choice is yours.

The skater remains the focus. How to shoot the best photo is just a matter of preferences and trying. You better agree about a setup first.

8. Learning by doing! Every day you spend behind the camera will improve your photography skills. You'll get a better eye for the perfect moment, the right picture detail(s) and the final composition.

Enough talk now, let's get to it. Shoot till you drop. Capture the best tricks of your friends or yourself and make them last forever.

Take your camera - new or used - and make yourself comfortable behind the lens.