What I learned from my Daughter:

Hi guys, my daughter and I recently photographed the surfer’s at a little coastal community called Crescent Head; a beautiful place for learning how to surf – the beaches are just gorgeous. What I’ve let my daughter do is, photograph the surfers the way she thinks they need to be photographed. I helped her a little bit and then I photographed the last couple of images myself. Let’s have a look at the images and let’s find out how to photograph surfers the proper way to get those great images, and let’s see what little mistakes Brookie made.

Highlights from this video:
0:55 Brookie
1:14 Images by Brookie
6:49 Images by Brent
9:54 Summary

Here’s my daughter, Brookie. I took a little snap shot of her with the big camera. She’s only just turned 9 years old, so she’s doing really well.

Brooke with Camera

I set the camera in auto mode, which most people photograph in,  and I just let the camera decide on the different settings. Let’s run through a couple of images that she took.

Brookes Images in Auto Mode:

IMG_2301 IMG_2311 IMG_2314 IMG_2321

What Brooke did Wrong!

Here are a few thing Brooke did wrong when photographing in auto mode: (watch the video for a detailed review of each image)

  1. Caught the action too late
  2. Back focused – (Subject out of focus)
  3. Framing not too good – subject sometimes out of frame.

After helping Brooke with the camera settings: (not in auto mode)

IMG_2338 IMG_2345

This is where I changed it up again for her. Noticed that all the images were too dark because of the white water? ;I then over-exposed her camera by +1. So, I told the camera to go lighter by +1 stop. From then onward,the exposure seems to be correct.

Now, everything’s a lot lighter but she’s still missing the subject with her focus. He’s still not in the middle of the frame and as you can see, he’s kind of running out of the frame.

Images by Brent

Settings: Fast Shutter Speed, Over-Exposed by 1 Stop:

Click image to see it LARGE!


So here’s where I started photographing the surfers.

What I did was, I set the camera to Time Value (Tv) (Shutter Priority Mode). I set a very fast shutter speed at 1/1000 sec and I’ve overexposed the whole scene by +1 stop.

(watch the video for a detailed review of each image)

Why Over-expose the Images?

Because we are photographing into the sun; the sun is behind these guys. When the wave breaks, there’s a lot of white water and you want the white water to be overexposed because – like when you’re photographing in snow – you don’t want the water to be grey, because then all the subjects will be really dark.

I’m also shooting at One-shot AF. I prefer that when I’m photographing slow moving action because they don’t change the distance to the camera very fast. Another thing is that, I’m anticipating the surfers. I’m looking at who’s going to be catching the next wave.

Anticipating the Action (BIG TIP)

So, I started photographing as he is paddling for the wave. It’s a huge difference to what Brookie was doing; she was photographing after they had already stood up. I’m anticipating the action. I’m photographing a couple of seconds before he even catches the wave – that way I don’t miss the best action shots! Checkout this next sequence…

IMG_2348 IMG_2349 IMG_2350 IMG_2351

Framing (composition)

I have left a lot of space in front of him to surf into. I’ve got him facing the camera.

This next image is probably the shot of the day. I like it because the guys on the sides are out of focus. Our main subject is in-focus, even though he’s a little bit dark despite the fact that I’ve overexposed the whole image by +1 and the is surfing towards me – I can see his face. Click image to see it LARGE!IMG_2367

Retouching (lighten his face)

To improve this image a bit – I have cropped in, lightened the surfers face and darkened the outside of the image in Photoshop. What do you think?



So, that’s it for this lesson. What did we learn today?

1. Anticipate your subject’s action – Start photographing before they actually hit their peak action, so that you don’t capture them as they’re falling off;

2. Shoot at a fast shutter speed – Aorund 1/1000 sec or so;

3. Use Time Value or Shutter Priority Mode;

4. Overexpose by +1 (1 stop) – If you’re shooting in the sun;

5. Composition: Capture your subject in the middle of the frame – with space to ride/surf into.

This video comes from my Art of Travel Photography video series. There are another 40 short videos like this one in this series – so, if you are about to travel, then I would suggest you invest in this video series. [product id=”5641″ sku=””]

So there. What do you think of this video & blog? Please leave comments below and have a great day! 

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