How to be a professional surf photographer with Laserwolf

If you follow surf photography you’ve almost certainly heard of Laserwolf (aka Brandon Campbell).

He’s a Hawaii based surf photographer who shoots from the water at some of the heaviest spots on the North shore as well as having great land and air based shots in his portfolio.

The quality of his work makes him a stand out, but it’s his hard work and marketing that play a really big role in you knowing his name.

When I think about successful surf photographers there aren’t many who are dedicated to surf photography alone, and he keeps cropping up online as someone who should inspire future professional surf photographers.

Here are a few pieces of content I picked up on recently and the lessons you should take away as an aspiring surf photographer.

Laserwolf Lesson 1: Personal branding

The name Laserwolf is awesome, and it’s no accident that it’s memorable and makes you smile.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview from Rory Parker’s podcast Everything is Always Terrible:

Rory Parker: You went from unknown to really successful really quickly. What did you do? Did you have some hook-ups?

Laserwolf: I didn’t really have the hook ups, and that’s the thing, a lot of guys do, they’ve got the gear, they’ve got the hook-ups, they know all these people in the industry. And I guess I knew a couple of guys but honestly I just think the way I was able to brand myself with the whole Laserwolf thing, I think it just separated me a little bit from the pack because it’s a flooded market, there’s so many talented photographers out there, there’s guys that blow me out of the water talent wise, they know way more about this stuff, but they’re not marketing themselves or they’re not branding themselves.

He goes on to talk about how hard he worked to get to where he is and how he’s able to make a living by keeping his standards high and working different channels. Basically this whole interview is gold for anyone wanting to make a living from surf photography.

Listen to the whole thing here:

Laserwolf Lesson 2: Use the latest technology

So apparently he originally thought that drones were part of a conspiracy theory, allowing the government to spy on the population more easily. I read this on Beachgrit, my favourite online surf rumour/news source.

In the same interview it’s revealed that he used his first drone, a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone to take what is arguably (Beachgrit: nothing if not hyperbolic) one of the best big wave surf photo’s ever (click the link to see it).

The DJI Phatom 4 Pro is just over $,1400 and has a 20 mega pixel camera with a 1″ sensor. That’s a whole lot more than my first drone (which I sold a while ago because I was hardly using it).

Laserwolf uses this DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone

I love the fact that it was taken with a consumer drone that you or I could order now and receive tomorrow, get a bit of practice in and then get up there and take a similar shot.

So he’s recognised that drones offer a way to capture a different angle of surfing, grabbed a decent but not ridiculously expensive or technical drone and used his knowledge and eye for composition to snap one an amazing shot that has been shared thousands of times and got him coverage in loads of places. text book use of new technology.

Laserwolf Lesson 3: Be adaptable

I love this story: How to shoot Pipe left handed

It’s from, you guessed it, Beachgrit, and it’s all about how Laserwolf broke his wrist mountain biking with his dad just before the North shore season kicked off.

It could have been a total write-off with lost contracts and lots of other issues, but he turned it around into a positive by practising shooting with his left hand and getting shots he otherwise wouldn’t have been able to!

This is something I can relate to. I broke my wrist skateboarding a month or so before my stag-do (I think it’s called a bachelor party in the US), which happened to be a week in Portugal surfing with some of my closest friends.

The doctors put my arm in a cast from half way along my forearm all the way to my hand with just my fingers poking out. I wasn’t going to let that stop me getting in the water to get photos of my friends though. I bought a pair of heavy duty rubber gloves and fashioned a cover for my cast.

Rubber glove covering a cast on my arm

It wasn’t exactly water tight, but it did stop a lot of water getting in and allowed me to shoot some photos with my left hand and even ride my bodyboard a bit too. I wish I’d kept it up a bit and could still shoot left handed, it would definitely improve some of my photos.

I hope you take inspiration from Laserwolf and improve your surf photography. If you don’t already follow him on Instagram go and do it now:

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