Working With Surfers

Working with surfers can improve and re-invigorate your surf photography better than anything else, here are my tips on working with surfers to get the best out of your surf photography.

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There’s not a lot out there in terms of resources for this in particular.

I’d check out the following podcasts for insights into how surf photographers work with surfers to get the shot:

  • Hallvard Kollveit interview on Nordic Surfers’ podcast – Hallvard talks about an ongoing project in which he works closely with different groups of surfers to document their experiences surfing in Norway and other cold water destinations. There’s a discussion about the ethics of bringing travelling pro surfers into a region vs documenting the local surfers.
  • Here’s a link to an interesting podcast with Laserwolf (aka Brandon Campbell) where he talks generally about being a professional surf photographer, which includes working with surfers.
  • Wild ideas worth living – Todd Glaser interview – This podcast was released shortly after the Proximity book was released, which involved Todd Glaser and Taylor Steele working closely with pairs of surfers, so there’s plenty of tips on working with different characters, as well as producing a surf photo book.

Sure, here is a more readable and SEO-optimized version of the transcript:

Working with Surfers: A Guide for Surf Photographers

Building rapport with surfers is an essential aspect of surf photography. It allows you to capture stunning images that reflect the surfer’s skill and artistry while also gaining valuable insights into their style and preferences.

Approaching Different Types of Surfers

Your approach to interacting with surfers varies depending on their experience level and expectations.

  • Beginner Surfers: For beginners, your focus should be on capturing their joy and excitement in learning the sport. Prioritize sharp, in-focus shots that showcase their progress.

  • Intermediate Surfers: Intermediate surfers might seek more creative and artistically composed shots. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to capture their skills.

  • Local Experts: Local experts will expect you to capture their best waves and manoeuvres. Understand their style and preferences to anticipate their actions.

  • Friends and Family: Collaborating with friends and family provides a low-stakes environment to experiment with new techniques and compositions.

Building Relationships with Surfers

Establishing connections with local surfers is crucial for developing your skills and expanding your portfolio.

  • Introduce Yourself: Approach surfers politely and introduce yourself. Explain your interest in taking their photos and seek their permission.

  • Observe Their Style: Observe their surfing habits and preferences to anticipate their moves and capture their best moments.

  • Communicate Effectively: Communicate clearly with the surfer regarding your positioning and any specific requests they may have.

  • Share Your Work: After the session, promptly share the photos with the surfer. Their feedback can help you improve your technique.

Collaborating with Surfers

Organize joint photo sessions with local surfers to capture their skills and enhance your photography skills.

  • Plan a Joint Photo Session: Propose a photo session to a group of local surfers. Choose a suitable location and time.

  • Discuss Technical Details: Discuss equipment settings and positioning with the surfers before the session.

  • Review Photos Together: After the session, gather the surfers and review the photos together. Gather feedback and mark favourite shots.


Working with surfers is an integral part of surf photography. By building relationships, communicating effectively, and collaborating closely, you can capture stunning images that showcase the surfer’s skill and artistry while also enhancing your own photographic skills.

Lessons Related to Working With Surfers

  1. Surf Photography – Essential Knowledge
    1. Quick Start Settings for Surf Photography
    2. Shutter Speed in Surf Photography
    3. Aperture in Surf Photography
    4. ISO for Surf Photography
    5. Focus Modes for Surf Photography
    6. What You Need to Know About Equivalence for Surf Photography
    7. Working With Surfers
    8. Minimum Shutter Speed in Aperture Priority and Manual Mode





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