By TWS Photo Staff

Are you thinking of becoming a professional photographer? Maybe you just want to take some better photos. Here are some of the basics to help get you on your way…

You definitely need a camera. Shoot with a manual camera, meaning a camera you can set manually. You need quality equipment for quality photos. The lens is the key piece of gear. To get a sharp photo you have to focus, and you can only focus as sharp as the lens lets you. Get a good lens, one made for your camera. Most photographers are using wide lenses (twenty to 35 mm) for in-close shots, and telephoto lenses (70—200 mm) for backed-away shooting. The Canon Eos-1n and the Nikon F5 are the systems of choice because of the speed of their motor drives, and the quality and quantity of lenses. A hand-held light meter is a good idea because the snow will mess with the one in your camera. You’re shooting action, so try to shoot at 1/500 of a second or faster. If you want to shoot with a flash, you’ll need a camera with a flash sync of 1/250 of a second-great things can be had with slower shutter speeds, but get the basics down first.

Film we like.Check out Fuji Velvia and Provia. This is great film and most snowboard photographers are using it. Have it processed at a professional lab, not a cheapo drive-through type place. Stay away from color negative (print film) unless you have money for a great color lab or if you are good at color printing. Black and white is fun, too. Try Kodak T-Max 100, 400, and Tri-X 400-a personal preference. We like to see black-and-white prints five by seven inches or eight by ten inches in size. Prints should have good contrast, which means black blacks, white whites, and all the gray tones in between. There are other good films-experiment a little, find one that works for you, and stick with it.

Composition.Before you shoot, check the light and check the background. Simpler is usually better. Is that dark-clothed rider going to show up against that busy dark background? Probably not. Most importantly, don’t forget what the great photographer Grant Brittain likes to call the “reference point”-show where the rider is coming from, jumping over, or landing, to tell the whole story. To see how high Mr. or Ms. Action Figure is, we need to see more than just sky.

Now go out and take those photos! Then …

Look at the magazine. Are your photos as good as these? If so, then send them in. Check them for sharpness, composition, and action. Look at them carefully with a critical and objective eye. It’s great to take pictures of your friends, but ask yourself if the photo would stand up next to the other photos in the magazine.

Maybe you’re wondering …

If a photo is blurry, is it art? Sometimes. Usually a successful photo is made by someone who has all the technical stuff down first. Learn to operate your camera until it becomes part of you. Shoot a lot of film, edit the results, and shoot more. To edit means to look at, learn from, and throw away the mistakes.

The biggest difference between a good photographer and a bad photographer: a good photographer doesn’t show his bad photos to anyone.