Getty A Clue: A Mainstream Media Photographer's Guide To Snowboard Photography
Editor’s note: By no means is this a spiteful post. We fully appreciate the hard work and arresting imagery produced from all photojournalists and the storytelling backgrounds they come from. We understand that larger bodies in the frame sell newspapers/stories to the general public… but we still decided to have fun with the nonsensical images that come from our sport being displayed on the biggest stage every four years.
There comes a point in time when enough is simply enough. It's like if your roommate smacks their food every night with their mouth agape and particulates flying out of both corners of their mouth while they detail their day at work. Eventually, you're gonna snap and just call them out with the hope that maybe—just maybe—they'll stop. Chances are, however, they never will.
This is how we feel watching the mainstream media's coverage of the Olympics. Granted, I bite my tongue when we read things like "so and so spends their time floating effortlessly through the air like a majestic eagle." We can deal with that, because more often than not, it's buried in a 4,000 word article. But when every single photo we see of snowboard action features a snowboarder that we know is insanely talented all twisted and contorted, not grabbing their board, with no takeoff or landing in sight and perfect blue skies behind him or her, we simply can't take it. Enough is enough. We can't take it any more. We're talking CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times. The big dogs. They're wonderful publications, all of them. But holy crap, the guy in the sky snowboard photographs need to stop! Please, for the love of God, take this advice from us. Below is a quick visual guide with examples of what makes a compelling action photograph in the snowboard world.
Takeoffs and landings are necessary in jump photos. As are the lip and deck of the halfpipe in a pipe photo. You know what the difference is between a four foot air in the pipe and a twenty foot air in the pipe? NOTHING, IF YOU DON'T SHOW THE LIP OF THE PIPE FOR REFERENCE! Snowboarding is a beautifully athletic and dangerous activity, so if the photo that you put on the front page of your paper or website is just a guy or a girl cropped tight in the middle of the sky with nothing else, it does nothing to showcase the athleticism or risk that is what makes snowboarding so impressive.
A photo of someone not grabbing their board should be deleted immediately. Grabbing is 100% mandatory in snowboard action photography. You won't believe how many amazing photos we see and when we zoom in and realize that the rider isn't grabbing their board, you know what we do? WE DELETE IT.
Follow the Rule of Thirds. Here's what's crazy. We're willing to bet that every single photographer that you have on staff follows this long-held understanding in general photography, so why the hell don't they do the same with snowboarding photos? Crop out, put the rider at the top corner of the frame and then, you'll show the takeoff or the lip. It's that simple.
If a rider looks like they're insanely out of control in the photo, DELETE IT. We'll admit, that even in the smoothest of tricks, there might be a frame or two in which they look a little out of control. It happens, especially when you're spinning and flipping so fast. But at the very least, do the riders a favor and at least use a frame where it doesn't look like they're about to eat shit.
These riders work hard and do insane shit. Show them the courtesy of using a good photo of them. If you were a wedding photographer, would you include a shot of the bride mid-mouthful of salmon with her eyes closed in the final submission? No? Didn't think so. Remember that.
Lastly, just stop with the guy in the sky shit. This is us talking here. It's we who you are representing, and we are nicely asking you to make us look at least kind of cool to your readers. We're not worried about snowboarders, so to speak, because they know what's cool and what's not. We're more worried about the everyperson. Those who haven't tried snowboarding before and maybe, just maybe, if they see a cool photo of Ben Ferguson airing twenty feet out of the pipe, might just wanna go and try it the following weekend.
So please and thank you. We greatly appreciate it.