Lighting tips for skateboarding photos

If you use lighting in dramatic and creative ways, your skateboarding photos will pop out above the rest.

Read the video transcript.

Okay let’s dive into lighting tips for skateboard photography.

The lighting I’m talking about is 100% Natural – Also known as available light. I use natural light 100% of the time for my skate photos. So I won’t be talking about using flash, LED or other artificial light sources in this video.

Let’s do a quick light lesson first, so that you understand the basics.

Light has four properties: Quantity. Quality. Direction. Colour.

Quantity refers to the amount of light.

  • Low light is sunrise, sunset, night time and indoors.
  • Bright light is Midday sunshine. Using your flash or other lighting.

Quality: Light can be hard or soft. Sometimes we call this high and low contrast.

  • Bright sun produces hard, contrasty light. Shadows are deep and dark.
  • On an overcast day you’ll get soft light. Detail in the shadows will be visible. If the air is polluted or smokey, you’ll also get soft, low contrast light.

Direction: Natural light comes from the sun.

  • If it’s sunny it’s really easy to see where the light is coming from. You just have to look at the shadows for clues.
  • If it’s cloudy it seems like the light comes from everywhere and nowhere.
  • Skateparks have concrete so the light can also reflect and bounce onto your skater.
  • I love working with shadows in my skate photos. They add visual interest, plus they can fill in missing information when shooting a trick.

Light has colour, and that creates mood in your photos!

  • On a sunny summer day, the colour of light is neutral.
  • Sunrise and sunset will give your photos a warm look. This is called the Golden Hour.  Skin tone will be orange or red.
  • Air pollution and smoke can also warm up natural light.
  • Cool light happens when you’re in the shade, or it’s really cloudy or overcast. Shadows and skin tone turn blue-ish. It definitely changes the mood.

You can control the colour of light in your photos by adjusting the white balance in your camera. I cover the topic of WB in another post.

This is how I use 100% Natural light creatively

  • I prefer shooting skate photos on bright sunny days.
  • With a large amount of light I can get a fast shutter speed and freeze the action.
  • I shoot in Shutter Priority Mode, with a shutter speed of 1/1000 second or faster. And, I keep my ISO at 800 or less.

Steps for shooting on bright sunny day:

  • First, look where the sun is coming from
  • Shoot with the light falling on the front of the skater
  • If you want side shadows, shoot with the light falling on the side of the skater
  • Try shooting with the sun behind the skater and you’ll get super dramatic lighting
  • When the sun is a bit lower in the sky, you can get nice long shadows, and that is a recipe for great compositions.

It’s really fun to just play with natural light. Don’t be afraid to point your camera anywhere.

Learning to see light, does take some practice.

  • Take lots of pictures!
  • Grab some skater friends and practice working with light and shadow.
  • Review your photos.
  • What properties of the light, make certain photos stand out over the others?

You will eventually learn to see light even before you take any photos. This is part of becoming a better photographer. If you have any natural light questions, put them in the comments below this post. If you missed Part 1 in this series you can find it here.