What Makes A Surf Photo Good?

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With our Big Photo Book having dropped in our offices and about to start landing in mailboxes (if it even fits) pretty soon, we are overly amped on having the world’s best surf photography on a bigger format. That’s why we collected a pool of some top pros to get their thoughts on what makes a surf photo a good surf photo.

Sunny Garcia

Sunny Garcia. Photo: Noyle/SPL

Sunny Garcia. Photo: Noyle/SPL

I like any shot that doesn’t have Billabong, Quiksilver, Rip Curl, well you know where I’m going. Its all played out that you guys put shots in because guys ride for these companies. I like great shots because the guy is ripping and not because he rides for someone who pays the mag, haha. But that being said, I like water shots.

Sterling Spencer

Centaur Sterling Spencer. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Centaur Sterling Spencer. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

1. Start with one centaur
2. Marinate centaur in some crisp, tasty waves
3. Pepper the beach with babes
4. Insert centaur directly into tube (four-to-five seconds)
5. Add one close up of my chiseled abs
6. Remove centaur from tube
7. Splash again of abs
8. Arms up, you win

This recipe is surf or turf.

Benny Bourgeois

Ben Bourgeois. Photo: Stafford/SPL

Ben Bourgeois. Photo: Stafford/SPL

A great photo to me is any shot that makes me want to jump on a plane and fly to that destination cause it looks so damn good. Also any photo of someone trying something new, even if its just a different grab. That makes me want to go out and try it next session. I like both water and land.

Ry Craike

Ry Craike. Photo: Jones

Ry Craike. Photo: Jones

I think there is a difference between what looks good in water shots and land shots. The lighting has heaps to do with a good water shot as does the style of the surfer and the size of the wave. With a land shot I love to see a good sequence even if the lighting is shit. I reckon that a lot of the time you will see an average turn get run in a mag because the lighting is good over some crazy turn where the lighting is shit. Personally if the turn is amazing but the lighting is shit I would still rather look at that than a average turn with good lighting. I love to look at the progressive side of surfing laid out in epic sequences so you really get to see what’s going on.

Mike Losness

MIke Losness. Photo: Checkwood

MIke Losness. Photo: Checkwood

A good surf photo makes the viewer feel something. Lighting, composition, subject and Mother Nature all play a role in the epic shot. The best shots are when all the elements come together for that split second.

Carlos Burle

Carlos Burle. Photo courtesy Tostee.com/Red Bull Photofiles

Carlos Burle. Photo courtesy Tostee.com/Red Bull Photofiles

A unique moment with the best photographers. You got the right guy right in front of you in a special moment and you get something good.

Kolohe Andino

Kolohe Andino. Photo: Steindler

Kolohe Andino. Photo: Steindler

My favorite photos are photos that make me want to go surf. I love those under water shots, shot with a film camera, of someone riding the barrel. I believe they are mainly taken at Teahupo’o. They are just so beautiful. It’s like a prospective of a fish. Those photos make me cringe with the urgency to get a nice tube.

Nat Young

Nat Young. Photo: Nelly/SPL

Nat Young. Photo: Nelly/SPL

I like cool backdrops and a lot of bright colors with good lighting for sure. Bright surf photos on those super sunny days. Not those overcast, sad days. I’d rather have those sunny, happy day vibes.