Part I: The Basics | Part II: Composition  

Just like learning how to ski with a pack on, learning how to compose a photo is key to getting the right shot when you need it. While there are several tricks to setting up the perfect photograph, there are a few staple techniques that should never be overlooked. Just remember to practice these before hitting the slopes and before you know it they will become second nature.

Rule of Thirds:
Used in nearly every shot I take, this is the technique of breaking apart the frame into thirds both vertically and horizontally and aligning the subject at the cross sections. By moving the subject away from the center of the photograph, the viewer’s eye will travel naturally through the photograph towards the action. You’ll notice in the shot below that I kept the skier in the bottom right corner of the photograph leading the eye into the skier's path.

Rule of thirds

Breaking up the photo into thirds helps draw the viewer's eye towards the subject.

Leading Lines:
This technique is used mostly by landscape photographers but translates well into ski and action photography. The goal is to select a line in your frame and allow the line to guide the viewer’s eye toward the subject. Some examples of lines may include shadows, trees, ridgelines or the horizon. The trick is to line up the subject at either the end or beginning of the leading line.


The leading lines here draw you deeper into the slope and also help show how steep it is.

A big mistake of both professional and amateur photographers is always keeping the camera at eye level. While it’s okay to take shots standing up, it’s also important to move things around. Take off your skis, crouch down and stand tall. The change in perspective will allow you to highlight various subjects in the frame and draw the attention to the action you want to showcase while providing an unique angle.

Something I learned early on is to be ultra-critical of everything in the frame. The goal is to never have something that distracts or degrades the image, and takes away from the subject and overall mood. This can be difficult to achieve on snow, but taking a moment to look around can reduce easy-to-solve problems like chairlifts or signage.

Another trick is to make sure you leave enough room in the frame for your subject to move through. For instance if your skier is moving left to right be sure not to have them at the extreme right side of the image with nowhere to go.


Here I used the trees to frame the skier and draw the viewer's eyes toward the subject.

An uneven horizon is disorienting to the viewer and a sure mark of an inexperienced shooter. It is always best to get your shot level in camera, but you can usually straighten it out afterwards in post production. The problem with doing it in post is that you may lose part of the image due to cropping and thus your framing and rule of thirds may be off.

Big Air
If you’re shooting your buddies in the park or hucking themselves off cliffs, always be sure to include either where they are taking off from and/or where they will be landing, preferably both.

A shot of a skier hovering in mid-air with no point of reference to the ground (a.k.a. the "guy in the sky" shot) is disorienting and should be avoided.


Here I have just a hint of the edge of the pipe, but that little bit makes a huge difference in communicating the story to the viewer.

Before shooting talk to your skier and let them know exactly where you want them to ski. This can be tricky, as the view from where you stand and where your skier stands is completely different, so make sure to tell them your goals. You can go high-tech and use radios, or sometimes the simplest solutions ar the best. Throw a snowball on the spot where you want the subject to turn. It's low-tech, but works quite well and is used by the best ski photogs in the biz.

Of course there is a time and place to break all of these rules, but it's best to master them first. As always don't be afraid to experiment and try new things. That is usually when things go right and you'll get a picture you weren't expecting.