Whatever skateboarding magazine you pick up there are always photos that make you stop and go “Wow…wish I could get a shot like that.” (or that just me) That’s what I thought when I first started to get into photography, however seeing as photography is such a big market in terms of different cameras, lenses, flashes extras…..where do you start!? Well hopefully this guide will help out somewhat…..(this is mainly just looking at shooting still photos, rather than video as well, sorry guys!)


Nowadays the modern camera seems to be able to do everything. Shoot photos, film video, connect to WiFi, apps and more (gone are the days of people picking up some 35mm film DIY everything).

However what should I look for when choosing a camera?

Within skateboarding the key features (yea I know everyone wants a machine gun fast fps camera but you’re not shooting sequences your shooting stills!) to look into is the flash sync speed. The sync is the fastest shutter speed that you can use a flash. 1/250th is about the slowest sync speed that you can get away with shooting in the bright sunlight without having your photos come out blurry.

Therefore the consumer cameras of today are rather limited within the skateboard market. Cameras like the Nikon’s D3100/3200/5100/52000 or Canon’s 1100D/600D/650D (most of these are at the budget end of DSLR cameras), have a sync of 1/200, which may not seem like a massive difference between 1/250 but when you’re trying to freeze fast pace, like skateboarding, the faster the shutter the less blur you’ll be getting, especially when using flash during the day, night time is totally different but daytime you’re competing with the sun remember!

So if you’re starting out and want to get a good camera that’s sort of designed for shooting skate photos it’s sometimes better to look second hand. eBay is your best bet, the cameras to look for are models such as Nikon’s D70(s)/D200/D300 (sorry Canon people even your older SLR’s cameras had a lower flash sync). Plus as these cameras are a couple of years old you can get them rather cheap. Unless you want to drop a couple of £££ on getting the newer cameras like Nikon D7000 and Canon 60D……second hand will do for now, well when you see how much other stuff costs you need to save as much as you can.


The on camera style flashes (cobra style) seem to be the most common for the working skateboard photographer. They’re a reasonable size, provide a decent amount of juice, and have short enough flash durations (the length of time the flash burst lasts—it’s usually faster than 1/1,200th of second) to freeze the action. When choosing flashes always find out what the flash duration is, the quicker the duration the better it is at freezing action. The likes of Nikon SB-800’s still have a fast duration at ½ power therefore meaning a lot of light is outputted and very quickly!!

Nikon Flashes seem to be the standard. SB-28s, SB-80s or SB-800s—short durations, small, they have built in slaves, and they come with cute little stands. You can also have a look at the older Nikon flashes SB-24,25,26……don’t worry if you’ve got a Canon camera and repping a different brand flash seeing as you’ll be using them off camera.

Other types of flashes are the handle mounted style. These are a little bit bigger than the likes of SB’s and also pack a bit more of a punch. If the size doesn’t put you off then have a look at Metz 45s or 60s.

Another type of flash system that is used are the bigger and bulkier head and power pack units. These flashes output a lot more juice that your normal SB-800 but size and weight wise are soo much bigger and heavier! Again the key brand in this area is the Lumedyne Action Packs. These come in both a 200 (P2XX) w/s and 400 (P4XX) w/s system. The heads are separate units but I’d recommend getting a 2400 watt bulb to handle the high flash power. The reason why people go for these action packs are again the fast flash duration, however these packs are made for action sports so therefore offer a super crazy duration at the highest power output. Only major downfall is that Lumedyne are very hard to get hold of in the UK especially the Actions Packs, therefore you might have to bite the bullet and search the USA and get hit with import tax!!

When placing the flashes off camera the easiest way to position them is to use light stands (similar to what you’d use to the studio) however as you’ll be travelling around they would need to be light weight, height wise you’d only want something that is around 6ft but also collapses to a portable size.

Radio Slaves

Now you’ve got your flashes, it’s time to find a way to trigger them remotely. Some of the flashes have a built in optical slave (a sensor that fires a flash when triggered by another flash burst). They work rather well in shaded areas but during bright sunny days it can be a bit hit and miss if they fire or not. Therefore the only real way to make sure your flashes will fire off camera is to buy some wireless radio slaves. Before the one main brand was PocketWizard and that was it. This then meant you had to save a vast amount of money to make sure you had enough to fire all your flashes. With radio slaves you need to make sure you have enough units to match your flashes. So if you own 3 flashes you would need to have 4 radio slave units, (1 on your camera to transmit the signal and then 3 separate units connected to each flash to receive that signal.) However a few more brands make reliable (stay away from eBay slaves, trust me!!) radio slaves now, Elinchrom Skyports, CyberSyncs just to name a few.

Whichever brand of radio slaves you go for just make sure you get the same frequency as with the likes of PocketWizard they do two different frequency types. CE which is UK and Europe and also FCC which is for the USA. As they are totally different frequencies they aren’t compatible so be careful and double check what they are when buying on places like eBay.

Just make sure you’ve got a way of connecting the radio slave to the flash, this is normally via sync port (you get some cables with the radio slave units otherwise you can pick up sync cables very easily)


Now you’ve got your camera it’s time to think what you’re going to put on the front…….straight away everyone says fisheye!! Yes fisheye is a key lens within skateboard photography but it’s not the be and end of, to be fair you’re better off getting a good couple of prime lenses and learn about composing photos first before stick any fisheye on the front. The good thing about prime lenses is the very fast aperture to create that separation from the background. The main prime lenses I use are a 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4 I use the 85mm more when shooting skating though as the short telephoto view point just gives the right field of view allowing to compress the background and make the subject stand out more.

So the main lenses when starting in order of need to get first would be – 50mm, 85mm then a fisheye (this is just my view but too many people buy a fisheye lens and it just seems to get welded on the camera. Most fisheye shots look the same and can get quite boring unless you know how to use it right! Stick to long lens and learn to look around and find interesting angles)

And if you’ve finally made it down this part….you’ve either read all the info or in fact skipped to the end hoping it improved a little bit! Hopefully this has helped out a few people who are looking to get into skate photography, once you’ve got the gear (which doesn’t happen overnight, trust me – 3 years plus and I’ve finally got my ideal set up) it’s all about practice and more practice. Getting that timing right is all about knowing how your camera works, so just shoot more and you’ll learn more.

Enjoy and happy shooting! If you have any questions then please feel free to get in touch.