Winter Cool Photos

Posted Wednesday, 8 December 2010 by Ellen Boughn in Ellen Boughn, Photography
There are four major types of skiing and snowboarding shots you'll want to add to your portfolio of microstock photos.
Here are the major themes to consider:
  • Dramatic shots of experienced snowboarders and skiers in action.
  • Vacation/travel type images of models at the bottom of the slopes, packing and unpacking the car and playing around in the snow with the runs in the background.
  • Humorous conceptual images
  • Studio shots where models can be placed in front of backgrounds or isolated against white.


According to the U.S. based National Ski & Snowboard Retailers Association 63% of alpine skiers are male (mean age 33.6); 37% female (mean age 35.7). 70% of snowboarders are male and their mean age is 23.4; the 30% female snowboarders have a mean age of 25.6. Only .3% are over 65 or under seven years old. The big numbers are in the 13 to 17 age group (30.7%) and in the 18 to 24 age group (46.7%.) Use this information to help you select appropriate models:

The Experts. Choose the most talented athletes you can find. You don't want to spend your resources taking photos of an average skier attempting to look like a serious one. Customers who want to download action images want to see highly skilled moves in photos and they quickly see if the moves are amateurish.

Snowboarders should be in the age range of low teens to late 20's. Alpine and cross-country skiing have become more of a family sport and so you can consider ages from five on up to upper middle age and include families.

This dramatic shot is composed to allow the user to crop out the identifiable lodge in the lower portion of the photo. Always a good idea to eliminate recognizable resort landmarks to give maximum opportunities for downloads.

Ski Jump back flip

© thethreshold/Crestock

If you are making a long trip to a ski area, get your models lined up in advance by advertising in that area or make a reconnaissance trip to interview skiers. You can sometimes rely on local specialty shops to recommend great snowboarders/skiers that might want to be in pictures.

Couple on ski vacation

© iofoto/Crestock

Everyone else. There is a certain elitism in both skiing and snowboarding. It starts with the experts who earn bragging rights by being the best at the sport. Since both sports are challenging for the beginner and filled with devoted followers, they are ripe for humorous/concept shots.

Mother and daughter touching noses

© intst/Crestock

Winter sports adverts and marketing for travel are often geared to families.

I once produced the shot list for a skiing production and asked the photographer to find a patch of snow surrounded by bare ground, if possible. Then he was to put a skier in full gear as if going down the mountain on the tiny patch of snow. It was a super shot. I can imagine a very funny shot of a laughing person covered in snow on the ground with equipment sticking out of the snow at all angles.

Snowboarder portrait

© dotshock/Crestock

Remember: get model releases! Don't expect professionals to sign. They get big bucks for the use of photos of them in endorsement advertising.


An advantage to using experts is that not only will they perform well on the slopes, they are more apt to bring the latest clothes and equipment along for the day. Snowboarding is a cool sport. You don't want uncool props/wardrobe. You can study every issue of every snowboarding magazine published and sit for hours in front of your computer doing the same for the online snowboarding sites but unless you are part of the culture, don't try to fake it. You will fall flat in more ways than one.

Couple on vacation

© iofoto/Crestock

Don't limit your photos to what's happening on the slopes. Getting there is half the fun.

The wardrobe should be ski shop cool or alternatively snowboard hip for the experts. The clothes for a family shoot should follow some rules such as helmets, no wild plaids or strange hats but don't need to be as hip as the snowboard riders. You can rent equipment for the less serious skiers and snowboarders and have them bring their own clothes but be cautious of logos and copyrighted art on skis and boards. Be safe and take out all the art and logos using Photoshop.

Family skiing Girl ski smile

© pressmaster/Crestock

© Elenathewise/Crestock

Some resorts are considering mandatory helmets for children under 18.

Take a good look at the overall palette when choosing clothes including the background. White isn't a good choice for clothing when shooting a sport that happens against white!

It's important to avoid showing a specific lodge or identifiable resort in the background. Have your models talking to each other, messing around, adjusting equipment or in general having fun. Fun is the operative word for these shots no matter what visual problems they will solve for microstock users.

Cross-Country Skiers Lucky couple snowboarders in a mountain valley

© Wade/Crestock

© Julijah/Crestock

Cross-country skiing is less popular than alpine skiing but can be much easier to shoot. Couples are successful as a modeling team because many winter sports promos are geared to the young.

For studio shots, ensure that the models are dressed for the slope. It's easy to forget gloves and goggles when you are inside. (I know that sounds like a 'duh' statement but sometimes it's the little details that can radically mess up a shoot.) I'd put helmets on everyone. Each year the number of people of all ages that are donning helmets is increasing. News about well-known athletes that have suffered serious head injuries especially while snowboarding has upped the concern.

Ready for the slopes Girl with snowboard

© lovleah/Crestock

© Julijah/Crestock


Shooting talented athletes in any sport requires that you, too, are skilled. It's not enough to aim your camera uphill from below or to grab shots from the lift. You need to get on the expert slopes too. It's easier with the snowboarders especially if you have access to a terrain park but if you aren't a skier, you'll be better off shooting a sport that you are familiar with. The best sports photographers know when to anticipate an action so that they are ready when it happens. Knowing the sport, gives you a leg up when it comes to figuring out what is going to happen next.

Don't expect lots of downloads from long shots that show skiers as tiny dots surrounded by huge spaces of white. Use as long a lens as you have and zoom zoom zoom!

Snowboarder portrait

© dotshock/Crestock

For background research visit a pro shop to get ideas for wardrobe and to see the latest equipment. Go to the websites of the major manufacturers to see great photography and to get styling ideas. Check out and Top Ten Snowboarding sites here

Information central for all things ski:

Après ski? Pick a rustic bar or shoot close-up and any drink will do as long as the models still have on their gloves. Skol!

Ellen Boughn

Ellen has over thirty years of experience in the stock business gained at such organizations as Dreamstime, UpperCut Images, Workbookstock, Corbis, Getty (Stone), The Image Bank (Artville) and the creative agency, After-Image, she started in Los Angeles at the beginning of her career. Having been directly involved in the creation of four major stock photography collections, Ellen offers her decades of experience to assist photographers seeking success in stock photography.

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Ellen Boughn's best-selling book, Microstock Money Shots, is filled with insights, tips and advice on how to create commercial images and improve your work flow to profit from photography whether you're a hobbyist or a professional photographer.
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By Adrian on Thursday, 9 December 2010 10:33 AM
Now I wanna go boarding........
To Adrian...
By photomavin on Thursday, 9 December 2010 5:35 PM
Get that board & camera together and get going!-Ellen
Great ideas!
By Thom Gourley on Monday, 13 December 2010 10:57 PM
Thanks again, Ellen, for great inspirational ideas. I'm a half hour from the slopes and anxious to try some of these out.

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