Editors Note: If you go to the mountains, did it really happen if you don’t post it on Instagram? Our expert Matt McDonald shares his tips to capture that amazing photo which will rack up the likes! Check out his Instagram page
A couple universal tips apply to making your Instagram photos of skiing better. You want subjects to wear bright colors. You want good lighting and good snow. You want to shoot photos that will adapt well to the app’s square frame. Burst-shooting is your friend.
But subtleties and nuances exist based on who you are and who you’re shooting on the mountain that will take your social media image game to the next level—or at least help you come away from that pricey ski-cation with your memories immortalized.
If you’re new to this wide world of skiing, first, welcome! Second, you have just as much right as lifelong skiers to commemorate your early days with a few rock-solid photos. Once you’ve got your ski legs under you long enough to stay on your feet for an action shot, find an open run with a friendly pitch and a bunch of trees or distant peaks in the background. Play up the setting.
The skier should have a clear, well-lit path. This will help both the skiing and the photo. The photographer should shoot from an angle that maximizes the scenery and also keeps the skier center-frame. Snap a couple test shots to make sure you’ve got the backdrop you want. Tap your screen on the skier to ensure best-quality focus, and start clicking as soon as they start skiing toward you. Don’t feel obsessive if you end up with 30 photos on the first go—LeBron doesn’t stop shooting, so neither should you.
When you’re teaching kids how to ski, you can never be sure when the golden moments will happen. Maybe they just got twisted up like a pretzel and laughed about it. Maybe their first few actual turns elicited the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. Or maybe the only fun they had all day was when they noticed the snot rocket frozen to your nose.
The unpredictability of kiddos means a couple things for your photo-taking efforts. One, stash the phone in a chest pocket where it’s quickly accessible. Take it out when you’re on the chair for lift selfies and a couple aerial candids. Two, you should take a lot of photos from a lot of vantage points. Skiing kids look pretty similar to other skiing kids, so the more whacky selfies, up-close facial expressions, slow-speed pizzas, and deer-in-headlight poses you shoot, the higher your chances of Christmas-card—and social media—worthy material.
For Powder Lovers
In a digital landscape saturated with them, how do you get your own primo pow shot? First, don’t settle for half-decent features or tracked trails. Put in a little time to find a location that is pure, fresh goods.
When you set up the shot, make sure you anticipate where the snow will go when your buddy skis by. If you’re shooting from the side and they turn away from you, your best bet will be to capture the powder-cloud rooster-tail. To do that, you need to make sure you have enough space in the frame behind the skier. If your model is skiing at you, timing is everything. Powder will spray when they sink into the bottom of each turn or when they hit an upward bump. To maximize spray, be sure to click the shutter button at these moments.
As the photographer, it’s your prerogative to tell your model what to do. Take a moment to line up your vision, and communicate as clearly as you can. Tell him or her to slightly exaggerate their arm motions, skiing with their arms either slightly out to the sides (the relaxed freeride position) or opposite—the downhill arm leading the way in front of their body and the trail arm behind, pole pointed loosely uphill.
Find a tree branch, a rock, or a willing stranger to snap your group shot. Make sure any of the above shoot holding the phone horizontally. If you’re using a timer, you can flip the camera angle to selfie-mode to make things easier to set up. However, if you can finagle facing the screen away from the group to use the rear-facing camera (the non-selfie one), your photo quality may be better—especially if you have an older phone.
As for the party-ski shot: Everyone shoots these from the bottom of a run. Shoot yours aerial-style from the top, especially if the light’s behind you.
For All-Mountain Rippers
Wherever you are on the mountain, you can capture a ski shot you’ll be proud of. The three keys, which are often missing from Instagram ski shots, are body positioning, interesting angles, and timing.
Whether your buddy lays down the deepest trenches on the mountain or charges steep, narrow chutes, position yourself low to the ground or slightly behind a tree or 45-degrees to the side. Be sure to click the shutter button when the skier hits the apex—the bottom—of his or her turn. This is the moment when most skiers look the most photogenic.
Are your ski partners into catching air? Have them jump over you, and get a shot of their skis just above the horizon.
For the Aprés Scene
First, shoot some photos no more than a couple beers in. Drunk post-ski shots sound appealing at the time. Then you consider posting one to Instagram the next day and immediately regret—everything.
Aprés settings are often dimly lit. If you’re inside, find a light—phone flashes usually suck. Or head outside and use the gray, white, or blue sky as your backdrop. Raise your pints high, and don’t let potential employee see.
When You Post…
Instagram’s bevy of filters be damned. As a pro, you don’t need them. They please only your older relatives—the ones who are still befuddled by hashtags. Most great photos don’t look over-doctored.
Multiple reports on social media trends suggest that photos with higher brightness, contrast, and saturation receive more likes than more dull or muted shots. Don’t go overboard, but your work on the hill will benefit from a few light-related bumps in Instagram’s manual adjustments.
If you really want to make your photos look good, consider using a photo editing app other than Instagram. VSCO is my personal favorite, allowing you to be much more precise with your adjustments than Instagram.
There! You’re an expert. Crack an IPA and hashtag your night away.