Good climbing photos take a lot of work to capture. If you decided to whip out your phone or camera to take a few shots of your friend you brought climbing for the first time, chances are it’s a “bum shot” from below while they are halfway up the ground on the top rope or the bouldering wall. It’s a classic climbing shot that probably got sent in the group chat afterward. And let’s be honest; it’s not that great of a photo. So what do professional photographers do to get sick climbing photos? Here are a few tips and tricks to level up your climbing photography.
Action shots are the best shots
When climbing, you are constantly moving through a pattern of static and dynamic positions. Regarding climbing photography, the best shots will be the dynamic shots, as your climber moves from one hold to the next. This way, you can capture the unique positions of the climber in the middle of a dynamic move, such as a dyno or challenging deadpoint. You can capture static positions of a climber all day since they will spend more time on the wall in a static position than a dynamic position (except speed climbers). But a climber hanging onto a hold, eyeing up the next one, or a climber resting on a jug usually doesn’t capture the intensity of climbing.
Capturing action shots in climbing is challenging because the dynamic movements are over quickly. As a climbing photographer, you must always be ready to shoot! When shooting action shots, it’s essential to take multiple photos of the entire dynamic movement (including the wind-up) in a row. If you only take one, the chances of the photo turning out how you want it are low. If you take multiple, you have a handful of photos to pick and choose the best.
Capture the climber’s face
Another tip for climbing photography is to capture the climber’s face. A photo becomes more personal if you clearly see the subject’s face. Climbers have their personality and intensity written all over their faces in the moment of a complicated move, and capturing how they feel, whether it’s a gritty, try-hard expression, or a slight smile of sticking a move, is priceless.
It can be tricky to capture the climber’s face since they will look in all directions while climbing, spotting hand and foot holds. As a photographer, it can be beneficial to read the beta of the climb before setting up in a random spot. Be intentional with the perch you choose, and be dynamic too. Move around the climb (if you can) to capture the best shots throughout the whole climb.
Don’t stop shooting once the climbing is over
Last, don’t stop shooting once the climbing is over. If your climber tops the climb, you will want to capture that person’s celebration and excitement after they top out or clip the anchors. After completing a climb, the celebration makes for some of the best climbing shots. Even if your climber falls before the top, capture their expressions of frustration, disappointment, or exhaustion to capture the entire journey. Climbing is mostly falling, so witnessing the hard parts and the negative emotions that come with it is important for the climber and the climbing community to understand.