How To Make Good Ski Photographs

by William Lulow

With the ski season coming up, here are a couple of tips for getting good ski shots.  As I usually take a camera with me whenever I go just about anywhere, and since skiing has been a passion for the last 40 years or so, I love to make skiing images. The best advice I can give for those interested in making good ski shots is to separate the skiing from the photography. If you are going skiing to challenge yourself with a more difficult run, that is not the time to think about taking pictures. That’s the time to concentrate on your skiing technique. So, I make a few runs in the morning and try to scope out spots from which I may want to take pictures later. I look for scenic vistas, close up shots of snow on trees, good vantage points to catch people skiing and of course, the lighting.

Then, I’ll go back to those places and spend some time just taking pictures. Sometimes this means having to sideslip down a slope to get to a particular spot. Sometimes it may mean actually taking the skis off and walking to a spot.

I keep the camera locked up inside the warm base lodge and just take it out when I’m going to take pictures. Sometimes a good point-and-shoot camera is handy, but I’ve found that if I concentrate on taking pictures, I’ll need some filters, maybe even a tripod to get the shots I want. I can remember actually snow-shoeing up a slope on Berthoud Pass, in Rocky Mountain National Park with my camera gear in a backpack and a tripod strapped to the outside. Those are shots you can’t always get with even a good point-and-shoot camera.

Other things you need to think about:

  • Light is super-reflective off snow.  Always use a good lens shade or have someone help you shade your  lens when you’re shooting into the sun. Or, make sure you stand in a shady spot.
  •  Use a neutral density filter to cut down on exposures.
  • Keep your ISO settings low (100). This gives you enough latitude to explore various other aperture and shutter speed settings.
  • Try to shoot on MANUAL because it gives you better control of exposures.
  • Use the camera’s built-in meter and try to UNDEREXPOSE by two-thirds of a stop or so to improve color saturation.
  • If you’re trying to shoot one person, set your meter for CENTER SPOT.
  • If you’re just capturing an overall scene, set it more MULTIPLE SPOT measurement.
  • Don’t forget to document the town as well as the slopes. Evening is a great time for making these kinds of images.


In order to capture action, especially if someone is skiing right past you, try to pan the camera in the direction of the action and be sure to “follow through” – releasing the shutter in the middle of the panning action. This technique will yield sharper images. You should have your camera set at a fast shutter speed, say 1/200th of a second or faster.

Here is an example:

I set up the camera and my daughter snapped this image of me a couple of years ago.

Here is a stand of pines in Steamboat, Colorado

Telluride, CO, from the slopes

So, if you want to make good skiing images, concentrate on taking pictures not on skiing. Leave the actual skiing for when you’re not carrying a camera.


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