Surf camps are always on the hunt for talented photographers and filmmakers to join them for the season. They'll be looking for great photos and videos for social media and their websites and photo packs to sell to guests.
I was hired in 2014 by Jah Shaka Surf (aka Tiny Whale) as the Surf Camp Photographer. With first-hand experience in this job, I thought I'd share some insight and some pointers on how to get that dream job!
What to Expect
Your job is to capture the atmosphere of the surf camp, getting great shots of guests first waves and taking some amazing surf, landscape and waves photos.
Most likely you’ll be heading to the beach every day (doesn't sound bad does it?) with guests to photograph their surf lessons.
If you are jumping on the surf bus, expect a long day on the beach. Pack plenty of water, snacks, sun cream, your board and wetsuit for lunch time surf sessions.
Having your own car is a massive plus! With a little practice, you’ll be able to time it so you catch the guests just as they are about to head to the water. Less waiting around for people to put on wetsuits/applying zinc and the general faff that can come with your first few surf sessions.
This also means you can get back and edit the photos in time for that evening.
Photos you'll be taking
Get lots of photos of people looking STOKED. Heading to the water/coming out of the water, holding a surfboard, loving their holiday. Portraits are super important as some guests might not get a decent shot of them standing on the board.
One of the most important and valuable shots you’ll get.
Great for the guests, even better for the surf camp who’ll share it on Facebook, they’ll get great reach from the tags and shows potential customers the nice kind of people who go on a surf camp holiday!
Get it before they get in the water, more flattering for the guests with dry hair and less sun and surf-beaten! Also, means you can head back to the camp before the lesson ends.
The best time is normally just after their beach theory lesson, ask for a little help from the Surf Instructors to arrange the shot.
Get creative! There’s the classic, stand in front of your foamy board (see above), the jumping shot, lifting someone up on a surfboard…The Instructors will have some great ideas.
The Surf Shots
You may be dreaming of photographing amazing surfers getting barrelled, it’s more likely you’ll be photographing beginners, which is an art in itself!
The best shots tend to be done from the beach, you’ll need a telephoto lens, some patience and a wide vision! Everyone wants a shot of them surfing, so try to make it happen :)
In Water Shots
If you have a fancy underwater case, then go for it! It’s a bit harder guarantee a great shot of everyone. I personally found Go Pro footage/photos to be pretty uninspiring.
Adobe Lightroom is your friend. You can bulk edit photos and export with a watermark.
Have your own style! Try not to over edit with filters, Surf Camps will want shots for their websites, so keep it neutral.
Your wages may be dependant on sales of photo packs. This will put the pressure on to get great shots of every guest, but you’ll need to learn some selling skills. This might be super awkward, but after a week it will be second nature.
Make yourself known as the photographer. When you are at the camp, be friendly and introduce yourself to all the guests. Chat to them on the beach, ask them about their surf day, hint that you got some great shots of them ;)
If you can, display your photos on the camp TV on a loop at dinner. People will get a chance to see what you got!
Surf Photographer is normally one of the most sort after jobs at a surf camp, you'll get to hang out on the beach every day, have flexible working hours and plenty of time to surf.
Some camps may only offer accommodation and food for this position. If this is the case, it’s a great way to build up your portfolio. You could also suggest a photo pack to sell, in order to generate some income.
Commissions will most likely be your income, learn to sell and get some great shots and you could be earning a comfortable wage by the end of summer.
As with most surf camp jobs, you might be hosting, helping around the camp and driving too :)
You will need your own camera + laptop with editing software. You’ll need a telephoto lens, 200m minimum. Try to pick one up second hand in the UK before you head off.
Tripod for video stuff!
If you have a drone, you’ll be top of the applications.
How to get the job
Most jobs aren’t really advertised. The best way to get the job is to put together a portfolio and send it out to surf camps before the season starts (March/April for Europe). Don’t blanket email everyone, write a personal email for every camp!
If you haven’t had a chance to get surf shots; include portraits, landscapes, videos you’ve edited, any design work you've done is a bonus too!
Taking it further
Whilst for some, the Surf Photographer job will last just the one season but a few super talented photographers will shape it into a career.
I moved on to become the Marketing Manager at the camp, but I do miss the days on the beach capturing peoples first waves.
*This blog is based on personal experience, some comments may not be true to all surf camps/ positions!