Don't lie, no matter who you are, getting a surf shot of yourself is cool. And since we all can't be tailed by professional surf photographers everywhere we go, most of us have to rely on the next best thing: surf BROtographers! Taking turns getting surf shots of you and your bros is fun and can make even the most mundane sessions memorable.
A professional water housing and camera setup can run you upwards of $5,000, and the learning curve is steep. The best thing to do to learn the nuances of shooting surf photos in the water is to take baby steps. Here are three setups that are accessible to anyone, and given practice, you can even produce some pretty cool images of you and your friends ripping.
For this test, we enlisted the help of four pros for a little session at your average, everyday, beachbreak—Sean Marceron, Ricky Whitlock, Gabe Garcia, and Darrell Goodrum were our test bros, and they ripped.
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Fuji Film Waterproof Quicksnap Disposable
Available at Rite Aid, Target, etc.
These are the first water cameras most of us used when we made our first attempts at taking surf shots of our friends. Not much has changed with these cameras over the past decade other than the fact that you can get them in the digital variety for roughly the same price. We tried an old-school point-and-shoot film camera with no frills, just a button to shoot the photo and a knob to wind to advance the film. The shots taken on this thing are literally hit-or-miss, as you need to be about five feet from the surfer to get anything usable. Overall quality isn't that bad, but you won't be getting a cover of TransWorld SURF any time soon using this camera. All in all, these cameras are fun, and the fact that they're pretty much indestructible is a good thing.
• If you lose it, no worries, it was only sixteen bucks
• Really lightweight, you can easily paddle with it in your teeth
• Small enough to fit in the pocket of your trunks
• Easy to operate
• Hard to aim at your target
• Getting film developed is so 90s
• You have to scan the photos to put them up on your Facebook page
• You look like a tourist
• You get a lot of water spots
• Probably not so good for the environment
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GoPro HD Surf Hero
Available at surf shops and goprocamera.com
The most popular new form of "shoot yourself" photo equipment is the Go Pro cameras. With so many ways to shoot yourself and your bros, you really can't go wrong with one of these little beauties. It's kind of cheating though, 'cause we used the video setting and basically just took the best frame grabs for our photo picks. You can mount GoPros to your board (most people do), but for the sake of this test, we went handheld. When surfing on a wave in video mode, you get some serious shaky activity, but sometimes that works in your favor and you produce some cool images. GoPros are best (and meant for) shooting video, but while in the act, you can no doubt get yourself a badass surf shot. If you're looking for a perfect entry-level water camera that is reasonably priced, go with the GoPro.
• Small and lightweight
• Built specifically for shooting surfing
• Easily mountable on your board, your helmet, your wrist, etc.
• Inexpensive enough that if you lose it, you won't cry for long
• Shoots HD video and photos at the same time
• Battery lasts a long time
• Easy to use, not many buttons to fiddle with
• Pretty shaky when handheld
• Water sometimes builds up on the lens
• Everybody's already got one, you're late to game if you don't
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Canon G9 with a Canon WP-DC21 Water Housing
G9: $200 to $350
Available used on Craigslist and Amazon.com
WP-DC21 Water Housing: $170 on Amazon.com
This setup is the most expensive of the three and scored pretty well for shooting surf action. We used the Canon G9 because it's cheaper than the newer G10 model, and you can find them used all over the Internet. The housing is sturdy, but a little too big to shoot yourself in a tube, unless you could rig some kind of pole to hold it with. This camera and housing will give you a more professional feel than the other two, but there's a slight lag time when you pull the trigger. You can try to push the button when the surfer is approaching the lip and get lucky, but it's tricky to figure out the timing. If you were sitting in the channel in Indo or a really good wave, you could for sure get some sick shots. The zoom is handy and it's cool to be able to see the screen on the back of the camera to know what adjustments you need to make to get the shot you want. This is more of a diving camera setup, but pretty functional as an entry-level surf shooter, and if you got the right shot, you could actually blow it up pretty big and print it for your bedroom wall.
• Images are higher quality than the other two cameras
• Feels solid and gives the impression that you know what you're doing
• The zoom is very handy while out in the surf zone
• Pricier than the previous two, but still under 500 bucks
• Lens port allows for ample zoomage
• Lens stayed relatively water-free
• Hard to see image on LCD screen while in the water
• Too many buttons, too complicated
• Viewfinder is blocked by port
• Sketchy to put any camera over 100 bucks in an inexpensive housing
• Need to fabricate your own strap