Basics. The art of photography has constantly been about basics with only your subject, composition, and lighting is where the fabrication of creativity sets the mood. It has seldom been about the start of the art equipment that set apart the beginner, novice, or seasoned professional shooter. All in all, a camera is just a tool for creative expression in which surf photography is another creative niche amidst the rest.
In the creative world of surf photography, the rules don’t wander very far away from the general basics in which keeping a solid ground will withstand throughout time and technology. Surf photography, just like surfing, is a ponderous love affair that time doesn’t go unnoticed.
Frames per second
Like many other sports photography where action is key to capturing a sports peak and monumental moments, a camera with the ability to shoot fast action is necessary for surf photography. A camera with the capability to shoot a minimum of 6 frames per second would result in enough frames to capture pivotal action scenes and the more frames per second would result in numerous options of key moments. Considering cameras that were manufactured in recent years from major brands such as Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, Sony, Pentax, and Olympus have all bells and whistles to make awesome surf photographs. With mirrorless cameras on the forefront of camera technology such as Sony, Fujifilm, and the more recent Canon and Nikon brands, the options to turn up the frames per second to machine gun status and the ability to shoot up to 30 frames a second is very capable. Thus the “spray and pray” shooting method (holding the shutter button from start to finish of a wave) is very attainable but have fun in post processing looking for those key moments and staying up later after a long day of shooting is inevitable.
Why are professional cameras bigger and more expensive? Do they create better photos? The answer is subjective due to the type of work you would like to create. Professional surfing shooters demand higher resolution cameras for print work or detailed commercial shoots, so resolution is sometimes needed. If you look to produce images for the web or social media, the latest and greatest camera with high resolution will not make images look better or make you a better photographer.
This is where I believe what separates an entry-level camera to the professional work horse. With technology changing so rapidly and brands like Sony producing multiple cameras a year, sometimes the beginner consumer is spear-heading the latest product only to use the very basics of the camera. A professional shooter tends to be more technical with camera approach with colors, in-body stabilization, multiple custom controls, high-ISO, auto focus menus, and wifi capabilities just to name a few of multiple options which also varies from company to company.
What not to buy
Splurging on the latest greatest gear after scouring multiple reviews looking where to invest your hard earned money on a system that’ll be vastly improved in the next couple of years anyway, WILL NOT MAKE YOU A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER! Sure you might have highest resolution camera in the line up with the most up to date eye detection AF but if the basics of photography is still very confusing to you, go for the the little older where you can hone the basics and learn your form of composition. Don't waste your time
For example and out of context: if you need a 4x4 vehicle to take you across the mountainous terrain to get to work with options such as the solid braking system, high road clearance, and solid suspension, it wouldn't be ideal to invest in a high end sports car just because it is the hottest thing to date or goes 0-60mph in 5 secs. It'll be inconclusive for what your needs are and cameras are just the same. The ancient (in today's terms) Canon 40D is still more than enough camera to produce great surf photography, for the web, social media, and even in print, with a price tag of around $300 used.Yeah sure it might have only 9- focus points with no wifi capabilities, but the AF system works fast enough for surf photography and with around 6.5 frames per second, it'll be just right for a beginner surf photog to dive right in. If you need to spend more than $3k on camera gear, spend some coin on nice glass which will last longer than the state of the art body.
Now that you have found a good camera body that fits your needs the next step is to find the right lens or set of lens for your creativity.
All photos shot with Fujifilm XT3 w/ Fujinon XF 90mm f2 R LM WR