Get the Inside Scoop on What it Takes to be a Professional GoPro Photographer
Written By: Erica Johnson
Photographed By: Giuseppe DeMasi
The Expert: Robbie Crawford
Credentials: GoPro Action Cam Specialist
Q: What inspired you to get into GoPro action photography?
Robbie Crawford: My friend Russell Hoover (who used to shoot me when I was on the other side of the lens) talked me into buying a GoPro HD1. I started stand up surfing at The Wedge and he suggested that I should put one on the front of my surfboard and film myself getting barreled. After shooting a couple of clips, I realized my style was horrible so I threw it on a stick and started shooting my friends instead. That was really cool because my whole life, I grew up with all these weird photographers who didn’t even ride waves coming to The Wedge and taking pictures of me and my friends and they’d never let us see any of the pictures. So I was like, ‘Perfect! I’ll shoot the photos and hook my friends up.’
Q: What was your first experience with a GoPro?
RC: Shooting POV on my surfboard of me pulling in at The Wedge. The footage wasn’t great but I just remember tripping that a camera that cost so little could shoot such good quality. Back in the day, you either used one of those disposable cameras or you spent thousands on an SLR camera and housing setup. It was really cool that something that was so out of reach financially was now more available to enjoy because it was affordable.
Q: What weather or ocean conditions make for the best photos?
RC: Surface conditions and light are probably the most important. With good light and glassy surface conditions, even a one-foot wave can be beautiful. Then it kind of depends on whether you’re shooting empty waves or an actual surfer. When shooting empty waves, a lot of times a smaller wave can actually tend to create a better image, as there tends to be less imperfections. When it comes to shooting a surfer, you want the wave to at least be big enough that the surfer can comfortably stand in the barrel and still have room. There are other variables that are kind of the icing on the cake—backwash causing the waves to do strange and interesting things or high clouds; especially during sunrise or sunset when they’re illuminated with colors.
Q: How has being a professional bodyboarder given you an advantage in terms of photography?
RC: The funny thing is that a lot of the best surf photographers in the world were bodyboarders. I think because bodyboards are best suited for heavier waves that barrel and you wear fins. So just take away the bodyboard and add a camera and you’ve got someone who’s comfortable being in the barrel with fins on. All you have to do then is point the camera and push the button.
Q: You’ve traveled to some amazing places. Where is your favorite place to travel to and where would you like to go next?
RC: Probably the Cook Islands were my favorite. Every which way you look, you’re basically staring in a postcard. Beautiful mountains, palm trees on the beach that hang out over the ocean, perfect waves; just an amazing piece of paradise. As far as where I’d like to go next. I’d love to go back to Japan. I went there several times as a professional wave rider, but didn’t shoot many pictures. There were so many beautiful places I surfed there where I was just staring at my surroundings thinking, ‘This would be an amazing picture.’ I would love to go back there to capture and share what I remember seeing with my eyes.
Q: What tips do you have for aspiring action cam photographers?
RC: Most importantly, have fun! Find some friends and take turns shooting each other or collaborate on creative concepts—that’s what will keep you stoked. Don’t worry too much about getting a bunch of followers or making money off your images; if you create great content then this will come naturally. Even if that never happens, as long as you’re having fun with your friends and enjoy creating, then you’re already winning. The people I’ve known that get wrapped up too much in followers or money tend to end up bitter and lose the love—and you never want to lose the love.
Q: You’ve photographed some amazing people. Who would you love to photograph next?
RC: Most of the people I’ve photographed are my friends. I honestly don’t care how talented someone is, if they’re not cool to hang out with, I have no interest shooting with them. So who I’d like to shoot next is anyone who’s cool to hang out with and has love for what they do. I’d also like to shoot more female action sports. The girls kill it and I got mad love and respect for what they do. I’ve always wanted to get the first shot of a girl surfer pulling in at The Wedge.
Newport Beach, CA 92661
Additional Camera Accessories Provided By:
AquaTech Imaging Solutions
You’ve Seen His Work, But You Won’t Believe How Robbie Crawford Got Started