As a retired freelance photographer, I wanted to try and identify some of the best advice I can provide so that you’re able to film yourself skateboarding. I have therefore wrote the following article based on experience, and the tips that I have used. To just quickly elaborate, I used to work as a freelance photographer for a few media companies in the Canadian Rockies, specifically Jasper National Park, but now that I’m back in the UK, I wanted to transition that skill set into getting some of the best skateboarding photographs of myself when skateboarding alone. Here’s my break down.
What do you want from filming yourself skateboarding?
This has to be one of the most important aspects of doing this, because you may only get that trick you love on camera once in that amazing spot with the perfect lighting. Therefore by knowing what you want when filming your skateboarding, you will be able to best equip yourself to reach your target.
I tend to break this down into three categories for filming my self skateboarding;
- I’m looking for that perfect skateboard “photograph” to print. It might be for a frame on the wall in my house, or it might be for the desktop of my computer. Either way it’s a photograph.
- I’m trying to film the next part in my amazing skateboard video that is all about me and my local park, so I can be the next greatest skateboarder with evidence. (Joking aside you want it on film).
- Special note: Recording for a skateboard video and recording to analyse a skateboard trick for improvements will warrant two different things from you and your camera set up. I’ll detail these later.
- I want to blow up on social media because I have invented a new trick, or somehow pulled together an amazing run on my skateboard. Again joking aside, this is actually something I find a lot of people doing, and I spend a lot of time watching people’s social media of their skateboard runs. It’s addictive, and I can’t blame you for wanting to join in.
Once you’ve decided which of these you want, it helps to identify the equipment you may need. Sometimes you may even want more than one. Photographs, I’d recommend high quality cameras for, because printing often requires this if you want a large canvas etc. Filming, you want a good quality image, so recording in 1080p would be ideal at minimum. Finally for social media, well you can tackle that with anything that records and isn’t blurry because most viewers will be using a small screen to watch.
You will now need a way to mount a camera, so it can be stood up and ready to record, so lets explore the camera mounts that are really useful, and some DIY approaches.
Film yourself skateboarding with a tripod
Using a traditional camera or camcorder and you’ll be wanting to get your hands on a tripod. This will give you a few benefits, which include getting the correct height and position for your camera to record you skateboarding. With a good tripod, you’ll also be able to hang a weight on the bottom to increase it’s stability (perhaps it’s windy and you need to stop the camera from falling).
If you’re using a traditional DSLR camera or a camcorder, you could add a twist to your skateboarding and leave it running for a while. From this footage you could make a time-lapse video. It is also possible to get a shutter release timer ($20 USD) to take photographs every x amount of seconds, which could be compiled into a nice time-lapse video. Experiment a little, maybe this could make a good intro or ending to your “please sponsor me’ skateboarding video.
Film yourself skateboarding with a gorilla pod
Using a mobile phone/cell phone to record yourself skateboarding, then try and get a hold of a gorilla pod, it’s a flexible small tripod where you can bend the legs and hold your camera/phone. I think they can also mount go pros as well. I picked one up from ebay for less than $10 and it just simply sits in my backpack always.
Example Gorilla Pods on Ebay: Link
Film yourself skateboarding some kind of stand
Ultimately you need something to hold your camera up, whether it’s a DSLR or a cell phone that you’re recording yourself skateboarding with. The last thing you want is for it to fall down as it’s recording and you don’t manage to film what you want. Some DIY alternatives to the gorilla pod and tripod, include standing the camera against a can, a wall, a book etc, just make sure that you’re not blocking the camera lens’, or you will only film a darkness.
It should however go without saying, that a tripod is going to provide you with a much better level of stability. Therefore only use other things as a last resort. The slightest breeze, or nudge with anything and your camera will move, which could mean you actually fail to film yourself skateboarding.
Film yourself skateboarding with a selfie stick
There are other ways to film yourself skateboarding, and they add a different dynamic to what you’re doing but both come with challenges. The first is to use a selfie stick, but this means you need to hold something relatively stable with your hand and skateboard at the same time. I haven’t tried this approach, because I think it would result in more failures to land the tricks I’m doing. Never the less, give it a go because it might be great for cruising around on a long board with. Usually selfie sticks can hold a cell phone or a go pro, so I’d advise for the go pro because cell phones are notorious for breaking when dropped.
Film yourself skateboarding with a body cam
The final approach I can think of for filming yourself skateboarding is to wear a body camera or helmet camera, but this will be more like recording what’s happening around you and not really getting that kickflip on camera in the way you’d normally want to. I have also seen people mount go pro’s to the underside of their skateboard, but again this is just a novelty for getting some footage. It will not show of your crazy mad skateboarding skills.
Worst case, if you can’t find a good way to hold the camera, then get your mum or dad, and pretend you’re a baby until they agree to help. End of they day you want stuff on camera, so there will be a way.
Advisories for filming yourself skateboarding
I wanted to point out a couple of things which can get lost in the entertainment of getting some sick skateboard footage, but will make your life so much better and maximise your chances of getting that footage.
Security while filming skateboarding
A couple of things fall under security. The first being, if you’re in a location you shouldn’t be in, then you’re obviously filming the evidence of you trespassing. I’d advise against filming in this case for legal reasons. The next thing, is when you film yourself skateboarding you need to restrain yourself, because you absolutely do want to get something on camera, but pushing yourself when no one is there to help if you get hurt, is bad. Keep the really good stuff for when you have a skateboarding partner with you. The final security note, is that you may be on your own skateboarding and trying to film yourself, but that doesn’t mean the park or street is empty. Always keep a close watch on your equipment. Landing that first tre out of a thousand attempts is great on film, but if you don’t have the film to take home because it was stolen, then it wasn’t worth filming it.
Get plenty of storage for filming your skateboarding
There’s nothing worse than trying to get something on camera, when at the third attempt you’ve ran out of storage. Plan to set up the camera and let it run for 10 minutes while you skate around. This way you can try the trick or obstacle many times and then come back to the camera. Make sure you have enough storage for you to do this multiple times, and you’ll be fine. Afterwards on either a PC or a cellphone you can edit the footage and keep only the bits you want. You may need some extra storage for your cellphone or camera, so look at buying big enough SD card or MicroSD card etc.
Filters while filming yourself skateboarding
I know it’s cool, to make yourself look like a skeleton skateboarding, but don’t do this with the original footage. Just don’t apply any filters and record as normal. If you really want filters, copy the film and then apply them because you wont afterwards have to reshoot the film. You can then apply as many filters as you want as well.
Let the camera keep recording when filming your skateboarding
I mentioned a bit earlier, that it’s best to keep the camera rolling. There’s a few reasons why, so here they are.
1. You can get into the feel of things. Instead of start filming, try trick once, stop filming, you can set the camera to film, then try for the next 10 minutes. This enables you to get your feet correct, get a comfortable speed, and generally get into the mood. You’ll maximise your chances of succeeding with the trick by doing this.
2. The time it takes for you to get from the camera to your skateboard and back to the camera is wasted footage, wasted space. Don’t waste your time, just get on with it and show the world your skills.
3. If you’re wanting to get a very specific image/photograph, obviously play with different angles and positions (see later in this article), but try the trick multiple times. You know just the same as every skateboarder, it’s rare to do the same thing twice in an identical way. Film in 1080p or higher, and then you can go through the video frame by frame, and extract the perfect photograph. I do this, I never simply photograph on a timer, if I’m on my own. It’s always film/recording on the highest quality I can get and then extracted frames.
Film yourself in slow motion skateboarding
Why would you do this? Well, I do this to try and analyse where I’m going wrong with learning new tricks. I can’t help it, sometimes it takes me a while to get a trick and damn it drives me insane, so I get the camera out and record. This has worked to my advantage a few times with foot positions, shifting weight etc.
If you want to record in slow motion, you have two options. The first is record like normal and then run the recording through a video editor and slow down the video. However to prevent this from looking jittery you need a very high frame rate on the recording.
The alternative is to use dedicated camera functions, for example in my Google Pixel 6, I have a slow motion function and it records at an incredible rate but only when it sees movement. Both should approaches should be fine for analysing your tricks.
What’s the best camera angle for filming yourself skateboarding?
Now that you should know what kind of camera you want to be using and what you’re overall aim is, you need to invest a small piece of time into deciding what angle and positions you want to record from. There’s a bits below that may help guide you in creating an awesome skateboard film of yourself.
Check the background when filming yourself skateboarding
This is not the most obvious of things, but once you start to pay attention it will create a much better video. You don’t want to have kids face planting on scooters in the background as you try to kickflip to fakie on the bank. Admittedly the video may go viral, but you also don’t have permission to publicly post a kid face planting.
Obviously skateboarders hate stones and rocks, but photographers hate clutter, so remove the beer cans out of the way. Take a closer look into the background as well, is there anything really unappealing, maybe a lot of traffic, a broken down car, remains of a fire etc, these may make you change the angle at which you record the film, to help hide them. If you just cant escape the torture of something being in the back ground which is really unappealing then you need to start exploring something called “Depth of field”. Depth of field can help you focus on a narrower part of the image and blur the background more, this can be a really good way to also get the viewer of your skateboard film to really focus on you. Note: on a cell phone, it may be known by different names, I think in my pixel 6 it’s called portrait mode, but with DSLRs and professional cameras you can really configure this yourself based on the lens’ capabilities.
Take some test shots when filming yourself skateboarding
Do yourself a favour and before you start rolling on your deck, put the camera down where you want it and go pose for a second. Now review what you just did, is the camera where you really want it? Does it have that magic angle that makes things look great, rather than just good? If it does then you’re ready to film.
I honestly advise trying 2-3 different angles before you settle to really film, because sometimes things you don’t expect actually work out way better. Aka play around a bit with the camera position.
Film yourself skateboarding from multiple angles
Just touching on the test shots, where I said play with the camera position and angle. I’ve noticed that lots of skateboard videos tend to have multiple cameras going at the same time. This can be really good when composing a skateboard film, because you have the same trick but twice the video footage, so it doubles the length of the video. Give it a go, maybe have a few friends record all at the same time, if you don’t have multiple cameras.
Go wide when filming yourself skateboarding
Sometimes the skateboarding isn’t about the trick itself, but more about what’s being overcome. For example if riding a vert pipe, you’d never know if you zoomed in on just the skateboarder and the trick, but if you go super wide with the camera, you’ll see the full pipe and how small the skateboarder is which shows the real risk.
I remember watching a skateboard video on YouTube a while back, of two very technical skateboarders have a session on a bank in public and it would have just looked like flatland freestyle if the camera wasn’t scaled out to show the full size bank. If I ever find the link again, I’ll post it here.
Go low when filming yourself skateboarding
It’s a classic approach, get low with the camera and you get right into the skateboard trick and if you point the camera at a somewhat upward angle you’ll also get the skateboard (yourself included). This seems quite classic when photographing smith and feeble grinds.
Should I use a fish eye lens when filming myself skateboarding?
Finally I wanted to touch on the fisheye. It was a huge thing I think back in the 2000s and definitely has it’s place in the skateboarding world. It looks impressive and gets a good reception by those watching videos, so if you have one feel free to give it a go. I would simply advise not to record everything with a fish eye lens. For those using a cellphone, you can also get clip on fisheye lens attachments (I can’t comment on the quality or end result, because they’re often cheap and manufactured with low quality).
So should you film yourself skateboarding?
I wanted to finish this article off with an astounding yes, get out there and get some stuff on film or take some photographs and enjoy yourself. One final note, is that if you’re aim is to broadcast your videos/photographs onto social media, then filming on a cellphone is obviously going to make this quicker, more efficient and easier. However if your like me, and simply building a good gallery for your own personal collection later in life, when those knees are just too destroyed to continue focus on quality.
Ok I hope this article has given you a few brilliant ideas and helped improve your self recorded skateboard film, and if it has, please share with other skateboarders out there. We all just want to be the best we can be.
If you’re looking for a camera, check out my article on the best cameras for skateboarding