We’ve all done it. Been away on a trip somewhere, scored epic waves, frantically shot a few pics as an afterthought and then when showing them to your mates, doing the really desperate, ‘Honest, this bit here was way hollower than it looks,’ while they roll their eyes at each other. We all know that the ocean, like most things, looks way more impressive standing there on the beach or cliff than in a print or on a computer screen. To get more out of your line-up pics, SE Photo Ed Laurel offers the following tips.

1) When you decide the wave you want to shoot, take a couple of sets to move around and see what angle will do more justice to the wave. Don’t stand about staring in wonder too much because at beachbreaks with tides, there may only be 2 or 3 sets that will be mental and they’re the ones you want to record. Shooting from in front will give better indication of the size, from the side of the shape. Try to get some foreground or backgroundin too, if it’s big, something common like vehicles or people will give a gauge of the size.

2) Look at the ocean for the best waves, the ones that break boards. If you’re a beginner, look at the waves that you wouldn’t want to go surf. That’s where people will stop and go, ‘Wow!’. Just remember that it’s always more impressive to see the action live than frozen, so you’re trying to maximize the impact in your shot. Study the sets and anticipate, maybe a set coming more north could give better rights, more west better lefts. You’ll have a minute or so to move and get your spot - don’t worry about looking like a freak running up and down the beach 30 metres or so.

3) A long lens will make the wave more prominent, a wide angle will show more surroundings. Think about photos in the mags that you like, what you like about them and take inspiration from that. Early golden light will give warmth to a shot, and even if it’s cold it will make you want to go surf. Backlit afternoon light (west facing coasts) can give a mystical glow to your photos, and every surfer knows a late afternoon session is the best way to finish the day.

4) One major rule in photography that applies to this kind of shot is the rule of the thirds for framing and positioning the subject. Settings wise, you have to play around with your depth of fi eld to get the surfer and the wave to stand out on the photo, but make sure to get the it sharp. It’s a bit harder to get a sharp shot when it’s pulled but there are some tricks you can use - just experiment. Stay focused, don’t let people come and talk to you too much, and keep your eyes peeled on that ocean.