How To Be A... Snowboard Photographer

IMAGINE BEING PAID TO TRAVEL THE WORLD AND SHOOT THE BEST RIDERS

Matt Georges getting up close in Japan. Photo: Ed Blomfield
Matt Georges getting up close in Japan. Photo: Ed Blomfield

Meet Matt Georges – Freelance Snowboard Photographer

JOB TITLE: Freelance snowboard photographer
HOURS: 60+ hours per week
PAY: Depends on the job. Commercial stints can pay well depending on the photo usage. Magazines usually pay between €50-300 for a double page spread
PERKS: Travelling and seeing countries you wouldn’t normally see
DOWNSIDE: The pressure to make sure you’re shooting your best every time. Not seeing my family as much as I’d like

To any rider, Matt Georges has pretty much a dream job. The French native works as a full-time professional photographer. Six months of the year are spent jetting off to Lebanon, Japan and Canada to shoot riders like Torah Bright, Romain De Marchi, DCP, Freddi K and dozens more. His work has been published in Whitelines, OnBoard, Snowboarder Mag, Desillusion, Huck, Transworld Snow to name a few.

But behind the glamorous title, Matt works damn hard to run his own business, while balancing fresh commissions and new clients. But would he swap it all for a different job? Absolutely not.

Shooting Sylvain Bourbousson in Cervinia, Italy. Photo: Matt Georges
Shooting Sylvain Bourbousson in Cervinia, Italy. Photo: Matt Georges

How to you get involved with the world of snowboard photography?
I started shooting my friends skating when I was about 18-years-old. It was just for fun, I never thought it would be my job. I studied art and design at school, while I did an internship at Freestyler magazine. Shortly after, they offered me a position as art director, but my parents wanted me to finish school and get a degree – so I studied graphic design. While studying, I got offered another job as art director of Freestyler for their snowboard issues. I’d go the the office early in the morning, then spend all day in class before heading back to the office in the evening. Two years later, I became photo editor of Method Magazine.

When did photography come into it?
Well, friends that I used to skate with started to get pretty famous in France. Magazines began calling me up, asking to use my pictures. It helped that I was already working as an art director on a magazine. It was a good way to make connections. Soon I quit the design stuff and started focusing on photography. It all became serious when I started at Method Mag.

What kind of projects do you work on?
I’m travelling maybe six months of the year. The rest I spend working from my office in Montpellier, France. I shoot both editorial and commercial photographs – mainly snowboarding and lifestyle, stuff like that. I do a lot of stories for magazines, so I’ll go away with Ed (Whitelines editor) to Japan for example, for two weeks to ride and shoot and we’ll make a story. I also do commercial jobs. So say Roxy would call me up and ask if I want to shoot their next campaign in New Zealand. I’ll work with the marketing manager and art director to discuss the style, make a photo brief and decide the kind of stuff we want to shoot – and then head out!

Work hard. Knock on doors and keeping knocking because it takes time to get noticed. Push yourself and don’t give up!

Did you ever take a photography course or did you teach yourself?
No, I’ve never done a course. It was actually my best friend’s dad who taught me how to take photos and use a darkroom – that was pretty much how I got into it. I was very lucky in my early years at Freestyler to be surrounded by photo legends such as Eric Bergeri and Vianney Tisseau.

What kit do you use?
I own around 30 cameras and change set ups a lot, depending on what style I’m looking for. It goes from all the plastic crappy camera such as Holga, Lomo etc. to some serious ones like Hasselblad, Mamya, Technika Lihnoff. I also have a digital set up with all the classic lenses. I shoot a lot with Polaroids cameras too, all sort of films and formats.

How do you adapt as a photographer when you’re shooting in the mountains?
Well it’s pretty much always below zero degrees, so you need to stay warm. Sometimes I’ll be getting up at 6.30am to shoot and not finish ’til 8pm, so the days are long. I usually take a lot of kit up with me – five to eight cameras, because I’m a bit of a camera nerd! You also need to watch out for avalanches and have the right gear for the backcountry – probes, shovels, beacon – that kind of thing.

Have you ever been caught in a sketchy situation?
Yeah a few, but not too many avalanche situations. I was doing a shoot with Rossignol for Snowboarder MBM magazine in Lenzerheife, Switzerland about five years ago. We’d sent the crew to check the landing of kicker spot. All of a sudden, the whole face came down and buried three guys. Two of us had to dig them out. They were buried for a few minutes and began to pass out. Luckily, it was all OK in the end.

What does your typical schedule consist of?
When I’m travelling, it’s pretty full-on. I’m shooting, shooting, shooting all day. Then in the evenings, I copy all the photos off the cameras, rename them, edit a few, recharge batteries. When I’m back home in France, I’ll be scanning and editing photos, spend days in the darkroom printing black and white shots, doing paperwork, answering emails. That takes a lot of time. I usually work ten to twelve hour days and have the weekends off.

Matt clambering to new heights (left) to capture Alvaro Vogel at a different angle (right). Photos: Ed Blomfield/Matt Georges
Matt clambering to new heights (left) to capture Alvaro Vogel at a different angle (right). Photos: Ed Blomfield/Matt Georges

What are your plans for the future?
I definitely don’t want to be the 50-year-old guy who’s still shooting kids hitting snowboard jumps. I might look more at the lifestyle side of photography but still keep one toe in the snowboard side. Right now, I’m really into making photo books and working with agencies on a few creative projects, so that might also be a good way to go.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a snowboard photographer?
Make sure you love snowboarding and know what you’re talking about. You have to be passionate and know the tricks, the grabs, everything – otherwise you’ll end up with some pretty weird photos. It’s important to show the trick and where he’s going to land. It’s good to shoot crazy angles, but don’t forgetting that people are risking their lives here, so you don’t want to fuck it up!

Any tips for someone looking to break into industry?
Show your work to people. Knock on doors and keeping knocking because it takes time to get noticed. Be patient. Keep pushing yourself and try to find your own style. Shoot, shoot, shoot and don’t give up! There’s so many people who think you just go on holiday. You have to work hard, there’s no secret to it. You’re never going to get crazy rich as a snowboard photographer, but I really love my job.

You can check out Matt’s portfolio on his website here and follow him on Instagram.

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