How to Film The Best Skiing Videos

Published on 05/22/2023 · 16 min readSki Expert Abby A. shares her tips for grabbing great ski footage so your videos can stand out from the rest.
Abby A., Ski Expert
Zachary Simon, Ski Expert
By Curated Experts Abby A. and Zachary Simon

Photo courtesy of Blizzard 

Nowadays, with everyone having access to a camera on their smartphone, ski edits are becoming easier and more efficient to create. With Instagram’s Reels being the new hot feature on their app, many skiers have moved towards this feature since they can easily edit videos, pick any song/audio they want to go with it, and have it potentially get more engagement if enough people watch it to make it go viral. This is a great way for skiers to have their content reach users with similar interests.

The algorithm is very good at detecting what videos users are going to want to see, so let’s dive into what you can do to really help your videos stand out! Along with details about photography, this article uses some iPhone terminology, but it can definitely be used to help Android and Google phone users as well.

0.5x vs. 1x

Screenshot by Abby A.

Decide if you would rather shoot in 0.5x or 1x. 0.5x, or ultra-wide, is going to give you more of a fisheye effect. This is a great option when you are trying to capture more of the scenery in your shot. 1x is the “normal” lens that the iPhone defaults to when opening the camera app. I will try to film my friends in 0.5x when I don’t have my skis on and can get up close to the rail or feature. The 0.5x will give your video more of a skateboard filming style. 1x is great when filming from further away, as it has a more cropped lens than the fisheye mode. Keep in mind that it is better to be closer when shooting in 0.5x so you can see the subject well. If you are staying strapped into your gear, 1x may work better if you cannot get up close to the feature to film your friend.

Check the Position of the Sun

Film with the sun beside you and not above or behind you to avoid weird shadows. The sun behind the subject can result in unwanted glares in the lens. It will also be harder to see the subject and will make the subject dark or look like a silhouette. To make the subject pop, try to make sure they are bright and the sun is shining on them from you and your phone’s point of view.

Stay Stationary for High-Speed Tricks

Any time you are filming a friend who is hitting a feature at a high speed, always make sure to stay stationary while getting the shot. The chatter in skis makes the phone footage not as smooth as it could be if the filmer was filming from one spot. This also ensures that the filmer is keeping the subject in frame the whole time since they are focused on just filming and not trying to ski at the same time. At least stay still for high-speed filming where the clip could result in being very shaky.

If you are doing a follow cam, pay attention while you are filming! Ask your friends if they have a preference on what side of a feature you are filming from. If they don’t care where you are filming from, ask what tricks they are doing or what their line is so you are not in their way and have an idea of where you should be going to get the best shot.

Clean the Lens

Before you start filming, make sure the lens is free of any snowflakes or water droplets to ensure you are getting footage that is not blurry.

Switch to 4K

Did you know that the iPhone has a 4K option? You can open the phone’s camera and click the top right to change from HD to 4K. Now get extra sharp footage for your friends!

Many phones default to recording video in a format that minimizes storage space, but that reduces the quality and image fidelity. In order to have the most flexible files to work with when editing, ensure that your phone is recording in the highest frame rate (FPS) and resolution (4K), and compress the results with ProRes or a lossless compression algorithm. Dedicated video cameras offer options like S-Log to better capture highlights and shadows, but phones are starting to offer similar tools as well. If you plan on using slow-motion footage, make sure to use the highest frame rate possible

You may quickly fill up your phone’s storage (or cloud backup/sync storage like iCloud) by filming in the highest quality possible, but developing a process to store clips that’ll be secure if your phone breaks is important anyways, so create a backup plan for all the photos and videos on your phone or GoPro cameras.

Watch the Rider Through the Phone

Always watch the rider through the phone while you are recording—this helps keep them in the frame. If you try to watch the rider while filming, but not through the phone, there is a chance you will miss the shot. If you take your eyes off the screen, you are not looking where they are on the camera, so this increases the chances of a bad shot

Horizontal vs. Vertical

Photo by Theo Savoy

I used to film horizontally, but ever since Instagram made Reels, I started filming vertically. If you are filming a friend, ask what they prefer before you start filming, and keep it consistent throughout the day! If you are the one being filmed, make sure your homie getting the clips is filming the way you prefer.

I think filming vertically is better since it takes up the whole screen on the iPhone whereas watching a horizontal video on a social media app only takes up about half of the screen. Vertical videos mean your video is taking up the phone’s full screen making your shots easier to watch. If you have videos that were filmed horizontally, you can crop them to be vertical. This is an extra step to take for editing, but filming horizontally and then cropping will give you both options.

AirDrop to Keep the Quality

AirDropping images is the best way to keep the quality the same as when you first took it. Don’t text videos to your friend because there is a chance the clips will come through at a quality that is not ideal for sharing or editing. If you forget to AirDrop the clips, wait until you connect to WiFi so that they send without losing too much quality. Sharing videos via cloud platforms like Google Drive or Images works as well.

Use a Wide-Angle Lens

If you absolutely need to film without looking at your phone or camera, use the widest possible lens so you have a wide field of view. Think of skate videos shot through a fish-eye lens. Since an ultra-wide lens offers a 90-degree field of view, that makes it much easier to keep the subject in frame—just ski close and stick it in their general direction. Attempting to use longer lenses, like your iPhone’s 1X lens, makes it difficult to keep the subject in frame, but also magnifies vibrations caused by your movement.

Use an Action Camera

If you’ve ever wondered how to film while skiing challenging terrain and still capture amazing footage, there’s no one secret beyond trial and error. However, using a wide-angle camera on a pole mount makes the whole process easier. The filmer can position the camera close to the skier, around waist high, pointed up a few degrees, and then focus on their own skiing rather than worrying about the camera angle. 360-degree cameras like the GoPro max and Insta360 X3 capture every possible angle, and let you select which camera angle to show later when editing.

Mount the Camera

GoPro and many third-party accessory makers sell collapsible poles (glorified selfie sticks) for skiers and snowboarders to mount cameras on, but skiers who want a simple setup can use a mount on their ski pole. The further out on the pole the camera is mounted, the easier it will be to capture different points of view. This method can also make capturing stable footage difficult. The best follow-cam skiers use their arms to dampen vibrations from the snow, which is harder than it looks!

Be Aware of Your Shot Composition

Keep in mind that wider camera lenses stretch the video frame so much that it can distort the viewer’s perspective. Just like the iPhone’s widest camera lens can result in unflattering selfies, a fisheye lens can also turn a small bunny hop into a huge cliff drop. All it takes is knowing how to position the camera for the right angle to accentuate your focus, and (more likely) minimize other aspects of the frame.

A few inches and a few degrees can make all the difference here. Unless you have a good compositional reason to do so, including too much sky or too much foreground can reduce the dramatic impact of your footage. When in doubt with a wide-angle lens, get up close to your subject. The middle of the video frame will be the least distorted or stretched, while the corners and edges will have the most altered or warped perspective.

Wide-Angle Lens Tips

Wider lenses also make the subject of your video seem further away from the scenery in the background, so they make scenery behind you seem smaller or less dramatic. However, as the skier moves through the snow, a wide-angle lens makes the scene more dynamic.

1. If you film your friend passing by a tree, a wide-angle lens will render the skier zooming past the tree quickly. This is because as your friend passes the tree, it's the same distance from the camera as your friend, let’s say 10 feet. A second later, it’s 20 feet away, so it now appears twice as far away as it was when the skier passed it.

If you shoot the same scene with a longer telephoto lens, the distance between the camera and the subject would be 100 feet. As the tree is passed, it would go from 100 to 110 feet away, because the skier is moving at the same speed. On a relative scale, 100 and 110 are much closer together than 10 and 20, so the tree appears to be moving past the skier slower.

Graphic by Zachary Simon

This scenario assumes you’re skiing along with your friend while filming, but the same holds for whether the camera operator is stationary or moving with the subject.

2. Sometimes the landscape restricts your options for which camera or lens you can use. If there’s no easy place to film from the vantage point you prefer, or you don’t have the perfect lens for a situation, you may just have to stick a wide-angle lens down close to the snow, looking up at your friend.

3. Using a wide-angle lens can also allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds. Typically, you don’t think much about the amount of available light when deciding what lens to use, but when you’re pushing your camera’s low-light capability to the limit, a wider lens offers you a better shot at shooting sharp footage at a given aperture. A slower shutter speed can also help footage look more natural since each frame records a little motion blur on fast-moving subjects.

4. Attaching your phone to a ski pole mount or helmet mount allows for unique perspectives, but often a GoPro, Sony or Insta360 action camera works better in these situations. Putting a phone on a DJI gimbal/stabilizer offers a better grip, as well as better video footage, but for more complicated camera setups, using a stand-alone action camera is ideal.

5. It may seem like overkill, but a small, dedicated, rugged camera without a large LCD screen or viewfinder for previewing footage is a great tool that’s more useful than you might expect. For starters, these cameras typically cost less than phones, so if you take a tumble and break your camera, you won't be losing your phone too.

You can also manage storage and battery usage separately from your phone. That way there’s no need to straps for external batteries or run a cable to your backpack or pockets to keep everything charged. And while there are chest or adhesive mounts, and tripods for phones, the accessories for action cameras like the GoPro HERO are often better suited for cold weather adventures and fresh snow. By going a step further and using a drone camera, you have access to vantages that used to require a helicopter!

These cameras are also designed specifically for action sports, so from image stabilization to their rugged form factor, they’re set up for capturing adrenalin-pumping footage straight out of the box. Your phone is capable of awesome footage as well, but because it’s such a general purpose device, you’ll need a few extra tricks to get the most out of it on the snow.

Be Aware of the Lighting

Learning to read the lighting conditions and know how to work within those constraints can do wonders for obtaining better footage. How you film on a sunny, bluebird spring day in the terrain park versus skiing powder on a dark, overcast winter storm day can make all the difference. Sure, filming in a terrain park will differ from filming in the trees for a variety of reasons, but you should also consider the way lighting changes in these two situations.

Polarizing filters reduce glare by filtering out light that has been reflected off of snow, water, or glass to produce a clearer image. It can also cut excess light if you want to force your camera to use a wider aperture, giving you a shallower depth of field or more motion blur like a neutral-density filter would.

The harsh lighting conditions often found when skiing can make it difficult to fix poorly exposed video in post-production. However, if you know the limits of your camera, and correct a few minor issues after the fact, even a relatively old phone with a lower quality camera can still produce great clips.

Editing

Whether you want to construct a narrative with your editing or just make the most eye-popping sizzle reel, editing your clips effectively is the key to producing compelling footage.

Short, engaging videos are going to perform best on social media platforms. Trim your videos to take out footage of the subject before or after the feature so that you are only showing the highlight of each clip you took. Think about the video from the viewer’s perspective. Ask yourself:

  1. Would you be engaged by what is being shown?
  2. Are there clips that can be shortened or taken out?

Try not to be too repetitive with the clips, either. If you have two similar-looking clips, pick the better one, or show the same trick from two different angles by showing the first part of one clip and the tail end of another—this is a great transitional feature to making a clip look awesome!

You don’t need Adobe Premiere or After Effects to make your edits pop: just a few small tweaks to basic settings in your phone’s video viewing app like lowering the highlights can introduce more detail into the snow and sky for a less over-exposed or blown-out look.

Have Fun!

Making and watching ski edits is so fun—go learn some new tricks and get a clip! Or, hype up your friends and encourage them to try something new. Filming is a great way to give yourself and your friends a little push to try something new on the snow. Remember, don’t get discouraged while filming. If you don’t get the shot you want, there’s always another day to stomp it!

Keeping these tips in mind as you film your friends will benefit your filming and the quality of your videos. Remember that it is always better to film too much than not enough! Get B-roll of your friends to spice up their edit, too. B-roll can consist of anything that wouldn’t be considered a main shot for the video. These could be shots like getting ready, skiing down to where the filming is taking place, getting on or off the lift, or anything else that would be a good transition in an edit to break up the videos and add excitement. With these helpful tips, you are ready to get out there and film some dope edits. Most importantly, have fun!

Be Safe!

Be sure not to push yourself or anyone you’re filming with too far past their comfort zone. Exploring the edge of what’s possible is what makes skiing and snowboarding fun, but knowing your limit, even when the cameras are rolling, is critical to stay safe and prevent injuries. We may not use film anymore, but the phenomenon of “Kodak Courage” is alive and well.

Beyond safety, a video shot where everyone involved is cool, calm and collected will result in better video than when skiing and filming at the edge of their abilities. The first time you land a trick in the terrain park may be the most exciting for you personally, but stomping it a few more times before pressing record will give you time to polish everything into a smooth final result.

Final Tips

Whether you want to know how to film yourself skiing with a GoPro HERO or how to video skiing with iPhone cameras, the skills and knowledge needed are the same. A Salomon athlete like Cody Townsend might have enough GoPro cameras on adhesive mounts to capture ten different angles of every shot from Alaska to Colorado. For the rest of us, learning how to film skiing on our phone’s camera makes more sense. Not only is a phone an all-in-one shooting, editing and posting solution, the image quality of the latest phones is orders of magnitude better than the gopro footage of a few years ago.

The same videography techniques that allow professional film crews to capture the best ski movies on tiny action cameras are also applicable to iPhone videography. Next time you’re watching a ski film for inspiration between ski seasons, take some time to break down how each shot was planned out for the desired effect. Whether you’re filming skiing in Europe at a ski resort in Switzerland or filming skiing on the slopes of Utah in North America, the same techniques can help turn unstable or overexposed footage into an awe-inspiring clip worthy of virality and a post on your favorite video blog. Learning how to film skiing from the pros can help you record better video, even if you’re using a completely different camera.

If you have any questions, reach out to an Expert here on Curated and we'll get you all set up for long days getting footage!

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