Growing up in Montreal, obsessed with skateboarding and snowboarding Todd moved out to Whistler in 2000. Armed with a point and shoot camera and some encouragement, Todd dove into a career orientated around snowboard photography.
I’ll let him fill you in on the details.
Todd: I just saw a way to combine at that time my two loves which were snowboarding and photography. So I did a photography course for two and a half years back in Montreal Quebec. I knew when I was done that I wanted to come back to Whistler and kind of have a go at it. That was 11 years ago this month.
What did you cover with your photography education?
TODD: Actually it was film photography and didn’t actually own a DSLR until I left the school.
The course went through commercial photography but I also learned everything from product photography, fashion, to photo journalism which appealed to me, because that’s kind of similar to snowboarding photography, you know the same kind of style.
I am really interested in landscape photography, black and white. So when I shoot snowboarding I always think: “Would it still be a good image if there wasn’t a snowboarder in it?”
Having taken an education in photography, what are your thoughts on formal education versus self-teaching?
TODD: I feel like you could easily be self-taught nowadays just because the whelm of information that is out there. The thing I enjoyed about going to school and the biggest value of an education, is just being around like-minded people all day. Being in that environment and having access to all the studio equipment. Having access to the knowledge of the teachers that were also working photographers was huge.
Photo | Todd Easterbrook
What do you ride when you’re snowboarding for yourself?
Todd: I was a park rat growing up, and now I moved out here and the whole mountain is a park. I ride everything, powder, trees, pillows, I split-board too, so a whole bunch of stuff. I still love snowboarding, I think to be a snowboard photographer you have to be a snowboarder first. You have to have an understanding and a passion for the sport. It pays off knowing where the best angle is going to be, what the trick is going to look like, where to snap the shot and where the rider is going to be the most tweaked in the grab. It’s a lifestyle much like snowboarding, it’s not just about taking photos. You’ve got to live it.
You’ve been a full-time photographer for a while. How does one go from taking good pictures as a hobby to actually making money from it?
TODD: I guess it’s much like the athletes do too. You know, it is kind of progressive. Your images get better and then maybe the riders you’re shooting are getting better and they are getting sponsors, shooting film parts and you get to tag along.
I kind of did it a different way. I cut my teeth shooting my friends who were riders but not necessarily pursuing it as a profession. Then when I felt that I had good images and was confident enough in my work I just started getting in touch with professional snowboarders in the Whistler area.
When I first did that a lot of people were super into it and the big question was always: “Do you have a snowmobile?” So the following year I got a snowmobile. I sent some message and with equipped with the sled I was able to go out and shoot with them. I ended up building a relationship, become their friends and their go-to photographer.
It’s a lot about relationships and just finding your way through that?
TODD: Yeah, I mean, besides being a good photographer you have to be someone who people want to hang out with. When you’re spending 8 -12 hours with someone in the backcountry, you have to get along.
Do you always build the jumps with the riders or are you shooting as they are building? TODD: A good photographer does. Haha, that’s one thing I made sure of the first time I ever went out shooting with Geoff Brown and the ‘Heart Films’ crew. I worked my ASS off building that jump. That established right away that I have a good work ethic. I am not bad mouthing anyone, but a lot of photographers will be like “I have to get some time lapses” or “I have to get some lifestyle type shots” and will not really work to build the jump. It’s really a team effort, yeah, I definitely help to build the jumps.
Photo | Todd Easterbrook
What does the work flow look like in terms of selling images and making money from it? After all the building, riding and shooting what is the process after that?
TODD: The process after that is usually done more at the end of the season. So like in April/May, I start putting my submissions together. I’ll get a good range of images and tighten them up. I then approach the riders sponsors first, to see if they are keen on any of the images for ad use or catalog use or even web use essentially. After that I approach editorials and on occasions I also approach some smaller shops, to see if they want it for web use or stuff like that. Sponsors are kind of the go-to’s, because it is a bit more profitable versus editorial. Having said that, editorial is key as in a way that is how you get recognized, they are like your portfolio. Rider’s sponsor’s will know you’re a talented photographer when they see your images in the magazines.
Who are some of the photographers that inspire you, what do you keep an eye on?
TODD: Definitely Andy Wright. Just his style of photography and how long he has been doing. It kind of gives me hope, you know, that he can make a career of doing that for a long time. To me the best snowboarders are the ones that can hit rails, back country jumps and then slay the park as well. So I tend to like photographers that are really good at it all three of those aspects of snowboarding and I think Andy Wright is definitely up there. Scott Serfas another one.
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In the past few weeks, we’ve mastered both aperture and shutter speed in relation to winter photography. This week we’re taking a quick look at the final pillar of photography: ISO. ISO is the last step to understanding the basics of shooting on manual mode and is a crucial component to a well-exposed photo.
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