Taking Better Photographs

Years ago at guidebook meetings the selection of slides included some that were OK, some were good, and a few were excellent. Now-a-days thanks to digital photography many more photos are taken and there is a much better chance of getting an excellent photo. Unfortunately there are still many photos that don’t make the quality required for publication in our guidebooks. Hopefully more people will find these tips helpful and find it worthwhile taking extra care and time to produce excellent photos of “the moment” to appear in and enhance forthcoming guidebooks. Photos should be sent to the Guidebook Photographs Editor – details in Handbook.

The following is a list of some useful tips which may make capturing good action climbing photos easier.

  • To get good photos it is best to go out with the express objective of someone taking photos of others climbing. Many have the need to climb, climb, climb… but from a photographer’s point of view it is good to plan a photo and to go out with taking that specific image in mind.
  • Often having the photographer on an adjacent route, located to the side, or on abseil to take the photo is best.
  • Obviously there are many times when there are just two climbing and they will take photos of each other – or can take photos of others on adjacent routes. These can still be good if well framed etc.
  • Ideally climbers should wear contrasting clothing to the rock – normally colourful. It’s useful to have a selection of clean, colourful t-shirts in the rucksack to give out.
  • The head of the climber should be in view.
  • Climbers need to be well positioned.
  • It is good to see a variety of climbers by age and gender on photos and not just a selection of old retired guidebook writers and friends.
  • The photo needs to look natural! The photographer should take charge and tell the climber and others about what to do and possibly repeat moves if needed. But remember to maintain an element of natural movement in the photo.
  • Capture movement and take lots of photos and sort out the best image later.
  • Normally, anyone else in the photo should be looking at the climber.
  • Try to get the atmosphere of the route – i.e. the background or style of climb or feature of the climb. Often photos are picked for inclusion in guidebooks because they serve to show the way as well as showcase the route.
  • Close ups of climbers often do not give much information about the climb – but this is useful when they are climbing a particular feature e.g. layback crack or overhang etc.
  • Landscape photos can be particularly spectacular with the climber in profile on a route.
  • If the photographer is on the ground move about to try different locations for the best angle and shot.
  • Do some trial shots to check composition etc. for close ups and wider views.
  • Others can get impatient but it is worth spending a bit more time to get an excellent photo.
  • Give an element of suspense and danger, e.g. it looks better to be above the gear or just about to clip some gear rather than having overhead protection.
  • Sunshine almost always makes an image look better and more inspiring.
  • Have the route illuminated – this will depend on aspect and time of day – so consider the timing of taking the best photo carefully.
  • Bum (from below) and head (from above) shots do not generally look good – this is difficult to avoid when only two people climbing – but we are looking for photos for a guidebook not holiday snaps.


  • Do not crop the photos, for technical reasons this is always best done at guidebook production stage.
  • The top quality resolution photos are required for the guidebooks. Low-res can be sent initially to check if they will be used, but high-resolution will always be needed if selected for the guidebook publication.
  • Have climbers wear appropriate coloured clothing.
  • Consider the time of day to get good lighting on the route.
  • Take from an appropriate location, and take trial shots.
  • Catch “the moment”.
  • Labelling the photos – it helps greatly to give the following details for all photos – Crag, Route, Climber(s), and Photographer.