If your friend’s ski line doesn’t look as epic on Instagram as it did in person, don’t blame your phone. Blame yourself. Liam Doran, a Breckenridge-based adventure photographer whose clients include Powder Magazine and Patagonia, may have taken this shot with a fancy camera, but the basic techniques he used to capture the image will make your on-mountain photos look epic, too.


Tell your friend where you want her most aggressive turn or slickest trick to be. Then access your phone’s burst mode—in which it takes a series of images until the shutter button is released. (On recent iPhones, hold down the red shutter button and pull it to the left. The process varies for Androids.)


Setting up with the sun behind you will create a well-lit subject, but the resulting photo can be boring because everything is well lit. Instead, position the sun to the side of your skier so he is partly in the light and partly in shadow, producing a more dramatic scene.


“Look for great backgrounds to put your skiers in front of. Distant peaks or a fog-filled valley can be nice,” Doran says. “On a powder day, a dark background will really show off flying snow.”


To create a sense of motion, Doran suggests using the rule of thirds. First, divide your phone’s screen into three horizontal and three vertical segments by drawing imaginary lines, then situate the skier where two of them intersect. Position the horizon along either of the horizontal lines.


“When the sun is high in the sky,” Doran says, “colors get washed out and can have a bluish cast.” So, plan your snaps for early morning or late afternoon. Not only does the sun give off warmer light at those times, but its low angle also creates deeper shadows that add depth to your images.

This article was originally published in 5280 November 2022.
Nicholas Hunt
Nicholas Hunt
Nicholas writes and edits the Compass, Adventure, and Culture sections of 5280 and writes for 5280.com.