Design, Photography, & Fashion

High-Stakes Photography

Jimmy Chin

Lesson time 9:53 min

Learn Jimmy’s set of practical directives for safely and constructively running a creative shoot when the stakes are high.

Jimmy Chin
Teaches Adventure Photography
National Geographic photographer teaches his techniques for planning, capturing, and editing breathtaking photos.
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OK, so let's talk a little bit about risk. In my line of work, and if you are thinking about being an adventure photographer, a mountain photographer, a ski or snowboard photographer, there are inherent risks in being in the mountains. A lot of your job will be to assess risk. And how do you assess risk? There's a lot of ways that I think about managing risk. And surprisingly, you'll find that managing risk becomes a huge part of your job. The first thing I think that's important is spending time in the mountains, building the foundation of being a climber, being familiar with the equipment you need, spending time climbing, or snowboarding, or skiing, or whatever it is. If you really want to shoot these kind of topics-- surfing-- you have to spend time in that environment without a camera. I mean, you really have to build that skill set before you can confidently go out and start adding an entire other layer of complexity to being out there. The familiarity, for me, in the mountains, and my comfort there, is really what allows me to have enough bandwidth to start thinking about how I'm going to set up a shot, or compose a shot, or figure out all the technical aspects of my camera, and then come back with an image. You really have to build that foundation. When you build that foundation, you'll learn about all the different objective hazards that are simply things that you have to deal with. You have to learn how to read the weather. You have to learn how to assess a location and identify the different objective hazards that you're encountering, whether that's rock fall, or avalanche hazards, or cliffs that you could fall off of. I mean, there's any number of ways to die out there. So when that starts to become second nature, that's when you can really start to push yourself, as a photographer, out there. I mean, you are dealing with so many elements and variables in the mountains, that if you aren't comfortable to deal with those elements, it's pretty hard to shoot. A good way to think about risk is the risk equation. Essentially, it's consequence times probability equals risk. So if you've got a very high consequence zone that you're in that you can't fall in, and the probability is very high, clearly, it's very risky. But if it's a very high consequence area, but the probability is very low that you're going to get hurt, the risk is lower. I know that sounds simple, but sometimes you actually have to think that because you complicate the equation when you throw in perceived risks, where you think something is dangerous. And if you don't be objective about it, you aren't making an accurate assessment. So the classic case is the consequence seems really, really high, we're just not going to do it. But you hadn't really thought about well, OK, the probability of anybody really falling there is super low. So we have to be careful here and make sure that we don't fall off the cliff. But really, what I'm talking about is a...

Push the limits of your photography

Jimmy Chin has built his career taking photos at the top of the world, earning him the cover of National Geographic and multiple awards. Now he’s taking you on location to teach you techniques for capturing breathtaking shots. In his photography class, learn different creative approaches for commercial shoots, editorial spreads, and passion projects. Gather the gear—and the perspective—to bring your photography to new heights.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

While my photos are at lower altitude, I loved this class. Jimmy Chin is a super hero and to have him as an instructor was a dream. One day I hope he shoots my image for the cover of Outside magazine.

Class insightful and inspiring. Loved the way it was presented and it's lit a fire under my ass to do what I have always wanted to do. Thank You.

i wanted to see a human interest story...learning what it is to be so passionate about a particular interest, making asuccessful career out of one's hobby. i've always loved photography but only as a hobby. Mr. Chin is amazing to say the least..and he ably communicates his love of climbing and photography in this Master Class. Very enjoyable to hear nd see what he's achieved

Thank you Jimmy Chin. Excellent Advice, Tips & wonderful approach to photography and self-development 10/10!


A fellow student

Yes, yes and yes! So important to be open and flexible and willing to look around. Always moving forward is important. When I biked across the country with my dog one of my personal mantras for a good chunk of that trip was "Relentless Forward Motion" - every moment matters and every step counts.


Great point on diverting fully when Plan A isn't going to work out--and not getting mired in "what could have been." Waste of time and energy, which you don't have an excess of on a shoot or in life.

Jim C.

A lot of great thoughts in this lesson. Know what you are doing in an activity/sport first before taking photos and risk assessment very interesting and helpful advice. I would add not to become complacent about a situation. Some topnotch climbers killed not from the climb, but from rappelling/abseiling down. Things like forgetting to tie a knot in the end of the rope and literally running out of rope before getting to the bottom. Also reassessing the vision of a shoot when the original idea isn’t going to work. That happens frequently.


I just enjoyed how Jimmy thinks and makes decisions on RISKS... It's very refreshing!

Ricardo A.

It's sexy to want to focus on the photography; less so on building a strong foundation and putting in the work to develop and hone skills on the mountain. It takes time and there are no shortcuts.

Rick L.

Sometimes it is hard to keep looking around when you get hyper-focused on what you are doing. It is good to hear that I am not the only one who misses more shots than I would like to. It bothers me when it happens and it does happen. While I do not do the kind of adventure photography we are dealing with here I do shoot some white water rafting. I shot our trip through the grand canyon and many other trips my friends and I have taken. He is right, know what you are doing then take a camera. As the photographer I usually have to run the big rapids first to get my friends coming through or in this case I walked down along Lava Falls a class 10 rapid in the grand canyon to get the shot, then hiked back and ran it myself.