Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

High-Stakes Photography

Jimmy Chin

Lesson time 09:52 min

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

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

Topics include: Get to Know Your Environment • Calculate Your Objective Risks • Make Multiple Backup Plans • Make Time to Look Around


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...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Jimmy Chin

National Geographic photographer teaches his techniques for planning, capturing, and editing breathtaking photos.

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