Athletics, California, Seniors, Summer

Surfing Photography | Santa Cruz

Hi, I'm Kristen!
I'm an award-winning senior portrait and family photographer based out of Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. I love sunshine, cacti, chocolate chips, and a great cup of tea - but most of all I love photographing joyful clients. :)
TOp categories
Classy and comfortable senior portraits!
Relaxed and easy family portraits. and stunning artwork
Red haired man surfing and giving thumbs up Surfing photography by Kristen Hazelton.

I take “back to school” portraits for this family each year, and this year their son wanted SURFING PHOTOGRAPHY for his annual photoshoot! Um, yes please!! I wanted to share some of the key aspects I learned when trying surfing photography for the first time:

Surfing Photography Tips


We had to think about which direction we anticipated the waves rolling in from so we could estimate where the subject would have to be. Then we could pick a time of day when the sun wouldn’t be directly behind him and blasting the camera with too much light. To compensate, I also shot “stopped down” with a much higher aperture than I typically do, both to let in less light and to ensure a wider focal range so my client would for SURE be in focus!


My client paid attention to the swell reports for the week leading up to the photoshoot so we could decide to go with our original date or a backup date.


Okay, admittedly we paid more attention to the first two items on the list, but having a slightly lower tide allowed me to get photos of my client closer to shore.


I was lucky enough to borrow an 80-400 mm telephoto lens to get far closer images! If I were to do this again it would be worth the investment to rent a lens with even more range! A drone would be in-freaking-credible for this!


My job was to keep an eye on my client and the instant I saw him start to paddle to catch a wave I had to be on it! I had an assistant with me to help be sure I spotted him, because it takes some time waiting for the right waves to roll in!


My client was pretty far out to sea, but luckily he was paying attention to me and my assistant and we were able to communicate via dramatic arm gestures when we needed him to move to a different angle, or come closer to shore so we could talk!

Red haired surfer holding his surfboard and looking out at the waves of Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, California from the bluffs. Surfing Photography by Kristen Hazelton.

Surfing Portraits at Pleasure Point

Scoping out the surf at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, CA, and eager to get into the water! The dried flowers are Echium candicans “Pride of Madeira” and they grow wild all around the Monterey bay!

A rusted blue bicycle parked at the bluffs at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, California
Red haired surfer holding his surfboard, standing in the waves, and looking out at the water. Surfing Photography by Kristen Hazelton.

I love this shot – not to go all high school English book analysis on you, but there are so many different ways to interpret this image of the client looking out to sea. The anticipation and excitement to be in the water and catch some good waves, the turbulent surf that fades out to smoother waters ahead…this image makes me think, and wonder what he’s thinking.

Surfer with red hair paddling out in the water at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, California. Surfing Photography by Kristen Hazelton.

Paddling on out, and you can see the hills of Monterey in the distance across the bay.

Surfing portraits of a man with red hair, standing in the waves holding his surfboard. Surfing Photography by Kristen Hazelton.

My client is a superstar swimmer, and is literally an award-winning butterfly swimmer. I LOVED that he casually did butterfly strokes to get out to the bigger waves, just a little quirk that was really him!

Surfer paddling to catch a wave.
Redheaded man wearing a wetsuit and surfing on a white surfboard in the Monterey Bay.
Redheaded male surfing at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, CA. Surfing Photography by Kristen Hazelton.
Redheaded surfer paddling in the ocean with birds flying overhead
Portrait of a redheaded male surfer lying on his surfboard in the ocean. Surfing Photography by Kristen Hazelton.
Redheaded surfer paddling over a wave at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, CA.
Redheaded surfer seated on a white surfboard in the waves at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, CA.

As we headed back to the car at the end of the day I took this photo because I loved the symmetry of his board, and the cool texture from the wax!

Redheaded man paddling to catch a wave while surfing. Surfing photography by Kristen Hazelton.
Redheaded man standing in waves, wearing a wetsuit and holding his surfboard.
Redheaded man wearing a wetsuit, sitting on a white surfboard in the ocean. Surfing photography by Kristen Hazelton.

Here’s what my client (and his mom) had to say about their photos:

Just looked through the photos, I love them! They’re really well done, thanks!!

Surfing pictures are AAAAAMAZING

Kristen Hazelton is an Oak Park, IL (West Chicagoland) and Livermore, CA (San Francisco East Bay Area) senior, family, and engagement photographer. She occasionally photographs in San Diego, CA, Tucson, AZ, and Seattle, WA. You can inquire about your own photoshoot here!

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