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How to Craft a Legendary Climbing Photo on Instagram

Transform your climbing photos into Instagram gold.

300 million people use Instagram every day. A very small percentage of those users are climbers...but with a clever strategy and an awesome climbing photo, you can spread your love of climbing to a lot more people than you think.

Here’s a rundown of our recommended formula, with more detailed information below. Use it to transform your climbing photos into Instagram gold!

Line up the shot
Tweak the lighting and colors
Shoot the coolest moves
Don't mislead your viewers
Be a wordsmith
Hashtag!
Post your photo

Line up the shot

This is where it all begins. You’re not going to shock and delight the socialsphere with a crap photo, so focus on aesthetics. Here are some techniques to try out:

  • Highlight the landscape around the climb you want to shoot. Most climbing areas are gorgeous!
  • Back it up! No need to fill the whole frame with your subject.
Check out that landscape!
‍What is happening here? Too close!
  • Avoid heavy shadows in your shot—this creates an unappealing contrast between light and dark. Try getting the photo when the sun is behind a cloud, or beneath the horizon.
Beautiful sunny days don’t always make for good photos.
Sun went behind a cloud—GET THE SHOT.

Try to use the good ol’ “rule of thirds” technique when framing your shot. Visualize two equally spaced vertical lines and two equally spaced horizontal lines within the frame, splitting it into nine equal parts. Try to place the elements of your photo along these lines or at their intersections. This strategy would be much easier if Instagram ever implemented a Crop tool so you could modify the borders of your photo. But alas.

This technique is hard to imagine without photo cropping software...
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The colors, homie, the colors

When your partner wears brown pants and a grey shirt to a talus field, he is not being a good subject. He’ll blend right into the rocks; he may as well have just stayed home. What an inconsiderate guy.

It’s simple: wear colors that pop. Red, orange, deep yellow, bright blue, or green. Whatever—wear pink. Just don’t set yourself up to look like a disembodied head and arms floating around the boulder field.

After you’ve uploaded your photo, try using the manual editing options to spice it up a bit. How do you make a photo look authentic without seeming over-edited? Don’t go overboard. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Explore the Lux option. It’s hard to explain what the function of Lux is, besides making your photo look amazing.
  • Slightly increase the Contrast setting to give the landscape a deep, lush appearance.
  • Slightly decrease the Warmth and increase the Saturation to highlight the natural colors. Don’t oversaturate!
  • Increase the Structure and Sharpness settings just a wee bit to add some aesthetic detail to the photo.
Before . . .
After!

Play around with the settings, but try not to go crazy. A shot that is clearly overedited usually bombs.

Capture the magic of hard moves

There are beautiful moments on every climb. These are what you should focus on when taking photos!

What would you rather see? Your friend looking down, clearly between moves on the climb, maybe in a strange body position? Or the same friend sticking the next move, legs splayed horizontally in mid-swing, face contorted in effort?

Deep zen mode.

It can be difficult to capture these moments during the actual ascent of the climb. Don’t feel bad about asking your subject to hop on the middle of the climb to get the perfect shot—it’s worth it.

Don’t mislead your viewers

Some people would argue that you shouldn’t post a photo of anyone on a route or boulder they haven’t actually climbed. This is a fair point. Ethically speaking, however, the problem truly lies in perception. Are you making it seem like the subject of your photo completed the climb when she actually didn’t? Are you intentionally misleading viewers?

To avoid controversy, just be clear about what’s actually going on. Be transparent. “Sam linking moves on _______, an area classic,” or “Sam working ________.” You can pull this off relatively easily in the photo’s caption.

In a similar vein, make sure to credit any photographers you repost. There has been a recent trend of certain users reposting photos without giving any explanation or credit. That is stealing, plain and simple.

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Become a wordsmith

Your photo is painfully gorgeous, striking joy and nostalgia into the hearts of all who witness it. So why should your caption be any less captivating? In some cases you might feel a caption is unnecessary, but you should consider writing one most of the time as a way to more effectively engage with your audience.

There isn’t really any right way to create a caption. What do we recommend? Be unique. Be yourself. Need some grammar tips? Check out hemingwayapp.com

Hashtag 4 Lyfe

This step is the one that exposes you to the harsh, unforgiving world of social media. Hashtags are basically keywords that relate to your post with a # symbol in front of them. Include “#climbing” somewhere in your post, and your photo will be stored in an endless archive of photos with the same hashtag for all to see.

You can go as crazy as you’d like with hashtags. If you do decide to maximize your exposure by dropping 90 hashtags into your post, we recommend two things:

  • Make a hashtag cloud—store a list of your preferred hashtags somewhere on your phone, then copy and paste them from there.
  • Put your hashtag cloud in the comments section. Instead of blowing up your caption with four vertical inches of text, dispense your pile of tags in the comments section. Your photo will still be tagged and filed accordingly in the Instagram archives.
Let it fly free

The time has come to post. Release your creation into reality.

Luckily for us, our tight-knit climbing community is generally very receptive and kind to quality photos. All previous jokes and recommendations aside, what we advise over all else is to simply share your love of climbing with your peers. Happy ‘Gramming!

Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Davison. (No-master-productions.com)
About the Author

Connor Griffith has been climbing for 13 years in areas across the world, from California to Colorado to Switzerland. A V11 boulderer with multiple first ascents around the globe, Connor is also a professional route setter, a student of climbing movement, and a coach.

Connect with Connor

Instagram: @connor.griffith_

Twitter: @connor_climbs

Facebook: facebook.com/PersonOfInterestLtd

Website: Personofinterest.life

(Nearly) All photos property of Person of Interest Ltd.

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