Triple-Shot with Sam Ashley

Sam Ashley is the now London based, bearded photo editor for Document Magazine. Like all skate magazines, Document take their photography seriously but they also know that quality will always be delivered whilst the onus is upon this fella..

Due to his commitment to skateboarding and his incredible eye through the lens, Sam has risen to the top and now also finds himself shooting adverts for for Blueprint, Landscape and Heroin Skateboards – welcome to Sam Ashley’s Triple Shot.

How long have you been a photographer?

I’ve shot photos for as long as I can remember but I’ve had stuff published since ’98.

How did you get into skate photography?

Just by wanting to shoot photos of my friends, sometimes skateboarding, sometimes not. I did this for a few years before sending some photos to Sidewalk Mag, they began using them a short while after.

Have you ever felt bad about taking a photo?

No regrets!

What were the worst days shooting skateboarding of your life ever and why?

Trying to get a photo at competitions alongside 6 other photographers, 4 of whom don’t even skate, sucks. Other than that it’s all good!

What image inspired you so much to take up photography?

Matt Hensley by Dan Sturt,Transworld, August 1990. – I don’t think this photo made me run out and start shooting skate photos but it made me realise how great photography could be. When this came out Hensley was everyone’s favourite. The craziness of the spot made it seem out of this world but at the same time it was almost attainable, it made you think ‘maybe we could skate something like this?’. The BGPs are awesome and the trick was epic too. Sturt tied it all together with on point lighting and composition, everyone I knew was blown away by this.

What’s the relationship like between a photographer and filmer?

I’m good friends with quite a few filmers, they’re generally good lads! Problems usually arise from the fact that I consider photos with a filmer’s death lens hanging in the corner only fit for the bin. As long as they’re not stood in front of my flashes or my lens then I’m happy.

What main advice would you give to upcoming skate photographers?

Try and be as original as possible. Practice your photography on your friends, If you mess up a photo of Johnny Pro backlipping a 29, everyone’s going to know about it. Don’t work for free, if your photos are worth publishing then they’re worth something.

Tell us about your favourite skate photo you submitted to this feature?

It’s a shot of Paul Shier in Barcelona 2003.

I’ve chose this just because I like the simplicity of it I think. There’s no flashes or fisheye or colours…

A lot of skate photographers (myself included) get bogged down with tons of lights and trickery but a most of my favourite photos end up when I just try and keep it simple.

Is the work of a skate photographer well paid?

I’m happy to make a living from doing just skate photography.

Let’s just say that photographers in other fields are probably paid much better, but they probably don’t have as much fun.

Are there ways of getting better/free equipment as you continue to grow or do you have to fund everything yourself?

I’ve never tried to blag any camera equipment, I doubt I’d get too far either! Fuji give me film now and again though, which is nice. You can write equipment off against tax though.

Does music ever inspire your photography?

If I’m shooting bands I’ll definitely listen to their stuff beforehand and try and convey what they’re about in the photo. I listen to music quite a lot, but when I’m on tour I usually leave the i-pod at home. I find it a bit antisocial when people stick the headphones on when they’re in the van.

Tell us about the non skate shot you have submitted and the story behind it…

Adam Mondon, Finland 2002 – How can you not love a ropeswing?!

If you were to buy a pocket snapper for capturing skating on a budget to get going, which camera would you suggest?

My first camera was a Nikon FE2 with a 50mm f1.8 lens. This set up is small, light, has fast flash sync and is relatively cheap, I still use it! FM2s are good too.

Would you recommend digital or film?

Generally speaking I’d say shoot film for stills and shoot digital for sequences. There really are too many variables to say definitely one or the other. Digital’s so good now that what you’ve shot is more important than what you’ve shot it on.

What are the benefits of using film or digital?
Basically, I think film usually looks nicer and digital is more convenient.

What kit do you use?

My standard set up is Hasselblads for stills, Nikon digital for sequences. I’ll quite often mess about with other cameras though, just to make things interesting for myself.

You can find out more about Sam Ashley’s photography over at

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