FAQ - Chris Burkard


Do you offer any workshops?

Definitely! If you head over to my workshops page (or click here) you'll find all info about any upcoming workshops I'll be offering at my gallery in Avila Beach, California. If you're not in the area or can't make it out to my in-person workshop, you can always check out my online workshop I did with Creative Live by clicking hereand SkillShare here

Can I assist or intern with you?

I usually have friends or employees from my studio travel with and assist me. However, I do offer seasonal internships. We book them out pretty far in advance and we require all interns to live within driving distance from our studio in Grover Beach. The best way to stay up to date on applying for our internship would be to simply keep a lookout on our Facebook page!

Are your prints ready to hang? 

Our Metal Prints and Canvas Prints are ready to hang. Our paper prints need some sort of framing in order to hang on a wall. 

What Gear and Equipment do you normally use?

I shoot with the Sony mirrorless systems. I typically use the Sony A7rii for about 70% of my work, the A7sii for my night images, the A7rii for commercial work, and the a6300 when I need to strip down to a lightweight kit as well as when shooting in the water. Check out my 2 part video about the gear I use and the equipment I pack:



On being a photographer and having photography as a career.

Remember the camera is just a tool. What is more important is how you look at the world. Curiosity and a desire to explore, as well as passion is huge necessity when it comes to photography. If you start off with a basic camera that doesn't have too many controls or functions, you can focus on light and composition. Once you get to the point where you've mastered your camera as a tool, and want more control, then it's a good time to upgrade. If you start off with lots of complex gear, it can be overwhelming. Trial and error is your best friend when you are teaching yourself. Try different angles and different lighting. Most importantly, get out there and take photos. Keep an open mind, explore, and be willing to put yourself in lots of different situations. There are a few aspects to photography as a career, some which are often neglected. Light is crucial, and good lighting usually happens around sunrise and sunset. 

Learn to disassociate the visual aspects of an environment from how you feel. For example, when it's nice and sunny out, you feel great, but the bright sun will often wash out the colors. When the weather is cold and miserable, a storm is forming, and you want to call it a day, the lighting and colors are often the best. If you decide to pursue it as a career, know that 50% of photography is the business side of things. Emails, outreach, marketing, etc. are absolute necessities that can be tough to begin with, but will enable you to do what you love. Keep exploring, follow your passions and photograph what you love. In the beginning you may need to also photograph things that don't particularly interest you in order to fund what you want to shoot, but eventually you'll be able to focus in on your passions. Be good to people, make connections, be honest and work hard. Promote yourself, and share your work.

How did you get started?

I started shooting photos when I was 19 years old. I realized that it enabled me to do art in a mobile state, to explore and adventure, and show people the beauty in the world around me. I got an internship at Transworld Surf magazine which was an incredibly valuable experience. Through trial and error, I taught myself and began to develop a style. Hard work, persistence, and having passion for what I do has taken me a long way. For the first part of my career I slept in my car and commuted 5+ hours for internships! 

How I got my name out there.

As far as getting my name out there, I did an internship with Transworld Surf which got me into the surf scene. I also won a photo competition which boosted my career helping me to get a job at Surfer magazine and enabled the funding for my book "California Surf Project".

How to use social media as a marketing tool?

Social media is crucial in today's world. You have to stay on top of it, consistently posting your work and pushing yourself to be creative and try new things. It's important to look at the feedback and response from other people and use that to push forward. There are a multitude of social channels, so posting daily and staying on top of it is a great way to expand your audience.

What tips do you have for those wanting to shoot in the water?

My top tips for water photography would be to make sure you know your equipment like the back of your hand. You don’t want your equipment to distract you in the water. Also, to be effective in the water you need to train for swimming in the ocean. It’s a fun place to be but it can also be very dangerous. Staying in shape as well as being comfortable in the ocean is vital to getting successful photographs in the water. A fun little trick that I always use is to lick the lens and then dip it in the water to prevent water droplets from being on the lens. The most valuable piece of advice I would give a budding photographer would be to keep shooting and creating a large body of work. You’re not improving and developing if you aren’t shooting!

What one piece of advice do you have for an emerging photographer?

The best thing that you can do as an aspiring photographer is to identify a style that represents you well, develop within that style, and keep shooting to perfect it. It’s super important to have your images be recognizable by editors and others who are looking at your work. With the large number of photographers that are out there now you must find ways to stand out. The best compliment I can ever receive is when people know my photography work instantly when they see it.

Would you describe yourself as a photographer or an artist? Do you create artwork in other mediums besides photography?

I would describe myself primarily as a photographer. I direct video and I used to paint, but my main focus is on photography.

Could you describe one of your typical workdays for me? How many hours do you work in a typical week?

I work anywhere between 6-18 hours a day depending whether or not I'm on a job. When I'm in the office, it's a lot of research, packing, preparation, emails etc. When I'm out in the field, it really depends on the job, but visualizing a shot, assessing the idea from all angles and then executing it in a way to achieve my goal.

Considering all the people you’ve met with while working, what personal attributes are essential for success?

Hard work and passion, curiosity and a willingness to explore and be open to opportunities.

What type of preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to enter this field?

Find your style, and dial in on it. Practice it and perfect it so that you become recognizable for it. Learn the business side of things. Be good to people. Be honest and work hard.

How did you learn what you know about photography? Do you have a mentor or someone who helped you throughout your start?

Being self taught, I Iearned almost entirely through trial and error. Practice and working at what I loved to shoot was a big part of it. I interned at Transworld Surf under Pete Tares which was a great opportunity that furthered my career. I also interned with landscape photographer Michael Fatali which really influenced how a look at my own work.

What drew you to shoot these colder and remote locations?

I was just never interested in being surrounded by people. That's not what made me want to pick up a camera. I grew up on the central coast of California, Big Sur, and remote beaches where solitude is your best friend. You learn to be comfortable roaming alone on the beach and it was those experience that brought me close to nature, instead of being surrounded by tons of people on a beach, all seeking the same thing. Since I started my career, all I have wanted is to go to more and more remote places. What started as just a fun experience has turned into a full blown obsession. I have found that for me, and maybe this applies to everyone, if we are living too far inside our comfort zone then we aren’t really living. Living right on the edge is where we learn the most about ourselves.

What are the challenges of shooting in these cold and remote places?

It’s freaking cold. Frostbite cold! And I'm speaking from experience; I've had it! Additionally, logistics are a nightmare! It takes 3-4 years to plan these trips, and absolutely nothing comes easy. People see the images and they don’t understand the time and energy that goes into creating those moments. You have to really give something of yourself to make this stuff happen. I guess that's why I feel so emotionally invested. Passion is what drives us, nothing else! If you want to hear more about cold water photography and my thoughts about it, check out the TED talk I did!

When comparing your commercial work to your personal work, what are some advantages and disadvantages?

The advantages with personal work is that I have full control to shoot exactly what I want and what I'm passionate about. Commercial work has the advantage of immediate financial benefit that allows you to continue shooting personal work. The goal is to mend the two together so the commercial work lines up with what you want to shoot in your personal work.

What is your favorite place that you've traveled to?

Iceland! No doubt. It's such a magical place and no matter how many times I go there I keep getting drawn back. I’m about to go back for my 18th trip and am just as excited as I was on my first trip!

Can you share with me one of your proudest moments at work?

It's hard to say what my proudest moment would be, but gaining more recognition and support from fans, being able to be my own editor, and opening my own studio are definitely among them.

Future Goals or Projects?

Future goals would be to inspire people! Also to continue to develop my photography in a way that when people look at my work they recognize that it's one of my pieces. That's the biggest compliment. A big goal is to constantly push boundaries and continue producing creative work that inspires people to get out and explore the world.

Can I see your work in person?

I just recently opened up a gallery in Avila Beach California where I have a lot of my work showcased. Check out the gallery section on my website to learn more!

Check out some of these other blogs and videos I've done!

Huffington Post Article

How to Photograph a Surf Trip 

Arctic Swell Video

a6000 Field Testing Video

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