Scrolling through my Instagram feed I’ll come across countless food, dog, and fitness photos. And every once in a while, a breathtaking image taken somewhere outdoorsy will pop up and make me double tap. Nine times out of ten, that image will be one of Chris Burkard’s, surf, outdoor and adventure photographer. I am one of Burkard’s 1.7 million Instagram followers and if you take a look at his images, you’ll understand why he has amassed such a following.

Burkard is a self-taught photographer and his ability to blend some of the world’s most stunning landscapes with a “humble placement of the human,” with a dash of action photography mixed in, has found him international recognition and success.  His images have been seen in numerous magazines, books and his impressive client list reads like the Fortune 500.


Lifestyle Scenic Surfer walking through cave to beach.
Photo Credit: Chris Burkard/Massif
Photo Credit: Chris Burkard/Massif

In the video below, Burkard sits down with Advancing Your Photography‘s Marc Silber and shares some tips about taking great outdoor photos. Inspired by natural light, Chris seeks to photograph images “that are attainable to people…places where people can see themselves going.”

The 10-minute conversation is full of tidbits of advice on adventure photography, but something that Chris shares that I found to be very interesting was the 5 things that makes a “cover shot” for a magazine:

  • Composition
  • Light
  • Depth
  • Contrast
  • “Mojo” – the moment when all those things coming together
Lifestyle Scenic Surfer walking pat power plant to surf
Photo Credit: Chris Burkard/Massif

The memory of trees is hard to forget.

A photo posted by ChrisBurkard (@chrisburkard) on

It’s not a secret. We all know that those 5 things are what create an interesting image, but many of us don’t take the time to master them because we often believe that we will just happen upon a great photo.

What sets Burkard apart is that not only has he mastered these five areas to create a cover-worthy image, but he takes a lot of time and studies everything before he captures the image. Like a manuscript, Burkard will look at the subjects, landscape, weather conditions, and more, envisions where he will be going and where he is going to be before he ever gets to the moment when it all comes together – the “mojo.” He speaks about spending two or three days before a shoot to research; this also helps him see how others have photographed it and so he can think of something uniquely creative.

Watch the video below and be inspired by more of Chris Burkard’s images on his website and Instagram. See more interviews with great photographers from Advancing Your Photography on their YouTube.

CREDITS: Photographs by Chris Burkard are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.