Six years ago, Alexa Miller told her parents she was leaving medical school to become a ski photographer. A long, dead silence followed. Undeterred, she flew to Argentina, then Big Sky, Montana, then Chamonix, where she stayed for the winter. Now 31 and based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, he has since established herself as a successful photographer shooting everywhere from Compton to the Montana backcountry. Alexa gave us the following wisdom about a career in action sports photography.
So how did you make the switch from future doctor to full-time skier?
When I was in med school my friends and I were up at 4A.M. one morning studying. We started talking about what we would do if we inherited 10 million dollars. Almost everyone else said they would still be in med school. I was like “No way, I would hop on the first plane and ski all over the world.” That was the moment I realized there were so many more things I wanted to do with my life. Medicine wasn’t my passion.
What is your number one tip for capturing a good ski photo?
Be aware of the light. For me, it’s all about golden hour. Those moments right before the sun sets and right after it dips below the horizon are my favorite. I love that soft, golden hazy light. Sunrise is great too but far less convenient. Have a clear intention about what you want the photo to look like. Happy accidents can be good too though.
Who do you prefer shooting: models or athletes?
Athletes, for sure. They are more fun and bring so much more energy to each shoot, even if it’s a fashion shoot. And they can be just as good looking
What’s the difference between fashion and lifestyle photography? It’s hard to tell with ski companies producing so much “lifestyle apparel.”
Fashion is about showcasing the clothes, and lifestyle is about capturing an authentic moment. Setting up lifestyle shoots is very difficult, because you want the scenes to look natural, and it’s up to you as the photographer to create that energy and authenticity. I pay attention to the moments in between shots, that’s usually when I get the best images.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers wanting to break into the industry?
It’s all about the people and locations you’re shooting. If you’re up-and-coming, you should be working with up-and-coming athletes, because then you can grow together. Plan cool trips, get off the beaten path, and just shoot your ass off. Be brave and put your work out there: Submit to magazines and coffee shops, upload to Facebook and blogs, ask photo editors for feedback, and just keep shooting.
Check out Alexa’s portfolio at alexamiller.com