10 top tips to take the perfect motorcycle photo
We all love our bikes, but it’s hard to capture the feel of the machine, its personality, its beauty.
You don’t need to be a technical whizz-kid to take amazing photos. By considering a few golden rules before you press the button, you can create masterpieces that you will be proud to hang on your wall!
Here, Photography Monthly magazine’s Adam Scorey shares some top photography tips you can use to create great motorcycle portraits...
Consider carefully where and against what you are going to shoot your bike.
My first few images placed the bike against some colourful beach huts, being careful to omit the scruffiness I found. They didn’t work for the whole bike, so I moved closer and turned the camera upright for a tighter composition.
You can actually use the bad weather to accentuate your image, and give it a feel or atmosphere. Cloudy conditions diffuse light and give soft shadows, and are therefore great for detail shots.
I took close-up shots of rain-covered chrome, reflections of abstract details in a huge puddle and generally used the rather dour conditions to help create a more dark and brooding mood, including shooting in the camera’s black-and-white mode.
Unless you are heading off on a specific ride, the first thing to consider when photographing anything, but particularly bikes, is a location.
So many iconic motorcycle shots seem to be of Monument Valley or dusty downtown American cities, but there are just as many spectacular settings that are more accessible to us Brits – whether it’s the scenic Home Counties, the Lake District or the White Cliffs of Dover.
Showing movement is a great way to add atmosphere to a shot, and helps concentrate the image on the bike and rider rather than the background.
Yes, you can take a shot from the riding position, up high and including the handlebars, some of the tank and the road ahead – you’ll need a wide-angle for this to work and a free-angle rear LCD screen would be really handy to check your framing.
A nice ‘cheat’ here is to put your camera in landscape scene mode and shoot some movement sequences. It slows the shutter speed down and will add blur, which in turn helps create the sense of motion.
If you’re taking on-bike shots, consider using what is called ‘panning’ – as a subject moves past the camera, left-to-right and not too fast, you move the camera in a semicircular arc to follow it, taking pictures as it passes.
If you are not an enthusiast photographer, talking about light and all its glorious forms is going to confuse things – most of us shoot in whatever we find ourselves doing, no matter the weather.
Generally, perfect light is only ever achieved by those who have the time to sit and wait for it, or to visit a location enough times to know when that is.
I love using the immediate surroundings in my images – architectural details, people, roads, trees – anything that will give my image a sense of scale and create a narrative. But think about where you place them.
Look for lines and shapes that will lead your eyes as they look around the picture to your subject. Also look for elements that give your picture a balance of subject ‘weight’.
If you are travelling to somewhere special, with personal references or touristy hotspots, by all means include them in the frame but do it carefully and with an eye for artful composition – again think balance and weight.
Perhaps find a location that gives you a high vantage point to shoot down or a different view from the normal, wide-angle shots we all take. Take care to remove extraneous detail from your picture – people or power lines, for example, can be avoided with a bit more care.
While sitting down and having lunch, I parked the bike so I could see it from the table. Then, using my teacup and table, I shot a few abstract shots of the bike, for two reasons.
One, it was fun to experiment with angles, and two, they also helped to create part of my narrative for the shoot.
Adam's ten top tips
- Have fun
- Watch for cluttered backgrounds
- Shoot details
- Try to create a narrative
- Get a high vantage point
- Try panning to give a sense of speed
- Shoot in black-and-white/mono mode
- Avoid getting yourself in the shot by zooming in
- Mount a camera on your bike
- Shoot from low and high angles, not just standing
Picture taking should be fun, try these simple ideas to improve your images.
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