Handbuilt Bicycle Guide

How to shoot your bike

HOW TO SHOOT GREAT PHOTOS OF YOUR BIKE


FILE SIZE & FORMAT: Maximum 250kb, 72 dpi, Aspect 3:2, 1280 x 853 pixels. Landscape format works a lot better than square or portrait.


CAMERA HEIGHT Get the camera down low, so the lens is a few centimeters under the level of the top tube. Play around a little and find the height that works best for the bike. Shooting from standing height distorts the shape of the bike makes the handlebars look too big and the wheels look small and not round. We need to see those wheels in their large, circular glory.


SHOOTING ANGLE Usually the money shot is square-on to the bike, so there’s a 90-degree angle between the line of the bike and the line of the lens. This applies to full-bike shots in the horizontal and vertical planes. For detail shots it is not always so important, but be aware that going off 90-degrees will make the bike look distorted. If you’re taking just one photo, the square-on angle will work best for most uses.
A typical set of shots will include three pulled-back shots: Side-on, front ¾, rear ¾, and two or three close-up detail pics. In all cases, experiment with the camera height to see which gives the truest view of the bike, keeping in mind the 2-D photo image disproportionately enlarges whatever is closest to the lens.


FOCUS When it comes to focus, you have a little more latitude. Pulled-back shots showing the whole bike or large parts of it should be in sharp focus. Detail shots can be either fully in focus, or if you wish the eye to go straight to a small area, use a short depth of field to keep only that area in focus and everything else will be a little blurry.


BACKGROUND Find a 100% neutral background, that's the best. A brick  or stucco wall can work also, or even the right garage door - mainly you want something that isn't going to catch the eye at all. You don't want ground/wall transition lines grabbing the viewer's eye. You want them to focus on the bike frame. If there must be a big transition line, try to find similar colors, and position the bike and camera so the lines don't cut the frame.


FRAMING For side-on shots, position the bike in the frame so the front of the front wheel and rear of the rear wheel go almost to the side edges. Vertically it should be about centered, although if doing so means adding some visual clutter to the shot, such as windows, leaves, footpaths, etc, then adjust the frame to keep it clean.


DETAIL AND ANGLED SHOTS Detail shots can make statements a pulled-back view can never do. See the notes on focus. Usually the most effective detail shots have no other bike parts in the background. You want the viewer’s eye to feast only on one meal in this pic.


BIKE SET-UP Set the cranks near horizontal, so they line up with the chainstays. Set the tyre valves so they’re both either at the top or the bottom, but matching. When installing the tyres, locate the tyre logo near the valve.


LIGHTING Hard shadows criss-crossing the bike can hurt the image. If shooting in natural daylight, you’re better off shooting in overcast conditions without a camera flash and then using some post-processing to bring the colours up a notch or two. In this case a tripod can help to keep the images sharp, because your shutter speed’s going to be slower. And take care not to over-do exposure and saturation changes if post-processing images.


If you do all of those things, you will be delighted by how much better your bike pics work for you!