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  1. #1
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    Tell me how to photograph my bikes

    I have access to some nice cameras and some nice bikes. The only problem is the only photographer I have regular access to (me) completely sucks at taking pictures of bikes.

    I struggle with the lighting -- my little compact digital cameras never seem to get the lighting/details right, so I guess I need to drag out the digital slr and actually read the manual or something.

    Or, I could get expert advice from total strangers on the web.

    Advice?

    - indoors vs. outdoors?
    - lighting?
    - f-stop, shutter speed ?

    I finally finished a couple of restoration projects and before I unleash the results on you I want photos that the bikes deserve.

    I know that some of you are very good at this....

    (EDIT: I don't mean to sound so helpless; I have tried to figure this out but am not happy with what I've been doing....I've had my cameras on auto / program and not been happy with results; I need to dig in and sort out what I'm doing wrong. Part of my problem is getting details to show up when the details are sometimes shiny and the details wash out if I have too much light).
    Last edited by BengeBoy; 08-27-08 at 11:09 AM.

  2. #2
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Use this to correct photo problems.
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    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
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  3. #3
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    There are good threads on photographing bikes, I believe they are either in C&V or Road Cycling.

    Look for threads where 55/Rad has contributed... he does fantastic work.

    Some of it is an eye for lighting. However, some seem to be able to get reasonably good shots whether with a point & shoot or a DSLR.

    From my limited time with my DSLR (Sony Alpha 200) I have found that even if I use it as a point & shoot, it does better than my point & shoot camera. I don't know anything yet, but the better camera will do a better job. And using a tripod does help.

    So far, I like shooting outside, but there is more to it than that, it also takes an eye (that I have yet to develop) to discern when the lighting is good.

    Also, picking a background that highlights your bike is important as well... again something I know when I see, but only in someone else's photos so far.

    EDIT: I am sure I have read longer threads than this, but here is one:

    Average Joe Picture Taking Advice
    Last edited by Little Darwin; 08-27-08 at 11:08 AM.
    Slow Ride Cyclists of NEPA

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  4. #4
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Have a good quality point & shoot Sony with zoom lens.
    It is just point and shoot.

    But Garage door must be shown- Then we can see how good your house maintenance skills are.

    You have to raise the saddle by 3" to show you are competitive on the bike and must be taken showing the crank set with the crank in a horizontal forwarg position.

    Scenery is different- Just take plenty of pics and choose the ones you like.
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  5. #5
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    Stapfam

  6. #6
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    I prefer to photograph things that shine, like bikes or cars, on a day that is overcast to avoid distracting reflections. Good results can be achieved by putting the bike several feet in front of a light colored, solid background. Select a large aperture (small f number) and let the camera select a corresponding speed. Focus manually because the camera's auto focus is likely to see through the bikes modest profile and focus on the background. The big f stop will keep the bike sharp while slightly blurring the background. If you want a really notable image, at a pro camera store, buy a roll of 8' wide seamless paper (about $40) of a color that contrasts your bike's color. Tape the paper to a wall, gently curve it on to the ground and into the foreground far enough that nothing else shows in the view finder other than the bike sitting on the seamless paper. Use a longer lens on this set up so as not to get the edges of the paper in the frame. Snap dozens, some standing, some crouching; you're bound to get some good shots. I hope you'll post your favorites here.

  7. #7
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    Be sure to turn the wheels so that the valve stem is hidden by the frame (or fork).

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by flanso View Post
    I prefer to photograph things that shine, like bikes or cars, on a day that is overcast to avoid distracting reflections. Good results can be achieved by putting the bike several feet in front of a light colored, solid background. Select a large aperture (small f number) and let the camera select a corresponding speed. Focus manually because the camera's auto focus is likely to see through the bikes modest profile and focus on the background. The big f stop will keep the bike sharp while slightly blurring the background. If you want a really notable image, at a pro camera store, buy a roll of 8' wide seamless paper (about $40) of a color that contrasts your bike's color. Tape the paper to a wall, gently curve it on to the ground and into the foreground far enough that nothing else shows in the view finder other than the bike sitting on the seamless paper. Use a longer lens on this set up so as not to get the edges of the paper in the frame. Snap dozens, some standing, some crouching; you're bound to get some good shots. I hope you'll post your favorites here.
    Thanks!

    I had gotten as far as the "overcast" as the best light I'd found to date....not hard to find one of those days here in Seattle.

    The rest is excellent specific advice; thanks.

  9. #9
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    Have a good quality point & shoot Sony with zoom lens.
    It is just point and shoot.

    But Garage door must be shown- Then we can see how good your house maintenance skills are.

    You have to raise the saddle by 3" to show you are competitive on the bike and must be taken showing the crank set with the crank in a horizontal forwarg position.
    These are good points but I would also lose the drain in the foreground.

    I think the best results for displaying on BF is to use a service such as Photobucket and embed the pic into the post so that it shows up on the screen as a large image. You can take the million dollar shot and if someone has to click on it to see it, they may not.

    Also, the bike has to be into it. You can see in Stapfam's pic that the bike was just not into the shoot even though he raised the seat and flipped the stem. Bikes are moody.

  10. #10
    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    If you look closely at Stafam's drain you can see 2000 lbs. slipping down it.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    I think the best results for displaying on BF is to use a service such as Photobucket and embed the pic into the post so that it shows up on the screen as a large image. :
    BTW, I use www.tinypic.com to post pics on forums. Like Photobucket, only you don't need an account...it will also resize as you upload. Very fast.

  12. #12
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Now here is a bike with attitude...



    Also, note that the sun cast shadows. I used some fill in flash to give it a little sparkle and light up shadows.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Darwin View Post
    There are good threads on photographing bikes, I believe they are either in C&V or Road Cycling.

    Look for threads where 55/Rad has contributed... he does fantastic work....

    Average Joe Picture Taking Advice

    Thanks -- I have seen 55/Rad's photos. They are great. I just did a search and turned up this thread where folks were asking him for advice, he in turn provided links to two other threads. They're *very* long, so I haven't looked at them yet, but thought I would at least report progress in finding more threads.

    So, this is the thread that leads to two more threads....

    Rad/55's Picture Presentations

  14. #14
    Senior Member gcottay's Avatar
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    Simple often works.

    Outdoors. Bright cloudy day. Fill flash or none. Uniform or at least simple background. Pose your beautiful model. Try various angles to see how she (whoops, it) is best portrayed. You can also break the rule and get something good like Hermes did.

    If your gear allows, you can use a high shutter speed and wide aperture to keep the bike in focus while the background is out of focus.

    Generally, we amateur shooters fuss too much with the camera and not enough with paying attention to the model and the light.
    George
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  15. #15
    lunatic fringe Dogbait's Avatar
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    I don't have a garage so I use the end of my neighbors house. It's a nice neutral shade and lacks enough detail to draw the eye away from the bike. I place the bike in full shadow and use the on-camera flash for fill, or not, depending on the brightness of the day and how a test photo looks. The bike is placed at least a foot away from the background to eliminate "bike shadows" from the flash. This method is quick and easy and works equally well with my point and shoot (Canon A620) or my DSLR (Nikon D70).











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    Last edited by Dogbait; 08-27-08 at 10:25 PM.

  16. #16
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Dogbait, by any chance is your neighbour's house a houseBOAT? Those boards and pipe looks amazingly like a dock........

    Taking good pictures is more about lighting and background and really USING the camera you have accurately. Notice that no one here has said you need a DSLR and 6 stand mounted Kleig lights or any such silliness.

    Hints for using a P&S camera. If you push the shutter button half way to the first soft click the camera will focus and usually there's a little box or such that will appear in the picture that indicates what the camera focused on. If it looks through the opening of the main triangle to the bushes in the background then you can aim the camera so the steerting head is in the center of the picture, push halfway down to focus on the head tubes and then while holding the camera half pushed move it so you compose your picture the way you want and THEN push the shutter button the rest of the way. This is often reffered to as focus lock and there should be something about it in your manual.

    Lighting is King in any picture. Avoid sunny days or at least avoid strong shadow lines over everything. It's best to move your bike and you to the shadey side of the house for these pictures if it's bright. But if you must shoot in the sun then try to prop the bike up well away from any walls and out of any dappled shadows. Then use the force flash option to better fill in the harsh shadows on the bike if you have to.

    But as you said being in Seattle it's easier to just wait until later in the day or the next day when it'll be cloudy for certain...

    Twilight and early morning are great times for pictures since the light is much softer and has a nice warm color to it. Noon and about 3 hours each side of it should be avoided like the plague if you're doing shots that really show the bike.

    The blank garage door or house(boat) sides are nice for a more documentary setting but you can't beat a nice location shot. Just look at the "God likes my bike" thread posted recently for a superb location picture. But shots like that are more about the joy of cycling and not about bike porn.

    It also really makes the bike look better if you use a longer telephoto setting and step back further from the bike instead of using the wide angle setting. The WA setting is great for funky looking shots and when you want a lot of depth of field but the mid to longer telephoto settings will produce better technical bike porn shots similar to those shown in Dogbait's shots. Getting down onto a knee for the shot also helps a lot. It avoids the "looking down" look that you'll get when standing. You want to get it so the camera is down around the same level as the top tube or 6 inches lower.

    Be sure your camera is using a lower value for the ISO. If it's locked to 400 or higher it may be washing out the pictures and making them muddy with noise due to the higher ISO value. High ISO's will get you that shot in poor light but it's a National Enquirer grade of shot and not something to be proud of.

    Bottom line is that it doesn't matter what camera you use. It's all about HOW you use your camera. Note that most of the hints are about where to put the bike and what light to use and where to put the camera. Very little is about the camera itself.

    This doesn't mean you can ignore the camera. Read your camera's manaul to learn what the differnet modes do and what they have for limits. If you don't understand the principles of aperature vs exposure, eposure compensation, depth of field, deepening and foreshortening as related to focal length and many other topics then get yourself around to the local libray and pick up some books on photography. Once you know what you want and what the camera is able to give you then the good shots will come almost without exception.

    Most of all USE the camera and try a lot of stuff. Take a bike out and find the shadey place where there won't be any shadow lines in the picture. Shoot with it on wide and then zoom in and step well back so the picture is the same coverage. Try the exposure compensation a few positions to each side of "perfect". You'll find that a touch of underexposure really deepens the colors. But go too far and it'll look dark and "tunnel like" around the edges.

    Take gobs of shots from a lot of angles and with different settings. We all went through this. And with digitals the "film" is free so there's no reason not to experiment until your finger is sore.
    Last edited by BCRider; 08-27-08 at 10:45 PM.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  17. #17
    dck
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    If it's bright sun, choose a shady location. I sometimes use an old sheet as a backdrop.

  18. #18
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    These are good points but I would also lose the drain in the foreground.

    I think the best results for displaying on BF is to use a service such as Photobucket and embed the pic into the post so that it shows up on the screen as a large image. You can take the million dollar shot and if someone has to click on it to see it, they may not.

    Also, the bike has to be into it. You can see in Stapfam's pic that the bike was just not into the shoot even though he raised the seat and flipped the stem. Bikes are moody.
    The drain is there to stay- Further over and you will find I have a single garage.

    And fortunately- Other than changing the Yellow Zip ties to black-This is how Boreas is set up. Just wish my back would take a "Flipped" stem To show how "Young" I am.

    And if you get a Photo bucket or web site to host your pics- they do look far better.
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  19. #19
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    The drain is there to stay.
    Fixed.

  20. #20
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    Hard to top Stapfam's advice about a garage door, but there are certain bikes where I like to take the pics on a location where they are earning their keep. My 92 Nishiki Ariel with elevated chain stay:
    Roccobike BF Official Thread Terminator

  21. #21
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    Since I started this thread, I've been looking at my many old bike pics.

    Here's the oldest one I can find -- my Dad took it. That's me on the left, my brother on the right.

    Lots of problems here:

    - riders should not stand in front of bikes
    - bikes should not be shown with funny crepe paper decorations
    - bikes should be against garage door
    - bike in back not visible
    - no lycra
    - cool 60's buzzcuts were ahead of their time



  22. #22
    Don't mince words Red Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    Now here is a bike with attitude...

    [IMG]snip[/IMG]
    Holy DG, Batman, it's a white bike!
    When my feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says, "Oh, *****, she's awake!"

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  23. #23
    Don't mince words Red Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dck View Post
    If it's bright sun, choose a shady location. I sometimes use an old sheet as a backdrop.
    [IMG]snip[/IMG]
    That's a pretty bike. The chain needs to be on the big chainring, though.

    Just sayin'...
    When my feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says, "Oh, *****, she's awake!"

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  24. #24
    Streetfire HopedaleHills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    Since I started this thread, I've been looking at my many old bike pics.

    Here's the oldest one I can find -- my Dad took it. That's me on the left, my brother on the right.

    Lots of problems here:

    - riders should not stand in front of bikes
    - bikes should not be shown with funny crepe paper decorations
    - bikes should be against garage door
    - bike in back not visible
    - no lycra
    - cool 60's buzzcuts were ahead of their time


    Not to mention the vests!
    Tim
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  25. #25
    dck
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    Sure wish I had that pickup truck parked at the curb in the back.

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