I love my work, I love to take photos of many things, portraits, nature, kids, events… but my favorite objects have wheels, two of them.
You can shoot bikes in more than one way. They can be moving objects riding or racing, or they can be models in the studio, on a stand on a show, or even outdoors in front of an interesting background, or even in nature. My photos of bikes are published on my website, and they are clean without of a lot of disturbing details.
So, we gonna go thru the process of getting quality photos of bikes without fancy equipment or use of a studio.
The camera, whatever is a cheap, used or old DSLR, or even the most expensive one on the market it’s all in the setting, and in the angle. Any 50 mm. or above will do the job. Just avoid shooting at a focal length of less than 50 mm. unless you want to achieve the wide angle effect.
There is more than one reason to shoot with lenses that are going above 50 mm. The longer focal length would mean the easier isolation of the bike from the background. Also, less focal length will make a nasty distortion on the proportions on the bike.
My usual setting is F4, this is fair enough for the image not to lose the details.
Also, you should mind the time of the day of your photo session. Midday is a very very bad timing because the sun is very harsh. If you don’t have other option than find a good shade. The best time is early in the morning or in the afternoon. At this time of the day, the sun is more even, and the light is smoother. Also, all of the shiny chrome parts of the motorcycles won’t destroy your image. The tendency of the gas tank is to throw a shadow on the machine so probably you should consider using a board to throw a light in those spots. This is the cheaper way, the more expensive solution is professional lighting equipment.
Always check the background for outside sessions, for every model not only for motorcycles. Try to find some background color with a contrast. This will help you to put an accent on the bike. If you ask me just shoot them on an empty field with a blue sky or in front of a brick wall. For me, personally, industrial background works best for Cafe Racers, Bobbers or Choppers, and a modern architecture for new sporty bikes as a background.
When you are shooting a model such as a bike, consider that you will have to take shots from every possible angle. Start from left, right, front and back. After that, you should go for the details. If you are a sick fan of bikes like me than you will know all the details, but if you are not that into this than you should shoot: the bars, the tank, the pipes, wheels, engine, headlight and all the shiny chrome parts. Now that you have covered the basics, use the rest of the time on exploring the bike. Find interesting details such as skulls and (or) all kinds of different markings. You can also talk to the owner of the bike, or the builder if it’s a custom bike, just in case if you are missing something out. Don’t be lazy and use all kinds of angles. Get down on your knees and get dirty. The lower angle is, the better your photo will be. Never take photos from a standing point, always shoot in the line of the tank or the headlight, this one trick makes any bike look much better. In one situation, I even requested a removal of the tank so that I can get a clear view of a big shiny V twin engine. 🙂
After the session probably you will have to post process your work. Photoshop or Lightroom will do just fine for editing images that you took. Firs look for dark places on your photos such as the seat, tires, engine etc. Newer crop the photos to tight around the bike and leave a space for text on them. Who knows, they might get to be published in a magazine or a web page. After all, it is a great success if your photos see the light of a magazine.
For this kind of photography, you shouldn’t have to have a problem in finding a model. Try the local dealer, a local custom bike builder, or even a proud owner of unique motorcycle (old timer or a rare model), and don’t be afraid to ask somebody to take photos of his bike. Trust me, the bikers like to show off with their precious toys.