#319 How to photograph motorcycles

We’d love to hear about your custom build or the mods you’ve spent so much money on. If a lack of decent photos is holding you back, then we can help with that. Read on.

For ‘Letters’ this issue Steve Dilnott from Perth, Australia sent us cell phone pics of his most recent custom build, with the promise of “professional” photos to come in the next few weeks.
This is the sort of correspondence we often receive: someone is proud of the mod work they’ve done to their bike or the ground-up custom they’ve built over the course of countless hours and now they want to share it with the rest of the world.
In the nearly 20 years that I’ve been editor at Canadian Biker, I’ve never grown tired of hearing from proud custom owners and builders. It’s my belief that the roots of this magazine are embedded in the chopper scene of the 1980s, of which CB founder, the legendary Len Creed, was very much a part. And as editor, I also believe that it’s my role, my responsibility, and my very great pleasure to keep the spirit of that custom and chopper tradition alive even though the natural evolution of Canadian Biker has brought us to a far more diverse place.
This is why I encourage readers like you to send us your photos—we truly do want to see what you’ve been building or modifying. Don’t be shy about it either. We realize that you may not think your photos are “good enough” for magazine use, but they’re probably a decent starting point. The big thing is that we get to hear about your project—something we won’t if you don’t let us know.
If photography is holding you back, because you feel you don’t have the skills and you don’t want to hire a pro, we can offer a few pointers. You don’t necessarily need the kind of expensive digital cameras with interchangeable lenses used by pros and serious amateurs—people are taking some pretty remarkable photos these days with decent digital point and shoots, with their iPads and smart phones, or many other forms of mobile devices.
And you can do it too. Here’s a quick primer for taking photos of the motorcycle you’re so proud to own.

How to shoot for Canadian Biker
1. and wait for the right time of day when the sun is at a low angle—either first thing in the morning or early in the evening. A directly overhead sun creates harsh light and shadows, while low angle light is “golden” and beautiful. Shoot with the sun at your back. Shooting toward the sun creates a “backlit” subject that is usually blown out and contrasty. Cloudy, overcast days are actually perfect for shooting.

2. Find a quiet, uncluttered, color-neutral place to set up. Please, please, please … get it out of your garage, off your driveway, and out of your back yard. Notice on page 24 of this issue how photographer Robin Despins uses a blocked-off access road in an industrial area. Nothing immediately around her. Perfect!

3. Set your camera to the highest resolution possible. Double-check that there will be no parked cars, kids’ trikes, garbage cans, power poles or other eyesores competing with your bike in the photo.

4. Get down low—even on your stomach—and shoot from many different angles. Too often people simply hover over their bikes and shoot. The results are one-dimensional photos with no depth. Boring! Shoot at “quartering angles” from the back, front, and from the side.

5. Completely “fill the frame” of your camera’s viewing area. That means getting as close as possible to the bike, not 15 feet away. Filling the frame will make the bike “pop” out. The photo on this page illustrates a low, quartering, full-frame shot. It’s a simple photo of Bryon Short’s custom Harley-Davidson, taken near sundown in an uncluttered location near Victoria, BC.

6. If you’re going to be in the photo, find ways to be active. Don’t just stand there like a statue. Pose a little. Work the “hero” shot. Surprise yourself.

7. Don’t park on grass or beside a body of water. Grass “eats” chrome in photos, and bodies of water often make harsh, contrasting bits of light. You really have to know what you’re doing with light if you intend a “water” shot.

8. Details, details, details. Zoom in on the key details. Get right in their face. You’ve worked hard on your bike; now work a little harder shooting it.

9. Make sure the focus is tight and crisp. Fuzzy, out-of-focus photos suck.

10. Have fun. Seriously.

Now that you have these 10 pointers to work with, get out there and shoot your bike as soon as the weather permits, then send in your pics ASAP. If you have questions, hit me:
edit@canadianbiker.com