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How to Photograph Your Bicycle: Some Obscure Tips…


Deeply important in life is how we cyclists stage our bikes for a photograph.  In the whole scheme of things, the topic ranks just above the effects of mosquito farts on global coo-… err, warmi…. err, climate change.

That said, when it comes to blogging and taking your own photos for your blog, there are mistakes to be made.  Make enough of them and you lose instant credibility as an authority for whatever it is you’re writing about (short of a ride report, which reading is often almost as fun as watching paint dry – and all ride/run reports are not equal)…

Let’s start with some simple basics:

20170501_140916

Very simple…  Drivetrain is ALWAYS facing the camera.  There are very few exceptions to this rule but it can be done tastefully if done correctly.  Valve stems at 6 o’clock or hidden behind the fork or chain/seat stays.  The decals on my rims make hiding the valve stems tricky because it puts the logos at odd places on the “clock” face so I choose to stick with the tried and true 6 o’clock.  The back crank arm should be hidden by either the seat post or the chain stays.  These are the only two acceptable positions.  Always in the big chain ring (unless you’re doing a summit photo, then baby ring is acceptable).   The gear in the back is not important as long as you’re not in the biggest cog – that’s not wise.  For staged photos we try to leave the water bottles out of the cages, though we forget from time to time.  Not a big deal.  Stick to these rules and make sure your bike/drivetrain is clean and your photo will look great.

The one time you can throw all of the rules out the window:  The action shot.  Say you just rolled into a rest stop.  You hit the restroom first, top off your bidons (bottles), grab a bite to eat and realize your bike looks cool lined up with all of the other bikes.  Better, you’re getting ready to head out on an adventure and you realize that your bike looks awesome the way the sunlight is hitting it.  You snap a quick photo:

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Here’s the previous scenario where my first generation Venge just happened to be sharing a telephone pole with a brand new Venge ViAS:

If anyone gives you crap about how your bike is staged in an action photo, all you have to do to put them in their place is by stating the following:  “I ride hard enough that I don’t think of trivial things at times like that”.  You explain yourself while putting them in their place for being obtuse at the same time.  Perfect.

Now, there is one trick I can offer that’s a little off the beaten path for photographing a bike.  Let’s look at that first photo one more time.  Pay particular attention to the handlebars, hoods and shifter levers:

20170501_140916

You see how evenly they’re matched up?  There’s a trick to getting that right (or at least close, without a tripod).  First, you have to be toward the front of the bike, otherwise the handlebars will never line up right.  Here’s a photo I snapped the other day, standing in the middle of the bike:

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So, cheat to the front of the bike.  Second, and this is most important… you can’t get the right shot when you’re that close to the bike.  Here’s the original shot that first photo was taken from:
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I take the wider shot then edit the photo.  If you’re too close to the bike, the sight-lines will distort the back wheel so it looks considerably smaller than the front.

A few final notes to remember:

  • The ride is always more important than the photo…. unless you’re a photographer.
  • Taking photos of a dirty steed is only acceptable to show how much of a badass you are for having ridden in the conditions you rode in.
  • Life is short, bikes are cool.  Do yours justice.
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10 Comments

  1. wanderwolf says:

    Totally didn’t think it was important to shoot the bike. But now that I have these tips, I’m prepared if I ever have to!

  2. unironedman says:

    I sense a T shirt with that last bullet point…

  3.  My favorite part, your person always shows in bits of your writing, love this part. You explain yourself while putting them in their place for being obtuse at the same time.  Perfect. That is my favorite part, would love to know the bloggers errors for other type of photography. I never even thought about it until you wrote this. Now you got my mind wondering.

    • bgddyjim says:

      The biggest “error” is photographing the wrong side of the bike (drivetrain facing away from the camera). That and nasty, dirty bikes…. Everything after that is tiny but all of the little pieces make the photo on the end.

  4. Great to find a kindred spirit, I’m very particular about how I photograph my bike, and agree with all your points with one exception. I like my drive side crank to follow the he line of the seat tube , I think it looks more dynamic.

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