We’ve all seen it before; a blurry photo of someone’s motorcycle parked in their driveway with their cluttered garage in the background. Upon seeing this you may think, “what am I looking at?” or “who would put this online?”
What you might not know is that taking good pictures of motorcycles isn’t always as easy as it seems. You may think that just because you have a clean, chromed-out bike that it will photograph well, but that isn’t always the case. Read on for photography tips to capture that million-dollar image of your motorcycle that is worthy of an Instagram repost from RevZilla, Bike Exif, or RumbleOn.
Table of Contents
First things first...
You’ll want to start off with a clean bike. Unless you are taking an off-road adventure photo, no one wants to see motorcycle pictures with a mud-covered bike against a beautiful background. If your chrome pipes are the main focus of your bike, make sure they are free from rust and shining like a diamond. The last thing you’d want people to think is that you aren’t properly caring for your prized possession.
Now you are ready to go into the world, or your driveway, and start taking great motorcycle pictures! You’ll want to find a suitable background that will work with your bike. This is easy if you are taking a photo in front of a scenic ocean overlook or against a mountain setting, but can be a little more difficult if the above is not at your disposal. The good news is that a suitable background for your bike photos isn’t hard to find (or create.)
You’ll want to find somewhere that is uncluttered. There are many inviting locations to take a photo of your motorcycle, but you have to always check the details of the area. If you find an open field, make sure there are no objects in the background that could ruin your shot such as trash cans, litter, or barriers. If you are taking a picture of your bike in your driveway, the photo will turn out much better if your garage door is closed so you can’t see the items inside.
The type of motorcycle you are shooting should also be a factor when picking the location. Some motorcycle photography ideas could be a city background for a street bike versus a bagger on a city street, whereas a blacked-out cruiser might look cleaner against a graffiti wall than a multi-colored superbike.
You can easily “create” your own background by taking a shot of your motorcycle in front of a blank wall or by hanging up a plain sheet for a background that is free and clear of anything that could distract from the main focus. The composition of the photograph will determine the mood of the photo, so figure out beforehand what feeling you are going for.
You could have the cleanest bike that has the most breathtaking background, but if your lighting conditions aren't right, your picture will look terrible. Getting the lighting right is a tricky task that requires patience and a little magic to learn how to light motorcycle photography. The time of the day is important and the best hours to take photos are in the early morning and right before the sun sets, also known as golden hour because the sun is softer. Taking photos in the middle of the day in direct sunlight isn’t ideal because it can cast heavy shadows onto your bike, causing features to get lost in the darkness instead of standing out.
The morning and night aren’t the only times to take a photo, but you may need to use the flash. Fill in flash will help with any harsh shadows in your shot, but using the flash can also reflect on chrome and any other shiny surface on your bike. Remember to try different positioning of your bike to find how you can have your bike’s shadow in front or in back, instead of directly over your bike, or try to find a shaded area that still offers natural light around it.
Although nice weather is preferred for riding and bike photos, an overcast day could also add to the mood of a photo and produce a perfect light for your bike photo. Shooting at night is also a great opportunity for very unique photos. To ensure that your photo gets in enough light during the night, also known as shutter speed, prop your camera up or use a tripod to avoid any blurriness from the camera shaking.
Many newer phones have a nighttime mode for taking photos in low light while reducing any blurriness or graininess in nighttime phones. If your camera does not have a nighttime feature, you can manually make the darks darker by reducing the exposure. A long exposure photo at night is also a way to add drama and flair to your bike photo, just be sure to use a tripod to reduce any shakiness due to the slow shutter speed. Here's a great list of tips for shooting in low light and night.
- Pro Tip: If your bike photo is planned and not spontaneous, you can easily bring a white poster board or anything else that is reflective to bounce the light back to your bike to lighten any harsh shadows.
The position of your bike is another critical factor when it comes to taking a great photo of your motorcycle. There are a lot of motorcycle photography poses, but the most ideal positioning for your bike to get the photo angle is the ¾ shoot. This means that the photo is taken of your bike where 3/4ths of it is in the frame. This positioning allows for the front and sides to be seen in a visually appealing way. You can see the ¾ trend even in vintage motorcycle photography.
That’s not to say that you can’t take a side profile or a straight-on photo, but they just may not show as much of the bike as an angeled, ¾ frame composition or be as visually interesting.
Getting that perfect picture might make you do a little work. Playing with the perspective of the photo can be key to capturing a unique shot of your motorcycle. It might take a little work, including trying close to the ground or finding an elevated surface for a picture taken from above. You can also get creative with zoomed-in shots or cut-off images that don’t show your motorcycle from tire to tire. A zoomed-in shot of your bike's engine or a photo that shows the detail of your fuel tank can be just as visually appealing as a full bike photo.
Portrait mode is your friend! Using portrait mode on a camera changes the depth-of-field (changing the aperture priority) to blur the background of a photo and make the subject crisp and stand out. Portrait mode also offers different lighting settings that allow you to change the light settings and effects around your subject. Portrait mode and its different lighting options can help create a unique shot.
If you are on a solo ride, getting the ultimate biker photo of you and your ride isn’t out of the question. You’ll have to use a tripod or find something to rest your camera on and play with the angle before you hit that self-timer button. Photos taken at a lower angle of you and your bike, instead of eye-level, can add flair to your photo. The name of the game is to get creative with your shots.
Action shots are another great idea when it comes to getting an Instagram-worthy photo. Find someone who is willing to help you from the ground while you are riding your bike. If a motion blur is your desired photography goal and you are shooting on a phone instead of a DSLR digital camera, you can download different apps, such as Slow Shutter Cam, to help you capture moving objects the way changing the camera settings on an expensive camera would.
- Pro Tip: There are a lot of iPhone photo hacks you can use to take interesting photos by just changing a few settings.
Editing your photos before posting can make a world of difference and is extremely easy with digital photography. If you have an Adobe Creative Suite, there are many free internet presets you can download for Lightroom that others have created to perfect your motorcycle photos. If you don’t have an Adobe login, there are countless photo editing apps that are free, such as VSCO or Snapseed, that will allow you to edit your photos to make your pride and joy stand out a little more in photos.
It’s worth noting that there are also some great photo editing apps, like Afterlight 2 and others, that only cost a few dollars to buy but are loaded with great features to take your photos of cool motorcycles to the next level.
Taking photos of your bike when trying to sell
When you are taking photos of your bike to sell, you should still take the above tips into account, but you will need to take more photos. Our RumbleOn cash offer specialists request three good photos when determining the price for your bike; a left side view, a right side view, and a photo of the odometer. If there are any damages to your motorcycle, such as scratches, dents, cracks, etc., close-up photos are requested to assess the extent of the damage. If your motorcycle is extremely dirty in the photos you upload, the cash offer team may not be able to see the true cosmetic condition of your motorcycle.
Now that you have the knowledge of a professional motorcycle photographer to improve your photography, you can go out into the world and start taking those envy-inducing photos that will have motorcycle accounts begging to repost!
Save this handy checklist to make that #motorcyclephotography on Instagram pop and tag us so we can see your masterpieces!
Now that you have the know-how to take amazing photos of your bike to show it in its best light, you can upload them to RumbleOn to get your cash offer for a new bike to take Instagram-worthy photos of.