How To Photograph A Motorcycle 2
We are all on a learning curve all the time because there’s always room to grow and improve. And doesn’t it feel great when we do? When we look back at where we were compared to where we are now. Setbacks and failures along the way are gold. Disappointing as they are, these are the places where we learn most and improve as a result.
Experience is a vital ingredient for all genres of photography. A few years back Jodi came on our Iceland photo workshop. Jodie is super creative. She designs and sells beautiful jewelry at her company Jewels Of The Kimberly in Broome, Australia. Jodie’s an expert at photographing jewelry in the studio, but had never tried landscape before and spent the first couple of days getting her head around how to approach it, new techniques and ways of thinking. Once she did, she rocked it. Here she is on the Ice beach doing just that..
With no experience of photographing motorcycles myself, I was in the same position in part 1 and kinda arrogantly thought, “How hard can it be?’ I mean I’ve been a pro photographer for years, it’ll be fine.
It’s an engaging video and has some good points, but I’m underwhelmed by my motorcycle photography. They’re OK, but not great. I have to practise, experiment and get my head around photographing motorcycles just as Jodi did with landscapes. You can judge my progress in how to photograph a motorcycle PT3 in a couple months time.
Meanwhile let’s have a look at the bike pics I got and have a little critique session on a few of them and maybe some insights of what was learned …
Critique and Review
Good points: It’s clean and uncluttered. The curves of the bike are accentuated by the straight lines of the industrial units which frame it well. A bit of negative space shows the environment the motorcycle’s in without detracting from it and the angle’s low enough to be powerful and just unusual enough to make it interesting. The little bit of wood under the stand prevents it from leaning over too far. Red of the bike and blue sky work well together. I like the little row of birds in the sky though this was pure luck. Didn’t know they were there until we got into Lightroom.
Room for improvement: The little block of wood under the stand is too noticeable. Maybe there was something dark laying around that could have been used instead. The light’s not great. I was too close to the industrial unit behind me and it blocked light in an already very contrasty scene that needed all the help it could get. Maybe moving a few feet further away would increase light on the bike and brough the contrast against the sky down a bit. The street lamp growing out of the tank could have easily been hidden behind the speedo and rev counter by moving the bike a few inches to the right - or myself a few to the left.
Good points: Low angled light shining up the bike from behind brings textures to life and saturates colours. Camera angle and positioning is good. Wide aperture, focal length and distance to subject provide just enough separation from the background to make the motorcycle stand out from it. But only just!
Room for improvement: Despite there being some separation between bike and background, it’s still too busy and the bike is fighting with its surroundings. It needs to stand out and really pop to have an impact. In this situation moving back with a longer lens to increase distance to subject would have blurred the background more and made the bike stand out. (A wide aperture lens such as an f2.8 might not have helped because depth of field would be so small parts of the bike would likely be out of focus. And I wanted to stay away from using pro kit)
Handlebar angle makes the bike appear to be looking the other way! When looking at a motorcycle from a standing position, I like the bars turned away from the lean angle. On looking at the images, I don’t think this works from a lower point of view.
The puddle and reflection are a distraction. Either have a reflection - or don’t!
Good points: I still like this one best from the shots taken in PT1. The composition and graphically arranged elements included in it make the colourful motorcycle stand out from the drab environment.
Room for improvement: The pale block under the side stand is messy, too noticeable and smacks of not enough care taken. A darker one that blends in would have been better. On reflection the shot might have worked better with the bike leaning toward the camera, instead of away from it.
Whilst the background is ever so slightly soft, it’d be interesting to see how it’d look a little softer still by moving back and using a longer lens.
A couple of people were sitting under the shelter having a smoko and flask of tea would give the location more purpose and made the image overall more interesting.
This How We Learn and Grow
Practise makes perfect, but practise alone won’t have much effect if it’s not combined with reflection on what has gone before. By asking ourselves powerful questions on how we could improve, we discover the way to do it. Then go back and try something differently according to our answers. Don’t ask someone else for their opinion until after you’ve done your own self critique. And don’t take their responses as being the answer. Find your own answers and get those neural pathways firing.
In the critique of the bike by the quayside, notice the bit about shooting from further away with a longer lens because simply reducing depth of field would probably put parts of the bike out of focus. The moral of the story is always “Try It And See”. That’s what I’ll be doing in How To Photograph A Motorcycle PT3 and you can be the judge of my results…
If you are confused by some of the technical things mentioned in this post I can help you get in control of your camera real fast with the Masterclass in Photography. Even if you don’t think you’re a beginner but are struggling with these concepts, please check it out. It costs a lot less than a used lens, is 100% guaranteed and has all you need to be technically in control.
Until next time. Be well...
The 7 Blocks course has given me the courage to experiment. The videos & worksheets are super helpful. Mike has a great "This is actually pretty simple - You can do it" attitude that I really like. This course was really worth the money! I'd highly recommend it for its simplicity, humour & it's not too technical.