Photographing Motorbikes

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Photographing Motorbikes

Every time I do these motorbike photography shoots I tell myself I am going to do it simpler and quicker. And, my how I try to work more tidily, try is the power word here though.

The task for this day was to take two cover shots for the 2019 calendars and Bridge Motorcycles of Exeter were supplying both the bikes and warehouse location. A big thanks Lee and the team but particularly to David for making the warehouse so tidy and to Jake for his help in prepping the bikes (thanks also to the Honda team).

Given such a short journey from home I didn’t do much of a job of packing the car even though for me this was travelling light. I took three Bowens studio heads: a 1500w, a 1000w and a 500w as well as a couple of speedlights. A number of softbox modifiers were thrown in the car but it has to be said that the old massive Bowen’s Wafer is still incredibly useful along with the cheap 200mm strips. I had decided that if I needed more lights I would take multiple images and comp the files together later.

In a way the challenge is to work quickly and get as simple as possible an image to describe the bikes. One of the biggest problems is the reflective nature of most motorbikes. The indoors test shot (below) shows how a few added reflections from the warehouse roof-lights get in the way a bit.

Experience has taught me to test the shot out first so I shot a trial image of the Ducati hand-held whilst Jake was prepping it outside. I then did the same again in the warehouse and then finally once we knew the bike was in the correct position we introduced the lights. Starting with the strip along the top which is feathered from the far side of the bike we then added one at the front to pull some frontal detail. Finally using a large modifier in front of the bike allows us to control the reflections coming off the the main panel surfaces. In truth I have a very usable three light shot in the collection but I added a couple of tweaks.

In the end finishing touches were taken with a Nikon SB910 running through a small gridded Octabox and further shots with the front and rear wheels having added illumination were shot and then comped together in Photoshop. However outside of the wheels little has been done, this Panigale is a spectacularly clean ‘pre-owned’ bike.

To contrast with the indoors approach we stepped out of the dark warehouse into pleasing afternoon light. An opportunity so I begged the bonus bike from the boys from Honda and their CBR1000RR Fireblade SP (2017). But afternoon light is transient, time was going to be limited so an unlit shot was made to get one ‘in the bag’.

The 1000w Bowens was brought outside with the gridded Octa box and plugged into the ancient small Bowens TravelPak battery. It still amazes me that this cheap eBay win will power up the 1000 and 1500w Pro Geminis. An SB-910 speedlight was hidden behind the bike running as an optical slave (yes you can see the foot of it behind the bike). Bish-bosh and they say.

Throughout the day I’d been shooting tethered to the Mac but the final Honda shots were firing to the camera rather than the computer.

Thanks again to Bridge Motorcycles and of course Karin.

Gallery of Motorcycle Photography Photos

By | 2017-11-19T16:03:28+00:00 November 19th, 2017|Bowens, Motorbike photography, Nikon|0 Comments

About the Author:

Andrew Butler is a professional photographer and designer based in the South West of England. He has had a long career photographing for clients as diverse as Arts Council England and Motor Cycle News.