Photographing Motorbikes: In The Camera Not The Computer

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Photographing Motorbikes: In The Camera Not The Computer

Let’s start with the basics, the motorbikes may be glamorous but photographing motorcycles isn’t necessarily so particularly not mid-January in Plymouth.

The task on this day was to photograph two stonking bikes for a 2019 Superbikes calendar. A 2018 YZF-R1 Yamaha and a Ducati 1199 Superleggera; two very different bikes to be photographed at the same session in the same place but hopefully providing two very different images. We were offered a generous covered space so the first task was to sweep the yard and wheel the first bike in.

As ever the personal task is to get it right in the camera not on the computer. I’ve shot the Yamaha R1 a few times now in different ways but on this occasion I decided to add some colour to the matte black using gels on the strobes, ultimately four strobes and one speedlight. The workshop door made a reasonable background and pulled some of the light from the bike setup.

I tend place the bike first, take a test shot to see if it looks like it’s going to work and then build the lights up around the scene, usually starting with the top, often a long strip softbox often feathered behind the centre line of the bike. The gelled lights, mostly red but one blue, were all fitted with honeycomb grids to control the lighting spill. Shooting tethered the Mac was safe in the back of the car offering on-the-fly previews; hardly the tidiest of offices though.

Once finished the Yamaha was wheeled back into the GT Motorcycles showroom to be replaced by the Superlegerra.

Sometimes I like to take just a simple side on view of a bike, possibly at some place in my mind there’s a George Stubbs painting, it would fit here. The Ducati seems to fit this approach and the gelled background cloth seemed to work too. Slightly different lighting with the boomed strip along the top of the bike and a similar strip lying on the ground in front of the bike adding a simple focus to those beautiful magnesium wheels. Finally some colour was added to the back-cloth and reflectors were brought in either side of the scene just to add definition to the edges of the wheels.

As ever a huge thanks to GT Motorcycles for their assistance.

Motorcycle Photoshoot Gallery

By |2018-01-18T11:39:00+00:00January 17th, 2018|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.