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HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH YOUR BIKE

Here at Bowman, we love to see how people build up their frames and going from the reception the images receive when we share them - Bowman Fans do too.

We also know that well taken, framed photos do nothing but add to the enjoyment of the image. To that end, we thought we’d share our tips and tricks on how to take the best photo you can.

Firstly, an important phrase to remember is that the best camera is the one you have with you. Sure, a top-line camera and all the fancy lenses, used professionally can result in some stunning images but, you really don't have to have pro-level gear in order to take a great picture. This means that if you just have your mobile phone with you, by taking a smidge more time, you’ll drastically improve your images - that's always worth it, right?

We’ll break this down into a few key stages to help simplify the process. Ensuring each of these is considered is a sure-fire way towards getting the best pic of your bike that you can.


Angle of attack

While simply leaning your bike against something and grabbing a snap from where you stand is an option, taking a few moments to work out the best place from which to take the photo always pays off when it comes to improving your picture.

One simple thing to consider is the angle at which you take the picture from. Standing in front of the bike will mean the camera is shooting down on the bike. As most mobile phone cameras have quite wide-angle lenses as standard, this can resort in distortion resulting in oval wheels, tubes that appear to bend, and unusual overall proportions for your pride and joy.

A good starting point is to get a bit lower. Try to get the centre of your lens in line with the bottom bracket, or at least low down the seat post. Moving further back will also help reduce the distortion. This leads us nicely onto the composition.


positioning and framing

There's potentially another whole post on photographic composition, so we’ll try to limit this to the very basics when it comes to taking a side-on, #BAAW style of image (Bike against a wall - in case you weren't sure).

Once you have got lower, and perhaps taken a few steps back, you start to open up a few more options. Clean, uncluttered backgrounds are often preferable. Walls, edges of roads, fields can all make great non-distracting backgrounds. But if you don't have a completely empty background, then pay attention to any lamposts or fence posts that could appear in the middle of a top tube - distracting the viewer's eye from your pride and joy. If you absolutely cant prevent something from being visible, always consider trying to make the picture either symmetrical or purposefully asymmetrical. Asking yourself ‘do i want the background to look like it does?”

Another way you can improve your image is by achieving ‘separation’. This is when the bike is positioned a distance away from any background. Leaning a bike against the wall is super easy but again, a few minutes spent prepping will pay off. On shoots at Bowman we’ll take a stand if we’re out specifically to take photos but on impromptu shoots and when we’re out riding, we’ll often grab a suitable stick and lean it against the rear dropout, BB spindle or disc mount. This creates a reasonably stable platform - and a small stick or stone under the front or rear wheel stops the bike rolling forward or back. As long as it's not crazy windy, the set up is surprisingly stable.

One other way to create or improve separation is to position the bike at the top of a rise in the road, atop a mound or directly on the edge of ground that falls away behind.

The final compositional element to work on reflects the space around the bike in an image. A landscape image (wider than it is tall) is obviously better suited to the shape of a bicycle, but if you want to use the picture at it's best on social media (particularly Instagram) then shooting the bike with the camera in portrait mode is a better bet. You can achieve this either by taking the picture in the prefered format from the get-go. If you're not sure where you want to use the image but have taken the time to make it a good one, then you can maximise the possible use by taking an image with more room around the bike that you can crop into later and potentially save a few versions. The key is often just having a think, and making the most of the time you spend creating your images.

The final compositional element to work on reflects the space around the bike in an image. A landscape image (wider than it is tall) is obviously better suited to the shape of a bicycle, but if you want to use the picture at it's best on social media (particularly Instagram) then shooting the bike with the camera in portrait mode is a better bet. You can achieve this either by taking the picture in the prefered format from the get-go. If you're not sure where you want to use the image but have taken the time to make it a good one, then you can maximise the possible use by taking an image with more room around the bike that you can crop into later and potentially save a few versions. The key is often just having a think, and making the most of the time you spend creating your images.

focus and exposure

The technical side of photos is pretty automated with phone cameras but there are a few little tweaks you can make. You can choose and adjust the focus point, exposure point and overall exposure levels on your phone as you take the picture.

Camera tech and algorithms do a great job of choosing the focus point with their autofocus systems, but this can be overridden. By touching the screen where you want the camera to focus ensures the camera doesn’t choose the ground just in front of your bike, a tree off to the right, or a person sat next to the bike. Not leaving focal point to chance can result in a lot less great framed images being sub-optimal due to the bike being out of focus.

At the time you focus, the camera system will choose the same point as it's exposure centre. This can often make a picture too bright or dark. On most phone cameras holding your finger on the screen will bring up a brightness adjustment. Sliding your finger up or down on the adjuster can bring the light balance back to what you like, without affecting the focus point you’ve chosen.

Smartening up the details.

After the angle, framing and techy stuff are sorted, there are the 'extras'. Not crucial in any way but can add a pleasant consistancy and clean aesthetic. It's also often useful to adjust wheels, cranks and accessories to get you into a mindset of a more considered photographer.

One thing many people often notice is that the valves aren't at the top or bottom of the wheels. Again not crucial, but we always try to - it looks neater.

Gear Ratios - big ring and middle, largest gear, smallest gear - whatever you prefer, but consistency is nice.

Finally, crank position. Vertical, in line with the seat tube, or horizontal, people often have a preference but, if you’re going to the effort keep consistency.


To summarise, taking a bit of care, a little extra time, considering the image as a whole and tweaking a few details is a sure-fire way to really step up your game when it comes to getting the best shot of your bike. So, get out there, experiment, share your results with us using the #hastag here, and we’ll happily give you pointers or guidance if you want.

We really do look forward to seeing what you folks come up with.


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