Cycling photography can be tough. Cycling by nature is extremely quick with bikes flying past at up to 50kph on a backdrop that is constantly changing. Snapping great photos of cyclists requires quick reflexes, a steady hand and some basic understanding of cycling photography principles.
Static shots can work well but you will need to also learn about dynamic angles and panning techniques for the best shots. These 6 tips for cycling photography for beginners should help you get started.
6 tips for cycling photography for beginners
1. Know The Goal Of Each Picture
Going into any photo opportunity it’s worth considering what the aim of the shot is. What are you trying to achieve with your cycling photography? Are you trying to catch some dramatic action shots, the scenery or maybe something completely incidental?
Knowing what type of shot you want to achieve helps set out the planning and techniques used.
When going for action shots you need to ensure you set the correct shutter speed (1/250 of a second or faster) and make sure you shoot either high or low.
If you’re more interested in the cyclist on the backdrop of stunning landscapes you need to consider the type of background and which is most effective. Dark green forests, large mountains and open skies are best as they provide the photographer with a dark and uniformed background. Avoid shooting ugly lifeless buildings, big trucks or car parks.
If you’re looking for great but incidental cycling photography you need to consider all the above at the same exact time. This can be tricky but with enough practice, you will get some stunning shots.
2. Light And Composition Are Key
All great photography is dependent on the right light and composition. Your ability to understand the right mix of each will develop over time with the more practice you have.
As a beginner, with little experience in framing shots using instinct, you will need to learn the ‘rule of thirds’. This is a formula that is widely used by professional photographers. The idea is to imagine your shot is divided into nine separate but equal parts. You will have two equal vertical lines and two equal horizontal lines to create the nine equal parts. Now, you want to focus the most important elements of your composition (cyclist, head, bike) and place them along the lines, or their intersections.
Now you have your composition, a general rule is to shoot into the light or a crosslight, rather than the light coming from behind you.
3. Action Doesn’t Have To Be The Focus
Often in cycling photography, the photographer spends too much time on the action of cycling rather than the surrounding environment. Stunning landscapes can help produce magnificent cycling photos.
Landscapes might include the beautiful orange and red canopy of a forest in Autumn, snow-capped mountains or crystal blue winter skies. Whatever landscape you have, try to incorporate it into your cycling photography.
If you are snapping mountains in the background you will want to consider the time of day for the best shot. Early or late morning provides the best light when the mountains are transformed by the magical light at these times resulting in beautiful photo opportunities.
4. Experiment With Different Perspectives
It’s important as a beginner to play around with your settings freely to get a better understanding of the different perspectives you can shoot. This also helps you to decide on the type of cycling photography you like the most.
For cycling photography, in particular, try shooting from a low angle and aim to put the main subject of your shot into the top third of the frame. The lower two-thirds of the frame can be filled with the road, grass or whatever climate you have available. This is an effective technique for capturing groups of riders from a side position.
This technique allows you, the photographer, to create a narrower band allowing the image to direct the viewer’s eye to the main subject of your photo. You can then start to play around with this technique by changing up the lower two-thirds of the frame with something more interesting and the main subject still in the foreground. Just make sure you don’t draw too much attention away from your main subject.
5. Shoot In Continuous Mode
When shooting something as quick and as exciting as a bike race you should take full advantage of your continuous shooting mode. This will allow you to take 2-6 photos in just a few seconds giving you a better chance of getting a great shot.
When shooting in continuous mode, make sure you enable a large aperture so that the background is blurred and your shot is focused on the specific cyclist you want to capture. Following your shoot you will then have lot’s of photos for that one moment, increasing your chances that you took a good photo or caught a great moment.
Just remember, the more you shoot in continuous mode the more photos you have to go through and choose which one is best. This can be extremely time-consuming so you may want to pick your continuous shooting moments carefully.
Continuous shooting also results in your camera needing to buffer momentarily after. That pause, while only short, could make you miss a spectacular moment. Finally, never take the memory card out or try to switch off your camera immediately following a set of continuous photos. You should have a warning light that flashes, always wait for it to finish to avoid any issues with your camera.
6. Quality Over Quantity
When making a name for yourself in the world of photography people want to see fewer photos and more quality. Filling your website or social media pages with thousands of average looking photos isn’t going to engage people. Having just 10 or 15 incredible shots that you feel really proud of will generate far more attention.
It can be tempting as a beginner to upload all your photos but rather spend that time editing the shots you are most happy with. Play around with editing tools and start to get a feel for what your own personal style will be.
We have all heard the expression a picture says a thousand words. That’s why we love to create visual content that does the talking. Get in contact with us today to discuss your cycling photography needs.