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Shoot your bike – Part 1

Posted on July 29, 2010 by Andrew in Other. 10 comments

Thanks to the Simpsons, we’re all familiar with the concept of “beer goggles”. That’s when alcohol impairs our judgment to make something that’s not so great look amazing. But here at Pipeburn we suffer from the opposite problem, which we call “blur goggles”. This is where amazing bikes are made to look really average thanks to lack-luster photography.
So in an attempt to help you get your photography skills on par with your bike-building skills, we’d like to present to you the first in our two part series on taking better photos of motorcycles.
First up, what NOT to do.
Busy backgrounds. It’s easy to focus on your beautiful motorbike through that viewfinder and not really concern yourself with anything else. But when we look at the results, all we see is the weird-ass tree growing out of your bike’s seat. So when you set up your next shot, make sure that the scene behind the bike is not stealing your thunder, or better still, use depth of field to keep the bike in focus and the rest of the shot soft.
Poor lighting. The world’s best photographers all have one core skill in common – they know how to achieve a great look by playing with how their subject is lit. So instead of the midday sun, what about more interesting options like morning or evening sun? Or a street light at night? Or using an everyday concrete path to bounce light upwards from underneath the bike?
(The CB750 pictured below is an example of not having enough light. Nice bike and GTO though)
The no-brainer. Next time you feel the need to share your obsession with the world, why not spend a little more time making the photo look a bit special. As a general rule, if you end up with something that looks like a photo you’d see on Ebay Motors then there’s something wrong.
Poor Photoshop. If you’re going to use Photoshop to modify your shots after you’ve taken them, remember this popular photographer’s adage – “If you can tell the image has been Photoshopped, then it hasn’t been Photoshopped properly.” The example is so bad I can’t even post it on Pipeburn but here’s the link (be warned it may cause headaches).
Obvious clichés. Need we say more?

  • Here’s what I hate most (and it shows up on craigslist extremely often): Bubba Joe decides at 12 midnight decides he wants to sell his motorcycle. So what does he do? Walks out in the front yard, cell phone in hand, and snaps a few shots. Of course, before taking the photos he makes sure to set the resolution to 240 x 180.

    Thanks for this.

  • Wm

    I like it when Bubba Joe craigslists his bike that way. It shows he doesn’t know how to sell it, and automatically keeps a ton of folks from looking more closely. For me a poorly photographed bike on craigslist is a big blinking neon sign that says "bargain!" He’ll be getting such mild response and so many requests for "better pics" that when you offer him 75% of his already low price he’s likely to take it.

  • I hate strong flash light that kills smalls details. I hate tall people did not even think to squat down to take pictures of bikes. I hate pictures of dirty bikes in Craig’s list. If you are trying to sell it, at least wipe down the bike. Otherwise it shows how little you took care of it.

    Sorry I know this is about photographing bikes, but a lot of posts in Craig’s list makes me mad time to time. Good photographing skills can make crappy bikes look great, yet crappy photographing skills will make beautiful bikes boring.

  • jesse

    A couple more if I may – these are classic errors on ebay: If you are shooting both sides of your bike, take a minute to turn it around instead of shooting one side in light, and one in shadow. Also, if you’re shooting a picture of the odometer for a classified, it’s always a plus if viewers can read the numbers instead of just seeing a blurry photo with illegible numbers…

  • Pamberjack

    Think about it this way – next time you go to sell yr bike online and you actually have a clue about how the bike should look, just think how it’ll stand out against the competition. 😉

  • 522design

    the tree bike is mine ,im not a pro photographer and i do not care! my bike is on PIPEBURN AND THATS AWSOME,love your site next time ill send better pic.thanks for posting it anyway.

  • Scott

    522design, I’m glad you didn’t mind us featuring it. We didn’t want to offend anyone, just point out some simple ways to make your pics better.

  • Pamberjack


    Great-looking bike, btw…


  • imagetaker1

    8,000 views not bad for a ebay photo lol

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