Photography 101

By Terry Martin (TMartinLVNV)

( Editor's note: You can see the original posts & related discussion here )


Here are a few tips that I try to use when taking stationary scenic motorcycle touring photographs. I am not a professional photographer. I enjoy composing and taking photographs as a personal hobby. I have read a little bit on the topic but mostly I learn from trial and error. This is not meant to be an all inclusive list of rules to follow. This is just a guide for you to use.

First and foremost, I ALWAYS carry my camera in my saddle bag when on my motorcycle. If you donít have your camera with you, that perfect shot opportunity will be wasted. I personally use a Nikon 5700 5.0 megapixel camera. I wonít go into megapixels, lens quality, resolution, or any other of the equipment related topics in this discussion. You can spend a lot of time reading about those topics on the web, in magazines, or in books. Using your own creativity is far more important than how much you spend on camera equipment.

Ok, now that is out of the way, I share a few tips in the following posts with some sample photographs...

Terry in Las Vegas

First Tip

Here are two pictures with the same scenery in the background. The difference between the two is the placement of the motorcycle. Usually, for a more pleasing picture, you don't want to place your main object in the center of the frame (side to side or up and down). Having it off to one side will usually enhance the overall picture quality and allow plenty of space your background scenery. This is called the "rule of thirds".



Second Tip

When composing your frame, crop out unwanted scenery. Who wants to look at a picture that is 1/2 composed of a parking lot? In the "parking lot" picture, I had someone else take the picture so that I could be included in the frame. The good samaritan filled the entire lower half of the frame with ugly oil spots and asphalt. In the mountains picture, I took the picture from a different perspective and got the mountains in the background to show up better. I still could have reduced the amount of parking lot in the picture if I tried a little harder.
parking lot


Third Tip

Your camera doesn't have to be at eye level for every picture. Sometimes it is better to have the camera higher or lower than eye level for a more pleasing picture. In the "high" example, the camera is at eye level. In the "low" example, I am laying prone on the ground to take the picture up at the bikes. Which picture shows the background better?

Also, if you use a tripod, you can achieve similar results as the "low" picture. In the "tripod" picture, I have the camera about 1 foot off of the ground pointed up at the motorcycles. I then set the camera to take the picture on a 10 sec delay. I pressed the shutter button and ran into the frame and sat on the bike before the picture was taken.




Fourth Tip

Sometimes you want to keep the motorcycle smaller in the picture to emphasize the background. Sometimes you want to make the motorcycle bigger. It all depends on what you are trying to capture. Here is an example where I wanted to minimize my motorcycle to emphasize the background. If you have any doubt on what you want to do, then take multiple pictures. You can never have too many shots to choose from. But if you didn't take the shot, then you can't get it back. Another point in this picture is to try and make sure that unwanted people are not in your background. This particular shot was done at a business and I didn't want to ask patrons to move around on my behalf. So, I just took that shot as it was.


Fifth Tip

If you are taking pictures with people as your subject matter, take multiple shots of the same frame. People move and eyes blink at the wrong moment. If you have several shots to chose from, then you will get the best possible picture.

Sixth Tip

Clean up your existing frame from unwanted clutter. Helmets hanging from the handle bar or jackets thrown over the motorcycle seat can detract from the overall quality of the frame. Also, think about straightening out your handle bar so that your front tire points forward. Look for telephone poles, trash on the roadside, or anything else you donít want in your photograph. When you are ready to take your shot, take just a few seconds to visually scan the area and see if anything detracts from your picture.

Seventh Tip

If you are riding in a group and want to include everyone in your picture. Have everyone park their bikes in the same direction with even spacing in between them. My friends sometimes will get impatient with me when I start ordering them around when they are parking. However, when they see the final results in the photograph, they all agreed that it was worth taking the few extra minutes to line up the bikes.


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