A picture is worth a thousand words, and a good ‘gram is worth a thousand “likes”. The advent of social media, and cellphone cameras that make it easier than ever to share (boast about?) our experiences with our friends, there’s no reason not to come home with great photos of your bike adventures!
You don’t need a fancy professional camera to make great images. Just whip out your camera-equipped phone or whatever camera you have. Trust us, it’ll do the job. Whether you’re a seasoned photographer, or can’t tell a camera strap from a lens, here are some simple ways to take better ‘grams out on your ride.
1. Choose an Interesting Subject
Kind of a boring photo.
Your subject can be a person, a place or a thing. Think hard about your subject. What is the most interesting thing around you? Try to capture that subject in a way that people don’t normally see, or in a creative way that evokes emotion. Taking a picture of just dirt or a featureless sky is a one way ticket to a boring photo.
2. Show Viewers Something They Don't Normally See
Rippin’ it up in Moab, UT
Try to take a different picture on every ride. Go the extra mile to find that super awesome angle. It might mean laying on the ground or climbing into a tree, but it’ll be worth it!
3. Tell a Story Without the Need of a Caption
When you think about it, this is the true art of photography! When you take a picture, you are trying to communicate what is in the photo to your audience without having to describe it in words. Sometimes a caption is truly required for context, but even so, the best photos stand on their own without need of a caption.
4. Take Photos of People
People are interesting! Photos of people, especially of faces, contain a lot of emotion and information about what is going on within a person. Think about the eyes and facial features. What are they doing? Are they having fun? Are they working hard? Concentrating? Laughing? Tired? Relaxed? Taking photos of people can be challenging sometimes, but trust yourself and be confident. The most important thing is not to take photos that are too posed. Make sure your subjects feel comfortable, so their expressions are natural.
5. Capture Action
You can almost feel the action.
Action shots are awesome! When shooting pictures of another rider, think about communicating how they’re interacting with the trail or road. Show the context of where they came from and where they are going. This will give the viewer’s eye a line to follow. The action might be a rider struggling through a tough section of trail or speeding around a tight corner.
Smiles are always good.
Whatever it is, action will probably create a stronger image than an image of the rider standing around and not moving. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends to wait up while you ride ahead a bit and capture your friends riding towards you.
6. Create Depth
The depth is so deep.
Each photo has three parts. Foreground, mid-ground, and background. Put interesting information in each of these areas to create depth in your photos that will draw the viewer’s eye in towards the subject. This will create the feeling of being “inside” the photo.
7. Emphasize Scale
Most people will know how big a bike is, which gives them context to know how big this hill is.
Cycling is great for experiencing nature, but pictures of nature can make it difficult to get a sense of scale and depth. Put a rider (or your bike) in the photo to show how BIG (or small) something is, and the viewer of the photo will be able to sense the scale of your surroundings. But remember: a flat picture of a bunch of trees and sky is BORING! Take a picture of someone else interacting with the scenery in a meaningful way, and you’ll come away with a much better photo.
8. Seek Awesome Light
Light is tricky. Direct, noontime light is some of the worst light to take pictures in. It’s flat and uninteresting, and it casts dark shadows all over your subjects that just doesn’t look great. Sometimes the best light only comes during about 10 minutes of the day: Shortly after sunrise and right before sunset. This light comes from the side instead of from above, and casts dramatic shadows. A cloudy day will diffuse the sunlight to create a totally different, more subdued mood in your photos, but will make colors appear less bright. However, cloudy days are great for portraits of people since the soft light can be very flattering.
9. Use Filters Lightly
What to do with filters.
What not to do with filters.
While filters do sometimes look cool, a lot of people “over-filter” their photos. While it can definitely give you a different look, it distracts from the actual thing you’re photographing and looks unnatural. Simpler is generally better. Filtering should complement and enhance the photo, not distract from it. Avoid tacky things like extreme contrast, weird “picture frames” and over-saturation. Some of the apps we like to use are Camera+, VSCOcam and Snapseed. These offer some more nuanced settings and controls that enhance without being too in-your-face.
10. Keep it Simple
Remember, simpler is better, especially in the world of tiny mobile phone displays. Don’t try to cram too much into a photo, or your viewer will have a hard time discerning your subject. If your subject is in front of a confusing background, move yourself or your subject to a spot with a less distracting background.
Now, grab your phone, get on your bike and get out and take some rad shots!