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Thread: Photographing Your Bikes

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    Default Photographing Your Bikes

    One of my framebuilding resolutions for 2011 is to have/take better pictures of my frames and complete bicycles. It looks like there are three levels at play here:

    1. Outsourced Professional: Richard Sachs w/ Jeff Weir
    2. In-house Semi-Professional: Carl Strong, Justin Spinelli & Dave Kirk
    3. In-house Find-a-semi-interesting-backdrop: Me & most builders

    I'd really like to jump up from Level 3 to Level 2 (using Level 1 every once in a while for special projects). I was wondering if anyone who is in Level 2 might be willing to share some pictures of their setups? Possibly give some advice? Maybe point me in the direction of the proper types of lights?

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thank you.
    Anthony Maietta
    Web Site | Blog | Flickr
    "The person who says it can not be done, should not interrupt the person doing it."

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Wasn't it Dave Kirk who had a great tutorial for setting up your own mini studio? It's probably in his SO thread.

    I'd add Vendetta to #2.....they've had awesome pics since day 1.

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    We set up an in-house photo studio. Having a studio in-house is one of the best marketing investments you can make. It makes it possible to instantly capture what you make and show it to the world, via your blog, your website gallery, and amass a stockpile of high quality images that you can pull from when creating advertisements for print or web. It pays for itself in just a couple of shoots, given the cost of outsourcing photo shoots. And best of all: it gives you the control. You can produce Level #1 pictures with a small investment and practice.

    Our list of ingredients:

    Canon 60d 18-135mm lens
    12 ft backdrop with adjustable stand.
    3x 200 watt strobes with two 3ft soft boxes for the sides and one 4ft soft box for above. (with sync cords)
    Hot shoe/sync cord adapter.
    Photoshop.

    The good thing about this setup is that it breaks down easily and doesn't take up too much space. You will need to make sure that you have enough room to step back and adjust your lens in the 35mm-50mm (and above) range to avoid the strange distortion that occurs. You also need the space so that you can pull the bike at least 6 feet away from the back of the backdrop to avoid weird shadows. You will also have to make sure that the space is clean, and never walk on the backdrop with shoes on and clean the tires off on the bike.

    If you want any more help, or want to bring one of your bikes by, look at our setup, and/or shoot it and see how it all works, let me know.

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    The goal should be to raise the bar for better and better quality images.

    It makes those with so-so to poor images look bad by comparison.
    I couldn't believe the horrible quality of the photos posted on cyclingnews.com
    of the nahbs... pathetic resolution, lighting, and composition.

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/...le-show-part-6

    Totally lame.

    -g

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Quote Originally Posted by GrantM View Post
    The goal should be to raise the bar for better and better quality images.

    It makes those with so-so to poor images look bad by comparison.
    I couldn't believe the horrible quality of the photos posted on cyclingnews.com
    of the nahbs... pathetic resolution, lighting, and composition.

    Thumbnail Gallery Photos | Cyclingnews.com

    Totally lame.

    -g
    Grant,

    I understand your frustration. The real issue is that James is just one man with 3 or so days to shoot 103 builders. While I am not making excuses for him, he is simply overloaded with work and CN honestly needs to send more than one shooter for future shows so the quality can get back to what it was in the past.

    As for studios, I don't have quite enough room in my shop, but in foresight I did get TLL (The lovely Lesley) a new Canon Rebel T1i for Christmas and I am planning on having her document more shop time and builds and if we can ever find a decent background, completed bikes for the site.

    Thanks for reading.

    DW

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    I'm a level 3 guy in the shop, and try to be a level 1 guy when I can (although sometimes time constraints push be back to 1 again). On the web site there is a somewhat odd vacillation between the two extremes- something I am hoping to push the balance on.

    For me the biggest hindrance is space- I'm working on a neutral grey drop and some curtains, hopefully in a space that is big enough to shoot full bikes. Lamps are on the list, but not as close to the top as I would like.

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Quote Originally Posted by Slapshot View Post
    The real issue is that James is just one man with 3 or so days to shoot 103 builders.
    Make that 102, he never came by my booth.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slapshot View Post
    CN honestly needs to send more than one shooter for future shows
    Yes, please.
    Anthony Maietta
    Web Site | Blog | Flickr
    "The person who says it can not be done, should not interrupt the person doing it."

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Tony,

    I think I am at level 2, although I can improve my lighting a bit. What Tyler said above would be great. I only have the paper backdrop and some fluorescent lighting and a non SLR Canon, but give some time to try different setting and angles, lots can be achieved, and the benefit is that you have more control over the result.

    Cheers,
    Renold Yip
    YiPsan Bicycles

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Tony,

    I think I am at level 2, although I can improve my lighting a bit. What Tyler said above would be great. I only have the paper backdrop and some fluorescent lighting and a non SLR Canon, but give some time to try different setting and angles, lots can be achieved, and the benefit is that you have more control over the result.

    Cheers,
    Renold Yip
    YiPsan Bicycles

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    I bought a mobile photo studio (strobes, umbrella flash, synchs, backdrop, etc) for pretty cheap and it packs down into a duffel bag for hauling and storage. The main problem I have is the same problem as most, no room to have it set up all the time and putting it up and tearing it down can be a pain.
    Tim O'Donnell- Shamrock Cycles
    www.lugoftheirish.com

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    A nice backdrop, softboxes, etc are nice. BUT, and it's a big but, level 0 is what Steve Hampsten gets accomplished. It leaves level 1 in the dust. Of course this is sort of a different thing since he's shooting a model, and not each and every build. An environment for your bicycle done well trumps any studio shot.

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    You need to add a level 4 for me.
    I'm working towards better, though.
    I found this online, I think it may double as additional shop lighting.

    http://alexcampagna.blogspot.com/200...t-softbox.html

    http://alexcampagna.blogspot.com/200...ht-strobe.html
    Last edited by edoz; 03-09-2011 at 10:55 PM. Reason: Google is my friend
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
    Summoner of Crickets
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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Quote Originally Posted by Chauncey Matthews View Post
    Wasn't it Dave Kirk who had a great tutorial for setting up your own mini studio? It's probably in his SO thread.

    I'd add Vendetta to #2.....they've had awesome pics since day 1.
    Connor does the Vendetta work--and I can't tell this difference in his and in full-pro.






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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Ryan View Post
    A nice backdrop, softboxes, etc are nice. BUT, and it's a big but, level 0 is what Steve Hampsten gets accomplished. It leaves level 1 in the dust. Of course this is sort of a different thing since he's shooting a model, and not each and every build. An environment for your bicycle done well trumps any studio shot.
    Agreed. Hampsten wins out in the photog department. His stuff rivals sachs/weir

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Quote Originally Posted by Chauncey Matthews View Post
    Wasn't it Dave Kirk who had a great tutorial for setting up your own mini studio? It's probably in his SO thread.

    I'd add Vendetta to #2.....they've had awesome pics since day 1.
    Quote Originally Posted by WadePatton View Post
    Conor does the Vendetta work--and I can't tell this difference in his and in full-pro.
    Thanks guys.

    Wade is right in that I take all of the photos myself and the setup is simple and effective.

    I setup a backdrop in my garage and use natural light. I back my cars out and sweep the floor and then setup the back drop. The backdrop is paper that I bought from a photography store that was going out of business. It's getting a bit tatty and I should probably cut off the first 10 feet or so.

    If it's a particularly bright day I'll lower the garage door to act as a flag and get a consistent light across the bike. I find that I prefer a slightly underexposed look over an overexposed look most of the time anyway.

    Here's a wide shot of how it looks:



    You can see the sides of my garage including a small cooler in the background.

    I use a small tripod, turn off the overhead fluorescent lights and start shooting.

    Originally I used a Sony point and shoot and then switched to a Canon G10. I found I didn't like the G10 (too many pixels on too small a sensor) and sold it. I have recently inherited my wife's old Canon 30D which I use with the plastic ($100) 50mm 1.8 lens. In RAW mode the Canon 30D takes about a 8MP image.

    I've shot the last several bikes with this setup and I'll occasionally use her 100mm Macro for some really close up work, but that lens is big and hard to keep still.

    My thinking with the $100.00 plastic Canon lens is that if I ruin it in the shop it's easy to replace.

    Since I don't like mucking with shutter speeds or apertures I'll set the ISO to 200-400 and then use Program mode for the camera which will then automagically choose shutter speed and lens opening.

    Since I'll post about 12 pictures in the web gallery I start with the bike facing one direction - drive side out and get a full side shot and then move in and take photos from various angles. (After a while they all look the same). Then I'll flip the bike around and get a full shot of the bike from the non-drive side and take some more shots. In all I'll take somewhere between 50-80 shots.

    I shoot in RAW and then use Adobe Lightroom to convert to jpg and export. I would recommend Lightroom only for its workflow solution but its ability to process photos also makes it an invaluable tool. I usually export the photos at their normal aspect ratio to about 8x12 @72dpi and about 85% quality. They look really good on the web and are small enough to mail around via email to clients, etc.

    I do very little color correction and toning. I will usually just hit "Auto White Balance" and "Auto Tone" and call it good.

    This is a recent gallery done this way: Green Hornet Gallery

    And an image:



    You can see my reflection in the fork crown - along with outside the garage.

    I try to avoid reflections and flash. Flash makes everything one tone (flat) and causes weird/ugly things to happen on compound surfaces. Reflections create the illusion of defects in surfaces or finishes which also isn't that great.

    I've got the whole process from start to finish down to about an hour or less. This includes backing the cars in and out and sweeping the floor.

    I wouldn't mind getting one of the large overhead softboxes that the photographer at NAHBS had, but at this point I don't think it's a critical piece of equipment that our business needs to have.

    Natural light is the key.

    Conor

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Quote Originally Posted by anthonymaietta View Post
    I was wondering if anyone who is in Level 2 might be willing to share some pictures of their setups?
    Hi Anthony,

    look at the Ray Dobbins Photo setup
    Ulrich

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Connor, are you having the backdrop face the open, or partially open garage door and shooting with available light? If so it's pretty effective and folks should take note.

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Ryan View Post
    Conor, are you having the backdrop face the open, or partially open garage door and shooting with available light? If so it's pretty effective and folks should take note.
    Yes, the bike and backdrop all face towards the outside of the garage. If it's overcast (hey, I live in Oregon) then I can keep the garage door all the way open. If it's really sunny, I can partially close the door to create an area of consistent exposure across the bike. The door might only be open a foot or two on really sunny days.

    Conor
    Last edited by conorb; 03-10-2011 at 11:18 AM.

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Quote Originally Posted by conorb View Post
    Yes, the bike and backdrop all face towards the outside of the garage. If it's overcast (hey, I live in Oregon) then I can keep the garage door all the way open. If it's really sunny, I can partially close the door to create an area of consistent exposure across the bike. The door might only be open a foot or two on really sunny days.

    Conor
    Conor, Your pictures look gorgeous! It just goes to show you that a lot can be done with very little. Creativity, talent and gumption go a long way in this world. Excellent work.

    Hampsten's pictures from his last shoot (in the hangar) were spectacular as well. There are a million ways to skin a cat. Location is huge in pictures outside of the studio, that location in particular. Wow.

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    Default Re: Photographing Your Bikes

    Tony,
    Like you one of my biggest resolutions is to improve the quality of my photography. I just started by building a dedicated white "closet" of sorts. I've got holes in the walls of the closet to place some bootlegged lights and room for improvised softboxes. I've been getting some shots that I'm sort happy with using my phone. My girlfriend just unearthed her 20d.
    I'm going to mess around with things without spending any money. My goal is to have stuff to trade pro photographers for really hot shots.

    Since I only want to make a few models "studio" shots every few months are fine.
    My next goal is to figure out a setup that will allow me to take action shots. Got to get my Rapha on...

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