How To Photograph Bicycle Racing

Cycling Images can convey emotion and suffering of the lone rider racing a time trial event consider photographing from low down to focus on the riders' face. Shutter speed 1/400 sec and, f 5.6 Iso 400
Cycling Images can convey emotion and suffering of the lone rider racing a time trial event consider photographing from low down to focus on the riders' face. Shutter speed 1/400 sec and, f 5.6 Iso 400 | Source

How to take great cycling photos

Cycling is a fast paced and adrenaline fuelled sport that can give a photographer a host of great image opportunities while providing the additional challenges of motion and emotion.

A great cycling photograph can tell many different stories however a simple static shot like so many people take of cycling events doesn't really show the true racing circumstances.

The right techniques for cycling photography can showcase as event and often means taking a DSLR Camera out of the sport mode that many amateur photographers rely upon.

Cycling images can tell a story within themselves. Whether it's the pain and suffering of a Time Trial as a rider pushes their body to it's ultimate muscular endurance capacity while attempting to maintain form on a bicycle, to a breakaway group in the mountains showing the remoteness of the terrain, multiple switchbacks in mountain roads and the effort of the riders to overcome such a challenge.

Taking great cycling Photo's on your DSLR- take it out of 'Sport Mode'

Sport mode on your DSLR camera is great for when you're getting to know your camera at first however once you get out of the habit of using the specific preset modes on your DSLR camera you start to learn so much about how to take a great cycling photograph

Putting your camera into it's manual mode will allow you to take so much more charge of your photographs.

Cyclists love side on photography shots

Cyclists know how they feel when riding a bike but often a side on photography shows them a lot about their position on the bicycle. Side on photographs of cyclists also showcase the rider and bicycle in unison like the photography of the rider in black and white on the awesome looking Merida Time Warp bike below.

Time trial cyclists always want an idea of how aerodynamic their position is and whether they look comfortable on a bike and if you're looking for their approval (and potentially money!) they're a great photography to take.

Cycling Photography Techniques-side on photographs and taking control of your camera and it's manual settings can lead to better cycling images

Play around with camera settings to blur the background in your cycling photo's. Shutter speed 1/60 sec, f value 5.6, ISO 200
Play around with camera settings to blur the background in your cycling photo's. Shutter speed 1/60 sec, f value 5.6, ISO 200 | Source

Manual DSLR Camera settings for better Cycling Photography

Shutter Speed

For cycling photographs if you're looking to completely freeze the action you will require a fast shutter speed from your camera. Digital SLR cameras are great in that you can look at what you've taken and make adjustments for your next photograph.

Photographing a time trial event is a great way to get used to using manual settings as riders are spaced apart- often by around a minute if you're positioned early on the course so you can make adjustments between photo's. Short circuit races are also great for allowing you to make adjustments to camera settings.

Consider shutter speeds of around 1/500 of a second to really freeze the action however by playing around with your shutter speed you can find out what shutter speed for cycling photography really works for you.

F Value

When in 'sport' mode your DSLR camera will likely try to get the foreground and a high propertion of the background in focus which freezes the image completely. By lowering the number of stops you use for a photo you can add additional blur to the background and make the cyclist the whole focus of the image- not just a part of it.

Great cycling photos concentrate on a riders' face

Concentrating on a cyclists face can give great sports photography images. Some cyclists look cool and calm like Bradley Wiggins, however sometimes the result is a little more 'alien'
Concentrating on a cyclists face can give great sports photography images. Some cyclists look cool and calm like Bradley Wiggins, however sometimes the result is a little more 'alien'

Better Cycling Photography- Focus on the face

A cyclists face can often show the emotions and physical state of a cyclist. Whether they're going through hell to try to stay in contact with a breakaway group heading up a mountain or the pain and torture in a cycling time trial showing the suffering of a rider giving their all in the race of truth

Concentrate and focus on the cyclists face for your photo's to show how the rider is performing.

Ensure that you set your lens to AF (Autofocus) and continuous focusing (AI Servo AF Canon/AF-C Nikon) and keep the sensor points inside the viewfinder tight on the rider’s face to show the struggle of the cyclist. Some riders show real struggle and emotion while riding, while some show extreme coolness under pressure which also provides great results.

The time trial rider to the right is truly punishing himself in an attempt to achieve a good time.

Techniques for better cycling images: Take photo's from low down

If you're looking to concentrate on a riders face make sure you get fairly low to the ground and shoot you camera upwards. Cyclists tend to look down while they're riding at angles of around 45 degrees to the floor so by shooting from low down and at such an angle you can really get a full visual on their face in many cases while you're taking your photographs.

Panning Cycling Photography to show movement

A cycling Panning Photo- following the cyclist in focus through the shutter trigger and release mechanism 1/60th sec, F4.0 ISO 400.
A cycling Panning Photo- following the cyclist in focus through the shutter trigger and release mechanism 1/60th sec, F4.0 ISO 400.

Pan (follow rider flow) to show motion in your cycling images

Cycling is all about speed and motion so ideally you want to show it in your cycling photography.

Tracking a cyclist while your camera shutter is opening and closing shows blur in the background and when set up correctly will show a rider in sharp focus to enhance the image of motion in the background and the moving parts of the bicycle.

Ideal dslr camera settings for cycling motion pan shots are a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/60 second or slightly slower. It is important to follow the cyclist with your focal point and continue following after you press down your shutter release for an awesome image.

An ideal tool for taking panning shots with a Digital SLR camera is a monopod as it gives a set point to rotate around for your pan cycling images. These can be purchased relatively inexpensively and are a must for amateur and professional photographers.

Capture a cyclist from their right to show the cranks and drivechain

Ensure you shoot from a riders right to showcase the cranks and drivechain on the bicycle
Ensure you shoot from a riders right to showcase the cranks and drivechain on the bicycle | Source

The biggest bicycle photography faux pas

Be aware

Bicycles have two sides and one of them is not photographic!

Always aim to photograph cyclists where possible from the cyclists right side where their cranks and drivechain is visible.

You can obtain great photo's for other angles however be aware that if you're concentrating on the bike instead of the rider- always shoot crankside.

Great Canon DSLR Camera Lenses for Cycling Photography

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens - Fixed (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens - Fixed (Discontinued by Manufacturer)

A fas yet economical Prime Lens which allows you to experiment with your f-stop values through the range. However the lack of a zoom function means you have to get close to the action to shoot

 
Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM IF Lens for Canon Auto Focus Digital SLR Cameras
Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM IF Lens for Canon Auto Focus Digital SLR Cameras

An awesome range of focal lengths to really zoom in and out on your subject makes this a very versatile lens- especially with a high speed auto-focus on this award winning lens from Sigma

 

These images were all shot at the Mapperley CC Evening 10 Time Trial Series which runs on the A10/2 Course throughout the Summer

A markeroxton road calverton -
Oxton Rd, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, UK
[get directions]

The Mapperley CC Tuesday night TT goes long Oxton Road from near Ramsdale Golf Club before turning up the A6097 up to Northgate Island and back.

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Comments 8 comments

CyclingFitness profile image

CyclingFitness 4 years ago from Nottingham UK Author

Thanks ciprica. I agree that a regular compact camera might not give you the required shutter speed but any dslr camera should be sufficient and I have friends who have also had great results using bridge cameras. Not long for the vuelta although the cyclo cross season is what I'm really looking forward to. Thanks for your comment. CF


ciprica profile image

ciprica 4 years ago

Beside these things, you must also have a really good camera.

I can't wait for La Vuelta 2012 :D


anonymous 4 years ago


anonymous 4 years ago


CyclingFitness profile image

CyclingFitness 4 years ago from Nottingham UK Author

Thanks Green Art. Panning helps to show the effect of a cyclist at speed but is a slightly more advanced technique. It looks fantastic when it works well.


Green Art profile image

Green Art 4 years ago

Great ideas for taking quality biking photos. I like the effect of the blurred background and also the panning idea to show the cyclist in motion. Voted UP and useful.


CyclingFitness profile image

CyclingFitness 4 years ago from Nottingham UK Author

Thanks Tribook. As a cyclist I love to see photos


tribook profile image

tribook 4 years ago

Great hub! I love seeing good cycling pictures

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