Learning to Light Bicycles

Learning new techniques to lighting is always interesting and rewarding. Up until this point, my experience with strobe lighting has been for simple one light portrait set-ups and smaller products. Moving onto a larger products with glossy surfaces, this was going to be a new but exciting challenge. I got inspired by a photographer from Kelowna, Deon Nel, who had posted  photos of his new bike and some great behind the scenes videos to show how he produced them.

My main goal was to learn the lighting and editing techniques for bicycles so that I get results that look like they could be in publications (either online or in print.) Several weeks ago I took some photos of my new bike and was pretty happy with the results. Now I have some brand new tanwall tires on there that need showing off. Before doing that however, I have done test shots with some custom bikes at Trek Bicycles Port Coquitlam. Using techniques I was able to gleam from Deon's videos and from experience with the smaller products I had done previously, these are the results:   

There were a few take-aways from the first shoot. Top lighting the bikes gives great shape to the frames and separation from the background. Similar to the RED cranks I experimented on earlier in the winter, highlights are key to making features of the bike stand out. I found by backlighting areas of the bike I wanted to stand out helped make those features shine more.

One thing I wish I did for the test shoot was maintaining consistency for the backgrounds. My photos of the Domane stood out the most with the brighter background. Although the other moodier photos look cool, a series needs to be consistent from start to finish. 

For my own bike, I have taken the knowledge and bit of practice from the test shoot, then applied it to get what I think are my best results yet. I took my Emonda and photography gear to Pitt-Addington Marsh. The backdrop was Pitt Lake and the snow capped mountains beyond. To begin, I took a photo that exposed for the background and underexposed my frame. Afterwards, with the help of my Shadowstand to keep the bike perfectly upright, I was able to maneuver around the bike with my Godox softbox to expose features of the Emonda I wanted to highlight.

Once I got the exposures I was happy with, I went home and opened the photos in Capture One. In there I made my corrections and changes to the colours of my selected photos. These were then opened in Photoshop as layers where I was then able to "paint" in the light I wanted using Lighten mode. It's a lot of fun using a tablet and literally drawing in the light where I want to highlight on the bike.

Below is the result of this whole project. Over the summer I'm going to continue working on this kind of lighting and hopefully learn new techniques along the way. Leave a comment below as to what you think of the results!

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