In the world of photography, cycling photography really sets itself apart from the rest. Due to the nature of the sport, cycling photography often encompasses a variety of techniques to catch quick-moving subjects in an aesthetically pleasing way. Continue reading if you want to learn how to utilize your camera’s settings and different techniques to best capture your subject.
Technique 1: Zoom in on your subject
When watching a cycling event, you’re often going to find yourself far away from your target subject, especially at an indoor cycling track. That’s why you need a good zoom lense to be able to get up-close and personal with your subject. Set the lens to continuous focus mode, as your subject is going to be moving (well, obviously) and you won’t have time to manually focus on him/her. Nobody wants a blurry image!
Technique 2: Demonstrate Motion
We all know that cycling is about progression–moving forward–motion! A good cycling photographer should be able to portray this obvious attribute of cycling by utilizing a panning technique. Utilize the swiveling function of your tripod to follow the cyclist in motion. If done correctly, you should have a crisp rider with a blurry background. The blur demonstrates the motion and intensity of the cyclist.
You will want to be in manual mode on your camera, then set the shutter speed between 1/10s – 1/60s (this ensures the blurring technique). Use a small aperture to keep the depth of field narrow, so that the cyclist remains sharp but his background blurred. When you press down on the shutter release, follow your subject as he moves (panning). You might have to try a few times to get this correct, but it creates an amazing effect!
Technique 3: Focus in on your subject’s face
One of the most appealing things about cycling photography is that the audience gets to experience the real struggle that the cyclist is enduring. Humans are naturally inclined to read emotion on the faces of other humans, so the best way to capture the attention of your audience is by drawing them to the subject’s face. If you are using the best camera for cycling with a proper lense, you should be able to capture every sweat drop of determination on the cyclist’s face. We want to see them struggle!
Technique 4: Location, location, location!
You want to make sure that you have a background that is uninterrupted when using utilizing any of the above techniques. If you want to photograph a road cyclist, make sure that the backdrop frames the cyclist well rather than causing any clashing in the background. If you want to include the background in the action, you will have to use a wide depth of field. You can achieve this with a wide-angle lens with a small aperture (f/11 to f/16). The wide-angle lense will allow you to provide an expansive view of the action, to really set the context for the cyclist.
Technique 5: Try different perspectives
Your audience will grow tired of seeing the same old cycling image on repeat. Try different compositions until you find one that suits you, and then try a new one! Remember that while cycling is a sport, photography is an art, and the aim is to be ingenuitive!
Always consider the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, and symmetrical and asymmetrical balance. You can try filling your image with interesting background noise around the main subject (just make sure that it doesn’t distract from the main subject too much!)
Technique 6: Try shooting in continuous mode
Digital photography allows us to shoot continuously, rather than constantly having to wait for that perfect shot. In sports photography, this is especially useful, as action often happens quite quickly and if we miss the shot–that’s it! It’s gone past us and we will never get it back. Shooting in continuous mode makes for a lot more material to go through, but also guarantees that you will catch those intense moments that may have otherwise been missed!
Here are some useful tips:
- Cycling is a fast sport (duh) so to get sharp images you will need a fast shutter speed (unless utilizing the panning technique mentioned above)
- Using a telephoto lens is a great way to get a sharp image but reduce the noise that comes from a fast shutter speed, especially indoors
- Consider your desired outcome when planning for depth of field (Do you want to see the racers in the background? Or are you focusing in on one cyclist?)
- Your best camera for cycling will depend a lot on what you are trying to achieve. We recommend using a 300mm lens (at least), so you’ll need a tripod to support the weight.
- Good quality lenses that allow you to get down to small f-stops will allow for the sharpest cycling images
It may take some practice; but with enough time, effort, the right techniques, and best camera for cycling, you should be producing high-quality cycling images in no time!