bike race photos
tips for shooting bike races

Bike race startThe start of the bike race

If you want to take your own great bike race photos, just follow these 5 simple photography tips. If you want to find free downloadable bike race photos mump here.

A local bike shop sponsored a special race in my hometown. It became a fundraising event in memorial of a biking enthusiast who tragically passed away from cancer. It was a terrific event and got a lot of local support.

The first bike photo tip is an action photography tip in general, good for all kinds of action sports photography: Bike racing pictures demand a shutter shutter speed of around 1/800 second or faster. 

  1. Find unique vantage points.
  2. Focus on variety.
  3. Select the right lens setting.
  4. Use a monopod.
  5. Enhance with software.

group of racing bikesPhoto #3 - Frozen racing action

To control the elimination (or control a desired amount) of motion blur, you should set your camera on shutter priority mode.  This will let you set the shutter speed and the camera will automatically set the aperture to get the proper exposure. With all if these images of the bike race through the streets of this small town, I had my camera on shutter priority and changed th speed of the shutter frequently to get different effects.

I used a high ISO setting of 1600 inphoto #3, so that the sensor would not need as much light to get the right exposure with the lens aperture I wanted. Use a fast shutter speed and you'll freeze the fast moving targets. I needed to use a small aperture too, so that I would get good depth of field. I wanted the close riders and riders farther from the camera to all be in sharp focus.

1. find good vantage points to photograph the race

I like to find turns in the race course as locations to shoot from. This photograph was taken form the outside of the turn.

It's a great spot for a bike race photo because the riders are traveling toward me and angled as they lean into the turn. It's also very important to look at the background. Try to find a spot where the back ground is uncluttered and not distracting.

Asking permission (with a smile) to step in front of another spectator for just a second to get your shot is a good idea. You can also look bring along a sturdy fold-able stool to stand on top of. I've have done this at parades and sports contests many times.

2. shoot for variety

3 bike race ridersUse Diagonals
in your composition

Not only should you move to various locations during your shoot, but you will want to shoot down low and up high.

Take some traditional bike race photos while standing, while getting down real low close to the ground, and look for opportunities will you can shoot from a higher elevation. This photograph was taken from a third floor window that overlooks the main street, very close to the finish line.

If you see someone who has a unique vantage point, use a little kindness and ask if you can join them. If it's a crowded event, you may have to get creative in your thinking to get a good spot.The lane markings and the direction of the riders are on a diagonal.

This is an example purposely using one of the rules of photography composition. You can read more in this post I wrote about good composition.

I liked the shadows in this photograph too. This is a case where the back lighting from the sun added to the picture.

3. Use a zoom lens that has  a decent range

You can get average photos with a point and shoot camera, but shooting bike race photos with a Digital SLR is the best way. DSLRs have interchangeable lenses, giving you the opportunity to use a powerful telephoto or zoom lens to get close to the sports action without putting yourself or others in danger.

The kit lenses that come with many DSLRs-they typically are 18-55mm)  simply fall short in giving you the ability to get in close for detail shots of your bike racers.

All of the bike racing pictures in this article were taken with a Canon 70-200 mm f 2.8 zoom lens on a Canon 5D camera.  A good fast action camera also will not have any shutter lag.  That's delay from the time you press the shutter button and when the photo is actually taken. Shutter lag makes it very tough to time your exposure at the exact instant you want to capture the action.

For a definition of shutter lag or any other photo terms you would like to know more about, you can go to Photography Definitions.

Racing cyclistsRacing cyclists

There are times when you'll want to have some blur from motion to create the feeling of high speed. The exact shutter speed to use is hard to know without some practice and experimenting. It really depends on how fast the subject is moving, how close you are to the subject, the lens you are using, and the amount of blur you want. 

In this photo on the left, I changed the ISO setting to 400 so that the shutter speed would be slower.

I panned my camera, following the racer as he whizzed by, as I clicked the shutter button. This created background blur on purpose, but kept my subject sharp.

Use a monopod to support the weight of a heavy camera/lens combo

4. use a monopod to get great bike race photos

I used a monopod in this picture of our cyclists from the side. You get two chief benefits when you use a monopod for sports or action subjects like bikers.

  • Your monopod will support the weight of the camera and a big lens while allowing you to aim and move your camera quickly.
  • Monopods is very light, easy to move and don't bang into other spectators, photographer and they don't take up somebody else's space.

Added blur wtih software adds to the feel of motion in racing pictures

5. enhance your race photos with creative photo editing

Why not take you photo to the next level? After you come home from an exciting photo shoot, it's always fun deciding what kind of photo editing to do. In the bike racing photo at the top of this page, I got real lucky. At the start of the bike race, only one cyclist had his head raised as they started.

I use Adobe Photoshop as my choice for photo editing software. I took away most of the color saturation in all of the cyclists except my guy with his head raised. I added some contrast and blurred the remaining riders a little to add emphasis to my heads up bike racer.

In this photo on the right of these three bike racers, I used Photoshop to create motion blur. It is more of an advanced technique and requires a bit of learning but it's enjoyable with bike race photos as well as any other kind of action photography.

For a more detailed article on how to use motion blur for getting a blurry background by using the right camera settings go to this article How to get a Blurry Background. You may also be interested in this article on several different ways to blur the background in your photo: Blur the Background.

This was the first set of bike race photos I've ever taken. I had a blast learning as I went. Please feel free to leave me your comments or contributions on some of these pages on my website, so that we can all learn from each other. 

free DOWNLOAD of bike race photos

There are a ton of places where you can find bike racing to download for free. Some of the sites have free and pay-for images. Some sites have "attribution required" photos of bike races where you are requested to give the original photographer credit for taking the photos.

Some gallery sites require you to link back to their site. All of these sites give you the opportunity to have rights to some of their photos for a small fee. Make sure you read the policies of each site you visit to make sure you're not using an image without following the right actions.

UNSPLASH. Get free downloads of bike race photos from UNSPLASH here.

PIXABAY. Pixabay has thousands of images to choose from if you're looking for photos of racing cyclists

PEXELS. Another place to get downloads of racing cyclists for free. With thousands of images available, Pexels is another good source for photography of racing bicycles.

Keep shooting. Keep learning. Keep improving.

Article published by Bruce Lovelace


Bruce is the publisher of this website. He is the author of the book "Improve Your Photography Instantly."  Read more on Bruce on his Bio Page. He's been known as The Traveling Photographer ever since 1994. Read more about this website.

View some of Bruce's photos on Instagram.   Visit the Facebook Page. Watch him on YouTube.  Bruce runs photo workshops for kids and adults, and provides one-on-one photography coaching.

Digital Photography Education Location on Google My Business

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