bike race photos
tips for shooting bike races

Start your coverage of bike race photos with a group shot of the beginning of the race

If you want to get great bike race photos, just follow these simple photography tips. A local bike shop sponsored this race in Memorial of a biking enthusiast who tragically passed away from cancer. It was a terrific event and got a lot of local support.

This is a sports 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. 

Fast shutters peeds are needed to freeze the motion with pictures of racing bikes

With these images of the bike race through the streets of this small town, I set my camera on shutter priority.

I used a high ISO setting of 1600 on this photograph.

I wanted to freeze the motion with a fast shutter speed.

I needed to use a small aperture to give me good depth of field as well.

I wanted the close riders and farther riders all to be in sharp focus.

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.

Shoot for variety

Not only should you move to various locations during your shoot, but also try shooting while standing, while getting down real low or very high if possible.

Try to find a high angle to shoot down at the racing cyclists

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.

More on composition.

I liked the shadows in this photograph too.

This is a case where the back lighting from the sun added to the picture.

race photos are better with the right equipment

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 lens, 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.

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.  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.

A slower shuttere speed can give you just the rgiht amount of background motion blur behind the racing cyclists

On 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.

monopods are great for bike race photos

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

I used a monopod in this picture of our cyclists from the side.

I like to use a monopod for two reasons.

  • It supports the weight of the camera and a big lens while allowing you to aim and move your camera quickly.
  • A monopod is very light, easy to move and does not bang into other spectators or get in their way.

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

Do Some Photo Editing

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 web site, so that we can all get digital photo tips from each other.

Happy Shooting!


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