I shot motorcycles as a hobby, now I am a pro, here are my best 7 tips

May 6, 2018

Colin Brister

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I shot motorcycles as a hobby, now I am a pro, here are my best 7 tips

May 6, 2018

Colin Brister

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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My photography started as a hobby, which became and passion and led to me becoming a professional. Mainly being self-taught, I was one of the first in my field to use portable lighting, and I now light all my subjects; from nature, portraits to architecture and of course motorbikes!

I cover Motocross race meets throughout the UK and provide track days for amateur photographers to learn how to light and shoot fast moving motorbikes. I also make tutorial videos on lighting.

I undertake projects for one of the largest lighting companies in the UK and have published a book called ‘Light, Shoot, Capture’ which gives full details on lighting setups and what you can expect to gain from lighting your subjects.

Here are my best seven tips for action sports photography…

1. Know your sports

The best and the most important advice that I can give is; watch the sport. Before you take a shot, spend 10 minutes and watch. Look for the where the competitor is in his best position. For motocross, it is where the rider has got the bike leaned at the lowest point or where the rider is accelerating out the corner with the mud flying everywhere. For jump shots, it will be where they are at the highest point or just showing a bit of style…

2. Low = good

For motocross always shoot low, it gives a better angle, brings in the texture of the track, gives the rider more stature when shooting corners and more height when shooting jumps.

3. Variety of lenses will let you get a variety of shots + mud

This is not unique to sports photography, but there is something to be said about focal length and mud. Try a range of lenses. My main workhorse is the 70-200 f2.8, but this doesn’t stop me getting a 10mm fisheye out and getting into the action, so long as you don’t mind getting your gear a little muddy. Each lens will have its own attributes and results.

4. Know your shutter speed, match it to the details you want

Motocross is one of those rare motorsports where it can be shot frozen, but all options work. For moving wheels, set shutter speeds between 320-500. For frozen whatever you want. When I’m using lighting I am able to shoot all the way up to 1/8000th, but also sell a lot of shots lit at 1/40th… so try everything..

5. The riders have good tips. Listen!

Get to know your sportsman. It is always great to chat to the guys and girls and useful to get ideas from; they are always up for trying something different!

6. There is an ISO sweet spot. It’s 200-400, sideways.

If you are planning to use lighting, then ISO’s set between 200-400 has always worked best – the sweet spot. I always use my lighting from the side, never straight on at the rider.

7. Tomato soup is your friend

On a cold winters day shooting… Tomato soup is definitely a winner…

About the Author

Colin Brister is a photographer based in London. He mostly shoots motocross. For the last eight years, Colin’s ran ImageMX Photography. Colin is also a brand ambassador for Pixapro in the UK.  You can see more of his photos on his website, Facebook page, and ImageMX.

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4 responses to “I shot motorcycles as a hobby, now I am a pro, here are my best 7 tips”

  1. rifki syahputra Avatar
    rifki syahputra

    great tips.. thanks Colin

  2. JustChristoph Avatar
    JustChristoph

    Good article. I’m interested to know if you make sure the riders know where the lighting is on the circuit so that it doesn’t come as a surprise. Or are they too focused (no pun intended) to notice?

    1. Doug Turney Avatar
      Doug Turney

      JustChristoph, I’ve never had any issues with using flash and surprising the riders with my motocross photography. This applies to my editorial and commercial work. For the most part if I’m using flash for editorial it is a fill flash to balance the bright stadium lights or sunlight so the rider hardly notices the flash against the ambient light. For my commercial work where the flash may be the dominate light the riders are usually aware of the flash and I’ve talked to them after and they have said the flash isn’t a distraction. This applies to speedlights and strobes.

  3. Doug Turney Avatar
    Doug Turney

    Colin,
    I started out the same way. I started photographing local motocross as a hobby since I rode motocross when I was much younger. It was fun to combine my two interests. Now I photograph the Monster Energy Supercross Series and the Lucas Oil Motocross series in the States. I’ve done some commercial work for several pro teams also.