How To Shoot Motorcycles Using Only One Speedlight

Nov 20, 2014

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years.

How To Shoot Motorcycles Using Only One Speedlight

Nov 20, 2014

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years.

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I did a shoot recently with a big BMW using only one speed light and I wanted to share how I made it happen. The idea is, of course to learn something new, but also to show that having little gear should not stop you from pushing yourself. Sadly I cannot use the bike photo, but I reproduced the process using a trusted unique Kymco Like, it’s not a BMW but it will do. My original plan was to use a full blown studio setup: monoblocks, softboxes and umbrellas as diffusers for the shot. But as I was setting up I thought of a crazy idea: Light is light, so why don’t I just add the light from multiple exposures and shoot it with one small speedlight. So here is a step by step tutorial and video on how we did it.

motorcycle final

 

What you’ll need:

  • Camera (Dah!)
  • Tripod, because it is crucial to have the camera stable and not move during the process)
  • Speedlight (I was using the SB600)
  • Strobe wireless trigger
  • Camera Trigger Or a friend
  • Illustration Board / Foam Board

motorcycle (1)

 

How to shoot:

The concept of the shoot is lighting your subject part by part and layering them in photoshop. You can then choose the best light from each frame. Check out the behind from shooting to photoshop in the bottom of the page.

1. Scout for a location for the shoot and it’s better to shoot at night so that you could expose for your flash easier. For this shoot, we just picked our driveway as the location. (of course you can also do this in a studio, but where is the fun in that?

2. Place the camera on tripod and pre-focus on your subject. I was shooting at 1/160 | f8 | ISO 200. (I was shooting with a Nikon D3 and 24-70 lens)

3. For the flash I used my trusty sb-600 at 1/4 power. Lighting from the flash was too hard so I am bouncing it off  a small piece of the illustration board. I am also using a second piece at times to flag it off so light will not hit the camera.

motorcycle shoot (2)

4.If you have a wireless trigger for the camera use it, or get an assistant (I was lucky to get my friend EJ Quiroz aka G to help me out) to click the shutter. Use a big piece of illustration board as bounce card, point your flash toward the illustration board and let the light reflect your subject.

5. Walk around your subject and play around with placing the illustration board at different angles. I learned that it’s best to zoom your flash a bit and aim it at the side of the illustration board to get a slightly gradient reflection on your subject.

motorcycle shoot (1)

6. Make sure you got all the parts of the subject are lit. You might have to do some facets more than two times to be sure. If you know what you are going to do it is best to work this methodically, from left to right, from top to bottom.

Once finish it’s time for editing

motorcycle-layers

7. I was shooting in jpg mode (after making sure I nailed the exposure and white balance) so I went straight into photoshop for the editing.

8. Open Photoshop and choose File – Scripts – Load files into Stack. Choose the files you shot. It’s better if you check the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images”

motorcycle import (2) motorcycle import (1)

9. Hide all the images

10. Make a plain black layer as your background layer.

motorycle black layer

11. Choose the first image and click Alt+Add Layer Mask, select your white brush and paint over the parts that you think have the best lighting for that part. For the first image it’s better if you try to choose and brush the whole subject so that you have a base image. For the layers after you can just brush on small lit areas.

motorcycle 1st layer (2)
Base image. Brush the all the lit parts of your subject so you can have a base image.
After brushing the lit parts
After brushing the lit parts
For the remaining images, you just need to paint the parts that you want
For the remaining images, you just need to paint the parts that you want

12. There are many methods on how to work with layer masks, but what I do is click the layer mask and click Command+I, to invert the layer mask so that you can see the difference between each layer. I also play around with the layer visibility to check the difference.

motorcycle invert layer (1)
I check the layers by inverting the layer mask
I check the layers by inverting the layer mask
I check the layers by inverting the layer mask
Or you can also toggle the visibility
Or you can also toggle the visibility

13. Repeat Steps 10-12 until you have the final image. You can also clean the image after all the layers for scratches or dust and even change the background in photoshop if you like.

peg

Here is the final photo again:

motorcycle final

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Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years.

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20 responses to “How To Shoot Motorcycles Using Only One Speedlight”

  1. avicenna Avatar
    avicenna

    Mr. Laya, as awesome as ever

    1. LSG Avatar
      LSG

      cheers

  2. jefphotos Avatar
    jefphotos

    ambangis talaga !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. LSG Avatar
      LSG

      salamat :)

  3. Nikita Avatar
    Nikita

    Would be easier to use simple flashlight rather than speedlight.

    1. LSG Avatar
      LSG

      Yes it would, but then it would be this article which I also made.

      https://www.diyphotography.net/shoot-porsche-minimal-gear/

  4. Gary Bailey Avatar
    Gary Bailey

    Owen?

  5. LSG Avatar
    LSG

    Thanks to my friend EJ Quiroz aka G for lending his motorcycle and clicking the shutter.

  6. patiferoolz Avatar
    patiferoolz

    client: nice. but i need the angle to be a little bit to the right. thanks!

  7. Ben Bailey Avatar
    Ben Bailey

    One speed light: https://flic.kr/p/dvMqTJ

  8. Pascal Avatar
    Pascal

    Thats amazing! Thanks for sharing. I will try this for sure!

  9. doge Avatar
    doge

    Nice writeup, but that’s not a motorcycle. That’s a scooter.

    1. dooge Avatar
      dooge

      not according to wikipedia

      “A scooter is a motorcycle with step-through frame and a platform for the operator’s feet. Elements of scooter design have been present in some of the earliest motorcycles, and motorcycles identifiable as scooters have been made from 1914 or earlier. Scooter development continued in Europe and the United States between the World Wars.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scooter_(motorcycle)

    2. patiferoolz Avatar
      patiferoolz

      he’s teaching how to photograph a motorcycle by photographing a scooter. no error

  10. Morgan Glassco Avatar
    Morgan Glassco

    Where is motorcycle?

  11. Wes Jones Avatar
    Wes Jones

    Nice! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Finn Dudaniec Avatar
    Finn Dudaniec

    Zero speedlights

  13. fudder Avatar
    fudder

    Don’t stand behind the bit of the scooter you are lighting, makes masking out much easier. Also, wear black.

    Need to get a shot where the floor is lit well, the ground shadow is awkward at the back.

  14. Shane McKenzie Avatar
    Shane McKenzie

    I find a pen easier than a speed light – allows more fine control over the light and areas that you want to concentrate on.

  15. robweeve Avatar
    robweeve

    You discovered your method! Aaron jones started doing something like this 25 years ago, all in camera, before photoshop was conceived. http://aaronjonesphoto.com