How to Shoot Better Bike Touring Photos

How to Shoot Better Bike Touring Photos

One of the most rewarding things you can do on a bike tour is to fill up your camera’s memory cards with thousands and thousands of images to look back on when you’re home from your trip. I have grown accustomed to taking photos on my bike tours and enjoy looking at them from time to time. Plus, they make great stock photos for my blog posts. If you enjoy looking at my photos from my trip and would like to learn more about how I capture these pictures, follow these 5 photography tips on a bicycle tour.

Sang in San Geronomo

1. Rule of Thirds

On my camera, I have the screen divided into 9 quadrants so it makes it easier for me to follow the Rule of Thirds. Where these quadrants intersect, is where you should be placing your subject on. It makes your photos a lot more interesting than just to shooting them right in the middle of your frame. You will notice I try to follow the Rule of Thirds as much as I can with the exception of when I don’t. When I don’t follow it is when I want to bring out my object to emphasize it. An example of this is if I’m shooting something that’s awkwardly tall like a building or a tree. But if you use the Rule of Thirds, you will significantly improve your photos.

Riding Down Highway 101 in Oregon

2. Find Inspirations

What I love about Instagram and Flickr is when you follow people who also bike tour or just enjoys photography, you get inspired by their photos. Many people I follow happen to be photographers first and then bicycle tourists after, so they have really great photos. I could spend hours and hours perusing Flickr Groups looking at other people’s pictures. I often find inspiration for particular shots through what I’ve seen. There’s nothing wrong with mimicking your favorite photographers. What is even better is if you mimic them and make it your own by doing something differently.

Portlan & Iris (Xtracycle)

Portlan & Iris (Xtracycle)

3. Avoid Posing Your Subjects

There is one type of photos that I don’t really like to take as much. These are the shots where your subject is aware that you have a camera in front of their face and they perk up and give you a fabricated smile. These shots are for portrait photographers, and that’s not what I enjoy doing on the road. I like to capture the moments as they happen, the real them with scowl, frown, or a natural smile. They don’t need to look at the camera.

Of course, when I am taking photos to share in my Instagram feed, I completely ignore this rule, especially when I’m doing my world-famous selfies. There are exceptions to the rule.


4. Don’t Take Too Many Landscape Shots

I know you’re probably scratching your head about this one because the reason why we all tour is to see magnificent landscapes. We want to capture them with our cameras to take with us forever to enjoy over and over, after we are long gone from the destination. The problem is that we tend to overdo it and take about 20 shots of the same thing or scene. I’m sure your shot isn’t going to be better than the thousands of other people’s who were there before you. That is why I take maybe just a few shots and call it a day. I may try to figure out a different perspective of a shot that I haven’t seen before. Even then, it’s most likely done already. I like to incorporate people with my landscape or my buildings. When I look at some other people’s photo albums, it’s all about the landscape or the buildings, pretty boring in my opinion. But when you throw in people doing something and not looking at your camera, it makes the photo much more interesting to look at.

T-Rex vs Sang Hyun

T-Rex vs Sang Hyun

5.Tell A Story

One of the most important things I always remind myself when taking a photo is I should tell a story. Even before turning the camera “on,” I need to know, mentally, what is the story I am trying to show here. Telling a story uses all of the previous elements to help me figure out my shot, to explain the situation without using words. This is what makes a photo so interesting. For example, if you have a shot of a subject looking down from a ledge taken from right above their head as they glance down, it is a lot more powerful than a shot of them looking down from the side profile. It’s the same subject and place, but where you place the camera makes a world of differences.

Final Thoughts

By following these 5 tips, your photos should be much more interesting and engaging. It is with these rules that 2 of my photos were considered by Adventure Cycling Associations’ 2014 Bicycle Travel Photo Contest. Even though I didn’t make it to the finalists list, I was flattered they recognized it. I thought they were cool photos and to see that others had similar thoughts was nice to know. In reality, you shouldn’t be taking photos for other people (unless you’re being paid). Even if you are getting paid, they want to see your perspective, so always shoot for yourself. Stay true to what you like and how you get the shots. The better you get, the more you’ll enjoy your photos. That’s actually the bottom line – enjoy your photos.

Leaving Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park

Riding out of Saltery Bay Provincial Park

About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He's also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association's Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.