We get questions about how to take better photos all the time here at Ride, and a lot of our questions come from photographers just starting out that need some basic advice to get them started in the right direction. We put together a short list of five basic photography tips that when followed will almost guarantee better results. Good luck, and have fun shooting! –Fat

1. Create A Tight Composition
When you are framing up your composition in the camera’s viewfinder, ask yourself if you have too much sky or too much ground, and if they are necessary. Unless the sky or ground is adding something to the photo, you usually don’t need it. Crop in tight on the rider and obstacle and fill your frame with only the important parts of the scene.


BAD: **This photo has way too much sky and not enough jump.


BETTER: This photo shows the jump, and the height of the rider without leaving in a bunch of unnecessary sky. Photo by Fat.

2. Use Manual Camera Settings
You should never shoot with built-in automatic functions on a camera so you should learn to control the ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop manually. Keep in mind that a higher f-stop will give you a more solid depth of field, a lower ISO will make the image less grainy, and a faster your shutter speed will give you less motion blur.

3. Pre-Focus / Zoom In To Focus
Trying to focus on a moving BMX rider is difficult, and doing that while trying to keep a good composition is even more challenging. To get the best BMX photo possible, set up your composition the way you want it to look, then have the rider stand where he will be while doing the trick to focus on him. Your lens focuses best when at its farthest focal length, so you should always zoom in as far as the camera can go to focus on the subject. Once you have a solid focus, take your camera off of autofocus (so it doesn’t refocus once you press the shutter again), zoom back out and recompose your composition.

Bonus Tips: If it’s dark and your camera’s automatic focus is having trouble finding a focus point, have the rider shine a flashlight on his shirt, or hold up his illuminated cell phone in front of his chest to help you focus. If you are shooting something like a dirt jump you obviously can’t have the rider stand in mid-air where he’ll be during the trick. So in this instance focus on an object on the same plane as where the rider will be.

4. Discuss The Trick With The Rider
In order to make sure you get a good angle of the trick, and to help ensure you time the peak action properly you should discuss the trick with the rider before you try to set up a shot. The rider may be able to give you some insight on things that will help you shoot the photo better.

5. Show The Full Obstacle
Hey, we didn’t put the word “basic” in the title of this article for nothing…If you can’t tell where the rider is coming from and where he is going to, the photo just doesn’t translate. Show the entire scenario so your viewers know what’s going on in the image.


BAD: **What's going on in this photo? You can't tell...


BETTER: This photo shows exactly where the rider is taking off from and where he is landing. Photo by Fat.

Click here for more tips on BMX photography.
(Articles linked are several years old. Although somewhat dated in areas, they still hold relevant advice.)

* Disclaimers:
– This article is written based on the assumption that you are a novice photographer using a SLR or DSLR camera.
– This article is the advice from one editor/photographer at Ride BMX.

(**Example pulled from a random Flikr page after doing a Google image search.)