The Bicycle Photography Guidebook

Bike photography is one of the most stable niches a photographer can get in to.

Every city has a bike shop or two, and if those shops are worth their salt, they're trying to boost their social presence or e-commerce website online. Bicycles are a lifestyle product, and a good bicycle photographer can sell that lifestyle through their photos.

When I moved to New York City, I took a job at a luxury folding and electric bicycle shop called NYCeWheels on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I barely knew how to ride a bike at the time, let alone shoot one. Peter, the manager, took a chance on me and hired me full-time as a blogger, photographer, and videographer. 

Under his direction, I quickly learned the best ways to shoot bicycle photos that sell.

 Stromer ST2 in Central Park, Manhattan. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Stromer ST2 in Central Park, Manhattan. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

In bike photography – as in all photography – there are no hard and fast rules. However, the recommendations in this piece come off the back of our highest converting imagery. The insights outlined below contributed a significant increase in revenue when utilized towards social media marketing, content marketing, and product pages.

Here's how to take photos your bicycle:

Fill your frame. Photos that feature bicycles as a small element in a sprawling expanse have their place as hero images for websites, but a bicycle photo that converts lead in to customer is a different beast entirely.  It's tough, but you can train your eye to contextualize your bicycle and tell a story with the elements in the background while keeping the bicycle dominant and powerful. 

 Stromer ST1 in Blue in Carl Shurz Park, Manhattan. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Stromer ST1 in Blue in Carl Shurz Park, Manhattan. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Give each bike it's own identity. Bicycle's are usually a very emotional purchase for customers. Accordingly, your imagery should be suited to brand each bicycle as an individual. If you're trying to sell a custom fat bike, it's an easy decision to stage it against rocky terrain. But take it a step further: make the color palette of the images unique and cohesive, commit to either high-contrast or soft light, and frame your shots similarly. These small aesthetic decisions go a long way in selling the lifestyle of the bicycle to a potential customer.

 Surly Fat Bike in Central Park, Manhattan. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Surly Fat Bike in Central Park, Manhattan. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Don't lean on fashion. Fixies and nimble road bikes are great fashion statements, but a potential customer is much more likely to drool over a detail shot of the spokes than an indulgent style editorial. If you think your photos are getting dull with a dominant bicycle in the frame, contextualize the details of the bike with the surroundings to give the viewer the feeling that they're actually on the ride – like a wet wheel in a puddle.

 Road bike on the Upper East Side, Manhattan. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Road bike on the Upper East Side, Manhattan. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Staging is a matter of detail – and it isn't always glamorous. A lot of products in a bike shop aren't necessarily photogenic, but it's your job as a bicycle photographer to beautify every aspect of the bicycle lifestyle: repairs, gunky oil, and nuts and bolts. If you're trying to sell toolkits or parts, dress up the boring product photography by arranging the items in an artful way.

 Brompton accessories. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Brompton accessories. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Highlight the unique features of the bicycle. Do your research on the manufacturer's websites to ensure you're capturing every notable sale-point of the bike. A spring-loaded bike rack? Shimano shifters? An engraving on the seat post? These details might not seem super important, but for an undecided customer, it can mean the difference between hundreds of dollars in revenue.

 Bike rack. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Bike rack. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Bicycle photography as a career is as exciting as it gets.

High-octane BMX competitions. On-location mountain biking photoshoots. Cafe-hopping to find the perfect backdrop for your road bike. As a professional bike photographer, every gig is a legitimate adventure.

Turning your bicycle photography hobby in to a full-time job isn't as difficult as you might think, and the market isn't saturated with bicycle photography specialists just yet. Every successful bicycle shop is willing to pay for gorgeous images that help them sell more product, so don't be afraid to approach them and offer your services.

 Man with Brompton folding bike, Upper East Side, Manhattan. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Man with Brompton folding bike, Upper East Side, Manhattan. Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.2. 

Keep the above best practices in mind, and you'll surely become the top working bike photographer in your city. Looking for a camera fit for the rugged work of bike photography? Read the Fuji X-pro1 mirrorless camera review here.


Have you ever considered bike photography as a career? Did we miss any essential advice? Sound off below!

Digital strategist, writer, and image maker based in Manhattan working with clients in the tech and entertainment industry.