The problem with taking pictures of people bicycling

April 25, 2009

(Well, one of them.)

There are three shutter speeds for taking pictures of moving bicycles:

  • too slow: the bicyclist and bicycle are motion blurred (useful only for artistic effect).

  • too fast: everything is frozen motionless and the bicyclist looks like they are doing an unnatural track stand.

  • just right: the rider and bike are sharp but there is still visible motion blur in the wheels (and perhaps the rider's feet), so the bike still looks like it is actually in motion.

The 'just right' shutter speed is a narrow zone and varies quite significantly depending on how fast the rider is going. (And it goes quite high; I believe I've seen visible motion blur in shots at 1/250th, and the bicyclist wasn't going particularly fast.)

So far my best results have come from cheating, in the form of panning with the bicyclist at 'lower' shutter speeds (lower being relative here). But this has its own problems; it's okay for shots of just the bicyclist, but it's not good for 'rider in context' shots, since the context is blurred.

(And you have to carefully match your panning speed to the bicyclist's speed in order to keep them sharp, which I am not yet all that good at.)

Written on 25 April 2009.
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Last modified: Sat Apr 25 02:48:26 2009
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