While most people seem to use Instagram to take photos of their food, their coffee and their household pets, the now-Facebook-owned service can also be used to take some great cycling-related photos. But what makes for a great Instagram cycling photo? And what tools can you use to get those memorable snaps looking even better? In this post we give some suggestions to help take better Instagram photos.
We’ve written previously about how addictive we find Instagram and in the few months since that post, nothing has really changed (see here for the CyclingTips Instagram feed).
And with the FebFifteen Strava challenge in progress, we’ve been asking you to post your Instagram photos (tagged with #FebFifteen) to show us how you’re getting on.
In this post we’ve rounded up a list of smartphone apps that can be used for creating images for Instagram. We’ve also included a gallery of great Instagram cycling images we’ve come across lately, explaining what we like about each of the shots. Hopefully these photos will be a source of inspiration and education.
On that note, happy Instagram-ing, and be sure to tag your photos with #FebFifteen for a chance to have them featured on our Photo of the Day. And if there are any great Instagram shooters you follow, let us know in the comments below.
Camera Phone Apps
There are many applications now available on the Apple and Android app stores relating to camera phone photography however, we have chosen a few of our own favourite apps.
This is a great little photo editor (available on both iOS and Android platforms) that offers a wide range of editing tools including tilt-shift and color filter effects to be applied to your photo before you upload it to Instagram.
Slow Shutter Cam
On a full equipped SLR or DSLR you had the option of capturing images under a long exposure. This implies leaving the shutter open from a few seconds to minutes or even hours. However, the Slow Shutter Cam app (iPhone only) brings the long exposure experience to the camera phone. Long exposures are a fun creative to get beautiful images of your bike against a stunning background.
This is a free app on the iOS platform but it comes with a plethora of layout, editing tools and filters and effects.
One of the best ways to tell a story is through grouping multiple photos together to create a collage. Photo Grid is one of the popular apps on the Android marketplace for creating photo collages.
Is an iOS-only application that helps you create photo collages similar to Photo Grid.
This app for the iPhone has over 100 effects and textures to help you colourise your photographs.
This is one of the most popular free photo apps on the Android platform that comes with a multitude of camera tools and film options to help you create stunning photos.
We have collated some interesting examples of good composition taken both on and off the bike with a little explanation of what we found interesting about them.
One of the favourites amongst us cyclists is to take a photo of our bike whilst out riding. This adds context to the image (i.e. it lets everyone know we didn't see the view from our car!). Choosing the right background and angle is important. In this photo by James Middleton, he's used the fallen leaves with autumn colours along with an off-centered perspective to create an interesting photograph.
Another example from James on how to photograph the full bike by finding a wall with a good mural with complementing colours.
Andy White from fyxomatosis is the master at taking photos of bikes in city settings. This is a great example of how to use simplicity to create a beautiful photo.
Perspective can play an important part in the overall composition of an image. Here a shot by Redline Cycling from underneath the handlebars looking upwards (although I think it's a photo from a GoPro). Especially, if you have more riders in the background it becomes a more interesting image to look at. The reason this is such a great photo is because it shows a perspective that the human eye never encounters (unless it's moments before a crash)
Sometimes going for a ride along off the beaten road leads to surprises whether it be beautiful scenery or pot holes as MotoFish discovered. This isn't a particularly beautiful or inspiring place that you'd want to ride, but what makes it a good photo is that it has lots of textures and details which make it interesting.
Here is another example of going off the beaten road from MotoFish, gravel roads surrounded by tall trees with a cyclist subtly riding in the distance. The colours accentuate the bitter cold and wet day. It's easy to be tempted to take photos of the cyclist's backside right in front of you, but we think it's much more interesting to find an alternative perspective.
Riding up hills and mountain passes maybe the arch nemesis of many cyclists but once you have reached the summit, the views can be quite spectacular. In this photograph from Bike Gallery, the rider is on a slight angle whilst the the view remains unobstructed. Again using the correct Instagram highlight filter helps bring out the details in the distant hill tops.
In this example from DeadKooks, the lower perspective in conjunction with the mist and the correct Instagram filter gives you the perception of how tough the ride would have been. Bad weather almost always makes a winning photo.
This photo from Kei Tsuji shows a good element of composition as the cyclist rolls down cobbled laneway leading your eye towards the town center. Finding a filter to bring out the blue sky complements the traditional Italian terracotta roof tiles.
Sometimes it is better to show the first half and leave rest to the imagination. There are a mixture of elements present that makes this simplistic photo look amazing; the cobbled path and the deteriorating wall makes an effective textured background to photograph a subject against. Again using the appropriate Instagram colour filter brings out the details of the wall with makes an appealing image.
We're often sent photos of bikes leaning up against a fence which unfortunately do not turn out very well. But in this photo Timothy Krieger makes a very good composition of his full bike in the foreground complementing it using the vanishing point to lead the eye towards the horizon with the changing tones of the early morning sun.
The benefit of being an early morning rider gives you the opportunity to witness spectacular sunrises as shown by Rymoody. The dead tree's silhouette which is slightly off-center with wide open plains as the sun is slowly rising makes this a great capture on a morning ride. It doesn't even need a bike in the photo to make me wish I was there.
One of the pleasures of photography is being in the right place at the right time. In this example by Chris Jenning's he is using the perspective of the road to lead the eye towards the tree where there is a flock of birds flying. You have to use this type of thing sparingly, but this shows a unique perspective from the drops.
I'm a big fan of Jered Gruber's work and what makes his photo here so effective is not only the amazing landscape, but the fact that he's shooting at golden hour when the sun is just rising. This creates a nice warm light and long casting shadows of the riders and the hills. Anything you shoot early in the morning or just before sunset will be a winning photo.
This is one from the CyclingTips Instagram collection. It was taken in the lush forests of the Dandenongs (outside of Melbourne) and shows the silhouettes of three riders heading towards the camera phone. The reason it's effective is not only because the scenery is so beautiful, but because you could imagine yourself riding there since the riders themselves are not the focus of the shot.
Please be extremely careful if taking photographs while out riding. We encourage you to stop and pull off the road in a safe location and check for traffic before taking any photo.