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From Instagram Envy To Instagram Worthy

Photo credit: Meredith Potgieter / ZA Bikers

Have you ever scrolled through Instagram and found yourself pausing on someone’s photo that they have taken of their bike? I’m not talking about a random photo of their bike parked in front of a coffee shop or beside the road. I’m talking about those moody, good-quality images that make you envy that person’s life. You look at that post and you think to yourself “That dude must have the coolest life with his motorcycle”.

This got me thinking… What keeps us from taking those epic shots of our own bikes? We recently attended the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in May on the modern classic Kawasaki Z650 RS. Since the event is specifically created for these classic/modern classic bikes there are tons of opportunities to get great photos, but this type of event only rolls by once a year… What about the other 364 days? It was then that I decided that there has to be a way that we motorcycle enthusiasts can still get those Instagram-worthy photos. With that in mind, we started to brainstorm possible locations that would suit the bike best—in came Vintage Cars South Africa also known as Wat Swaai Jy.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

What better place to photograph the Z650 RS than amongst some beautifully restored classic vehicles? Wat Swaai Jy is a company based in Pretoria out on Graham Road. They showcase over 80 years of automotive history and provide top-notch restoration and detailing services. They sport a large showroom/warehouse which they call your “classic car haven” with vintage cars lined up left right and centre. After a chat, they agreed to let us use their spot for the photoshoot. We rolled the Kawasaki into the middle of this showcase of history and oh my goodness did it look good amongst the shiny chrome bits from these classics.

Photo credit: Meredith Potgieter / ZA Bikers

Of course, there are some things to take into account when trying to capture images that will lure people in. A few things that we tagged along were some constant video lights since the warehouse did not have sufficient light to properly expose the bike. I also used my Nikon D750 with a Sigma 85mm F1.4 art lens. Now I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have this type of equipment”—that’s alright. I wanted to create images that could be used in this article so high resolution was required, however, today’s phone technology is so advanced that you can achieve the same result at a lower quality which is more than enough for social media. As for additional lighting, gadget stores and China malls sell battery-operated LED lights at affordable prices.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

After setting up the lights at 45 degrees on either side of me, making sure to illuminate the bike evenly, I set my camera settings to 400 ISO, f4.5 and a shutter speed between 1/60 – 1/80. My reason for shooting with these settings was to allow as much light into the camera as possible while keeping the bike in focus and still creating a soft background blur. As mentioned before, phone technology is so advanced that you are capable of getting similar settings in manual mode.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The Z650 RS has eye-catching features like golden rims, a green tank with pinstripes running from front to back, a round headlight and matching round clocks. These are all features that I wanted to capture as part of this photo gallery. It’s all good and well to capture a striking wide shot of your bike in the setting, but if you want to create a full 10-slide post then those little details that make the bike unique are worth capturing.

Photo credit: Meredith Potgieter / ZA Bikers

We spent a little over 30 minutes moving the bike around and taking photos from different angles. We played around with lighting positions to create dimension in some of the detail shots like the texture on the seat and illuminating the engine casing. In the end, the constant lights help you to understand how the light and shadows play a role in elevating your image and enhancing the features of the object, in this case, the bike.

Photo credit: Meredith Potgieter / ZA Bikers

As some of you may know, taking a photo is only half of the job; post-production is what makes it stand out. All photos require some form of touch-ups—if you focus on your lighting and settings you can get it as close to the end result as possible. After that, you can play around with exposure and contrast, and add some clarity and shadows to create whatever feel you are envisioning. There are apps that you can download on your phone such as Adobe Lightroom which gives you a wider range of tools to enhance your photos.

In conclusion, we managed to get epic shots of the Kawasaki in under an hour. It was as simple as finding a location which suited the bike’s design and a bit of planning regarding the equipment and we were able to capture images that would make most bike enthusiast excited and wish they had cool shots of their own beasty.

The reality is that we can all have a super cool Instagram feed, with some knowledge of how light works and studying those “Instagram-worthy” photos you are more than capable of creating your own. All you need is a bike, creativity and the will to go out and try something new. So with that, I entice you to spice up your Instagram feed and stop wishing your photos were as cool as the people you follow because with practice yours can look the same, if not better.

Meredith Potgieter
Meredith Potgieter
ZA Bikers Administrator & Lifestyle Writer
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