Studio Motorcycle Photography

When it comes to automotive photography, motorbikes can often be more difficult subjects than cars because of the angular surfaces and mixture of surfaces.

Learn how to take professional motorcycle photographs as Karl demonstrates the start to finish shoot of a black Honda Fireblade CBR. Throughout this class, you’ll learn about the best lighting for this type of photography, including gradient lighting for gloss surfaces and rim lighting to separate the subject and background; what camera settings and lenses to use; how to angle the bike and compose the shot;  how to determine your camera angle; and how to use long exposures to capture the headlights.

Working through this demonstration, Karl offers numerous tips for motorbike photography, and you’ll soon see how these techniques can also be applied to other subjects too.

Course objectives:

  • How to photograph motorcycles in the studio
  • Black on black product photography
  • Lighting reflective gloss surfaces
  • Camera settings and lens choice for motorcycle photography
  • Controlling light to minimise and control reflections
  • Long exposure combined with flash

If you’d like to learn more about photographing motorcycles, make sure to take a look at our Motorcycle Photography live show, where Karl photographed a KTM RC8 sports bike live.

If you have any questions about this class, please post in the comment section below.

This class demonstrates multiple lighting techniques, each of which are used for a very particular purpose.

The first technique I demonstrate is a simple, overhead light to create a gradient on the top of the bike. As you’ll see in the video, this light picked up the Honda logo on the top of the fuel tank and I could control the hardness, softness and size of this by moving the position of the light.

Motorcycle studio lighting

The first light from above created a gradient light on the Honda logo.

The next technique I demonstrated in the video was how to use indirect light to light the subject. This is a common technique when photographing both motorcycles and cars as it allows us to light broad panels of light. Your choice of modifier is important for this technique as it will have a big impact on the final result; you’ll see how I used different modifiers throughout this course and the different results each of them had.

Studio lighting setup for motorbike photography

Indirect lighting is a commonly used technique for motorcycle and car photography.

Rim lighting was another technique demonstrated in this class. This particular technique is particularly useful when photographing black products as it helps ensure the product stands out.

Finally, you’ll also see how I combined long exposure with flash to capture the glow of the headlights. This is another commonly used technique for car or motorcycle photography, though it does require careful control of your lights and camera settings.

As you’ll gather from the video, lighting and photographing these types of subjects is not always easy, but it can be done once you understand and know how to control your light.

Motorcycle photography by Karl Taylor

The final Honda Fireblade motorcycle image.


  1. Awesome Tutorial, learnt a lot!

    One Question: Why do you use a reflective wall at every automotive photoshoot instead of a second scrim?
    It definitly seems more effective in factors of time.
    But are there differences regarding to aesthetics?

    1. Hi Hermi, if the wall is there then it’s just easier to use, it also gives you more space to move your lighting around etc but you can also work with scrims if they are big enough to cover the area you need.

  2. Gary Stasiuk

    I saw these videos on automotive and I was thinking I would never get a chance to try something like this.. however, a good friend of mine just purchased a classic restored lambretta, and will receive it in about four weeks. He was quite excited when I suggested we do a photo shoot with it. There are certainly a few challenges.. one is finding a location suitable. I’ll end up watching these motorcycle videos a few times and perhaps will have more direct questions, but so far, I didn’t see anything I couldn’t do with the scrims or modifiers I have, or even the lights and powerpacks I have. Because this shoot will likely be on location, I was wondering if you might suggest a different type of background to a seamless. I have a couple of hand painted canvases, light gray and darker grey. The concern I have is the same with using a paper seamless. It may move about with all the time walking about. Would you stay away from a soft background and go with something hard.. even using a rustic concrete surface? Any suggestions or words of wisdom?

    1. Hi Gary, you’ll need to consider a background that suits the bike. Even if you found a workshop, store or something with a bit of space behind the bike that would be out of focus and not in the lit area of the bike then that will work because it will go dark. Otherwise grey paper or black cloths hanging on some cross bar you setup on C-stands. A location solution as my colleague Tim Flach does with horses or animals is a big black fabric backdrop and grey paper roll on the floor.

  3. – “What do you want to do when you grow up, son?”
    – I want to “make myself” Karl Taylor.
    (A possible not at all exaggerated dialogue) 🙂
    Thanks, Karl.

    1. Ha Ha, very flattering if it’s from the photography point of view. On a personal level I doubt anyone would want to end up as a short bald chap though 🤣

  4. I have a motorcycle shoot coming up this month. It’s not a paid commercial shoot, but just my own concept. One of my problems are not enough lights. Shooting layers will help solve this. Thankfully I’m learning your Photoshop for Photographers courses and are now well into the advanced courses, so I can do this also.

  5. If light stands are leaving reflection. Would it be beneficial to wrap white material around the stands? Excellent. Perfect timing for the video. I will be photographing a bike this way… the past I would back light and front light with gels. A girl on the bike and call it a day. But now….I am trying your way Karl. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Karen white material will help a little but not significantly because the lighting stands are not in the same place or exposure area from where the light is reflecting. Boom arms can help as you can often get a light in with less visible stands as you will see in some upcoming car shoots we have for you. 🙂

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