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Photo Guidelines

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We at American Iron Magazine have established the following guidelines pertaining to all motorcycle photo features being submitted for consideration. In creating these guidelines, it is our intent to clarify what is expected of photographers as well as maintain the standards we have come to know at American Iron..

Please read the following guidelines carefully. If there are any questions, contact our office. Deviating too far from these guidelines will most often result in work being rejected and returned to the photographer.

The Angles: There are 6 basic angles and 3 details (minimum) that must be covered when photographing a feature bike for Tam Communications. (See images at the bottom of the page.) It is strongly suggested that the six basic angles and engine details be done with a telephoto lens, (100mm +), not wide angle. We do not want to see any wide-angle photos. Cockpit shot can be done with a normal lens (50mm+).

With the exception of the Detail Shots, always shoot the entire bike. Don’t bother doing photos of the front half or rear half. We don’t use them.

The Detail Shots: There are four detail shots required in a photo feature. The right side of the engine, the left side of the engine, and two “cockpit” shots. The cockpit shots are to be taken as if you were sitting on the bike looking forward over the handlebars. One shot is to include the grips and instruments and the other is to be a close-up of the instruments/handlebar riser area.

There are times when more shots are required to show specific details of the bike. A close up of the painted graphics or other details as they relate to the flow or theme of the bike are sometimes necessary. Use your best judgment.

Depth of Field: The bike must be in focus from front to back at all angles. Anything in front of or behind the bike should be out of focus as much as possible.

Positioning the Bike: See Examples. For the “broadside” shots, the front wheel must be pointed straight ahead, and in line with the rear wheel of the bike.

When shooting the left side of the bike in particular, use something to prop up the kickstand where necessary. Many photographers carry small blocks to correct the lean of the bike.

The angle shots may have the front wheel turned very slightly towards the camera. Never turn the front wheel away from the camera in any position or angle.

Cropping: When looking through the camera, leave extra space around the bike so the art department can crop the image to fit the page layout. DO NOT crop images too tight!

Locations: One ideal location for shooting a bike is a wide-open space with a paved surface where the bike stands. The background should be free of signs, power lines, single trees that might stick out from behind the bike, or other foreign objects that clutter the photo. The area around the bike should be cleared of litter, and debris.

Do not bury the bike in the environment. Fences and flowerbeds add clutter. We want to see the bike.

If a wide-open space is not available, the bike can be set up with a distant tree-line or hillside as a background. Use a telephoto lens to put the background out of focus.

Bikes photographed outdoors should not be shot on grass or other “non-road” surfaces unless no other option is available.

Color and Contrast: Red bikes do not look good against green grass. Black bikes do not look good on dark pavement. Carefully consider the color of the bike youíre shooting when choosing a location. Dark bikes should be photographed on lighter backgrounds. Lighter colored bikes need to be photographed on neutral or darker backgrounds.

Bikes that are very light or very dark in color will look best when photographed near sunset or sunrise. Midday sun can dilute the color of a light bike. It also casts harsh shadows and hot spots that cause the details of a dark bike to get lost. This can make the difference between having the feature accepted or rejected by the art department.

Range of Exposures: Be sure to include 3 exposures of each shot ranging from slightly over-exposed to slightly under-exposed.

In the Studio: Use the longest lens possible. If you have no choice but to use short lenses, try to keep the camera set on the tripod at the same height as the air intake on the bike. Raising the camera higher causes an unfavorable optical condition that distorts the bike.

Mild wide-angle lenses can be used from a low vantage point when shooting the angle shots of the bike.

Keep the background clean and evenly lit. Roll bike around on cardboard to prevent tire tracks from appearing all over the place.

The Riding Shot: The riding shot is to be done in such a way that it shows motion and action. A profile riding shot taken at 1/2000 of a second will freeze the wheels and background and make the bike look like its parked. Not good. Use slower shutter speeds wherever possible. Also try to get angles where you can see the bike is leaning. It is also important that the riders face be visible and not hidden in shadow or blocked by one of the handlebar mirrors.

Digital Media: All CD’s must be accompanied by contact sheets with thumbnails showing what is on the disk. All contact information for the owner must be included as well as a signed TAM Communications release form where applicable.

Digital images are to be un-enhanced and submitted “as shot”. It is expected that all soft or poorly exposed images be edited out before submitting to TAM.

Submitting Film: All “full view” bike photos must be shot on a minimum of 645 format, 6cm x 4.5cm color transparency film. Details and riding shots may be done on 35mm slide film. Color negatives and color print film are not acceptable.

When submitting film, be certain to mark each slide with your name. Color slides should be sent in clear plastic sleeves that are clearly marked with the photographers name and contact info. Loose slides in an envelope are unacceptable.

Film submissions must also be accompanied by a signed TAM Communications release where applicable.

Creativity is always encouraged and part of what makes American Iron Magazine successful. Once you have met the minimum requirements as stated herein, please venture off in your own creative direction as well. As much as standards help us maintain the quality of American Iron, variety helps to keep it interesting too.

Broadside Right (click to view larger)

Broadside Left (click to view larger)

Right Front (click to view larger)

Right Rear (click to view larger)

Left Rear (click to view larger)

Left Front (click to view larger)

Engine Left (click to view larger)

Engine Right (click to view larger)

Cockpit (click to view larger)