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How You Shot It: Dramatic Royal Enfield Motorcycle Portrait

By Guest Contributor on August 28th 2014

How You Shot It is a series where you show us how you shot an image. Many who use our presets love to share their special processing recipes. You can join the SLR Lounge Textures and Presets group on Facebook and share your favorite images and recipes as well! For our wedding and portrait photographers, please join the SLR Lounge Wedding and Portrait Photographers group.

Today’s image is from 27 year old Adam McKay, who has been shooting for 10 years, professionally for 4. His dream is to become a commercial photographer and cinematographer. See his work on 500px, his website, Facebook and Instagram.

ENFIELD EDITE SMALL SLR LOUNGEThis photo was created out of equal parts opportunity and boredom. My friend Grant and I had been talking about making some dramatic images for the last year, but we were finding that life was always getting in the way.

His brother Adam (the model) suggested we do a shoot with him and his lovely Royal Enfield Motorcycle. We jumped on the opportunity. We had the subject(s) and now we needed a location. Grant suggested we use his grandmother’s old garage. I loved the idea and off we went.

The Prep

The day of the shoot, I brought all my kit. A couple DSLRS, a ton of lenses, lights, smoke machine. After we cleaned up a little bit, we brought the bike in and started making exposures, checking ambient levels, thinking about lens choices. I realized that what I wanted, but more importantly didn’t have, was a 35mm lens.

This  plus my knowing I was going to need to kill some ambient light, led me to the decision to use the “little camera that could” for the entire shoot.  The Fuji X100s.

The Shoot

We placed the bike where it is in the final image right from the start. Initially, we were planning on having a light come in through the window and act as backlight for the machine, but found this setup to be much more effective.


Light 1:
The first light we put up was an Alien Bee 800 with beauty dish. I am fairly certain it was diffused. It was on a Light stand that brought the light up and into the rafters in front and above the bike. Initially, we found there was too much spill happening on the ground, so we used a 5in1 reflector disk as a flag to cut the light that was hitting the floor.

The light on the bike was good and we knew we had it where we needed it. The problem now was that the background and model were hiding in darkness and due to the higher shutter speed used, the ambient was not lighting him the way it was looking to our eye.

Light 2:
The second light came in the form of the Lumopro 160 speedlight. I believe it was set to about 1/8 power and zoomed in about half way. The light was naked outside the window. I had Grant holding the light at first as we tried to get it in just the right spot that the edge of the light would hit the background as well as his face. Once we had that, we put it on a stand and the lighting was finished.


Coming from film, I love haze. It can be a bit cliche, but I believe used correctly, it adds something wonderful to an image, I also knew with the light blasting through the window outside we were going to get a great lightbeam coming through the window. It was helped a great deal by how many air leaks there were in the garage. Happy little accident. The smoke coming out of his mouth was real, he was actually just smoking the cigar. Albeit a little harder than normal.

A lot of what you see in the image was already in the garage. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The bottle of Sailor Jerry’s in the background was the idea and addition of the model, as was the jacket and the toolbox. The toolbox was found in the basement and actually full of woodworking tools, but it just fit.

Tech Specs

Camera: Fuji X100s
Lens: 23mm F2
Shutter Speed: 1000/s
Aperture: F4
ISO: 640
Focus: Manual

Alien Bee 800
Paul C Buff White Beauty dish with diffusion
Lum0pro lp160
Ebay 5in1 reflector (used as a flag)

Post Production



Not a whole lot. Due to my absolute inefficiency in Photoshop and love of cinematography, I tend to try and get everything right in the camera. Granted, there is always going to be some tweaking needed in some form or another, but for the most part I try my best to not need to open Photoshop. In this case, it was just to remove a logo on a battery and the rest was all done in Lightroom.

In Lightroom, there were the usual contrast/exposure/colour adjustments. As well as local exposure, contrast, clarity adjustments to accentuate certain elements. (i.e. Clarity on the bike, smoke, model). I actually created the light from the headlight with the exposure brush as well as the flame on the tip of the cigar. The dodge and burn look was created with a clarity brush/contrast brush. Overall, I spent under an hour in post. To finish, there was slight noise reduction, sharpening and grain added.

The Final Image


About the “How to Shoot It” Series

This educational series highlights amazing images from our writers as well as our community. The goal is to not only feature inspirational work but to provide valuable education for our photography community. If you would like to submit your work, please click here for more info on writing for SLR Lounge.


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Q&A Discussions

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  2. Pye

    Fantastic image and execution. You nailed it!

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  3. Phil Bautista

    Lotsa luv for the tut. Shows creativity, organization and attention to detail. Please keep em coming.

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  4. Andy O’Dowd

    Really nice image. I keep being tempted by a fuji x100 and this isn’t helping :-)

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  5. Austin Swenson

    I like the awesome mood this image produces… I do also like the fact that mostly everything in the environment was already there and you just added some lights and a model and BAM! Awesome image!

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  6. Ian Moss

    Stylish shoot – get it right in the camera!

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  7. Vince Arredondo

    It was a really good shot. Is impressive what you can do in LR only these days to enhance the image. Great SOOC pic!

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  8. Matthew Gruber

    This is easily one of my favorite photos that I’ve seen on here. I love reading these “How you shot it” articles. GREAT post!

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  9. Tyler Friesen

    Great image. The lighting and mood of it are great. I like the tasteful editing choices.

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  10. David Lara

    Goes to prove you don’t always need an elaborate setup…just a good concept and even better execution of it. Great breakdown of the shoot.

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    Great looking images love the final product of your boredom

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  12. Mark Iuzzolino

    Great looking image. Lighting and smoke are very well done. A question: I’m not that familiar with Alien Bees. But isn’t that a strobe? And if so I would think attaining a shutter speed of 1000/s would be impossible. Please enlighten my ignorance. Thanks.

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    • Rodrigo Mancilla

      Mark, I had the same question and the reason is that the Fuji uses a leaf shutter (like Hassselblads do) and that allows the photog to sync strobes up to 1/1000 …. the possibilities are enormous with that! I’ve been forced to put ND filters due to my 1/200s sync limitation.

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    • Adam McKay

      Thanks for the kind words. The X100s is actually able to sync all the way up to 1/4000th due to the leaf shutter, but it is limited to 1/1000th wide open.

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    • Adam McKay

      Hey everyone. Thanks for the kindness. The amount of positivity I have received with this image on the internet was surprising and amazing. There are a few more images from this series in the works. Just trying to make the time to make them.

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  13. Hannes Nitzsche

    There’s a nice mood to the image! Well done!

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  14. Michael Alfaro

    I love this image, especially that bike haha

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  15. Keegan Carroll

    Love this photo. Shows lots of emotion and creativity. This is an image I’m sure lots of Moto fans would have this in their man caves or on the Magazine covers.

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  16. Greg Silver

    Just enough lighting to spark some emotion. Love the final photo!!!

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