Up your Photography Game NOW!

Up your Photography Game NOW!


My name is Alex, I’m a Swede based in Switzerland and I have been the photographer and content creator for Lone Rider for the past 1.5 years. I first got into serious photography during early 2018 when my aim was to raise the quality of my own Instagram account.

This quickly evolved into a lot of my content being reposted by larger accounts, allowing a much greater reach on the platform. Soon after, I was contacted by Lone Rider, asking me if I was interested in a collaboration. And here we are today ;-)


About this blog article

Before we get started, please understand: this blog article should not be considered as the one and only way to achieve great photos!

Photography is an art and there are tons of different styles and ways to do it. I just want to share with you my style and how I achieve it through my work flow, as a lot of you have asked us to do this tutorial.

In this article, we'll cover the basics you’ll need to know to instantly up your photography game for 2021!

What we will cover


Let's get started!

1. File formats

As you might know, there are a ton of different file formats out there: JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PNG, etc. Some formats are better than others when it comes to photography, while other formats are more suitable when you for example need a part of the image to be transparent.

Let’s go through what’s most commonly used among photographers.


JPEG is by far the most common file format - it’s the default of almost every (smartphone) camera. JPEG is also the format of most pictures you see on the web.

But when your camera creates a JPEG file, a few things happen. First, your camera compresses the data so that the file size gets smaller and this is primarily done to save space. A JPEG will only contain around a quarter of the data that your camera initially captured, meaning that a large part of data is discarded.


Some of it is color data, which is done by reducing the number of available colors - even though there are still a lot of colors available in JPEGs. The biggest impact will be in the highlights and shadows, where a lot of detail may be lost.

In addition to this, your camera will add some background processing to the picture to make it look sharp and colorful. Subtle amounts of sharpness, contrast and saturation are added by the time the JPEG file is being created. This is of course something great if you don’t wish to go through the editing process yourself, but as a photographer you want to be in full control and this is where RAW files come in.


Actually, there isn’t a file format called RAW. Each camera has its own way of bundling the data that it receives from the image sensor to create its own file (.ARW for Sony, .NEF for Nikon, .CR2 for Canon, etc). Compared to JPEGs, RAW files are typically 3-4 times bigger as no data is discarded from the file.

Here is an example of how big the difference between JPEG and RAW-files is, all pictures were shot with my Sony A7iii:

JPEG picture - original

Underexposed original straight out of camera.


JPEG picture - corrected exposure

Picture adjusted by increasing the exposure and lifting the shadows.

You can clearly see how much the previously dark areas have started to fall apart when I increased the exposure in post editing.


RAW picture - original

Underexposed original straight out of camera.


RAW picture - corrected exposure

Picture adjusted by increasing the exposure and lifting the shadows.

Compared to the JPEG, a lot more data laid "hidden" in the darker parts.


As you can see, there is a lot more data “hidden” inside a RAW-file compared to a JPEG, and this makes RAW-files much more attractive to work with as you, for example, can brighten up darker areas without having the picture start to break apart.



2. Different cameras

Besides analogue cameras, there are basically four types of cameras for photography:

  • Smartphone cameras
  • Compact cameras
  • DSLR's
  • Mirrorless cameras

The two first types are the most user friendly as they are typical "point and shoot’s", while the two latter requires more practice and skill but can give you superior results.


Smartphone cameras

The last couple of years the quality of the built-in cameras and software in smartphones have become really impressive. In fact, even for a trained eye it’s sometimes really hard to tell the difference between an iPhone 11/12 photo and a DSLR-camera photo, given they were shot with the same settings.

General advantages:

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Easy to use
  • Always accessible
  • Editing possible directly in the phone

General disadvantages:

  • You are more or less limited to the built-in lens(es)
  • Limited possibilities to full manual control
  • No optical zoom, making shots from a greater distance harder
  • Small sensor
  • Sometimes limited possibilities to shoot in RAW

Compact cameras

The market for compact cameras is gradually shrinking as smartphone cameras continue to improve in both hardware as well as in software. However, there are still a few things that make compact cameras better than smartphone cameras in general if you take photography a bit more seriously but don’t want to spend a small fortune.


General advantages:

  • Optical zoom (physical zoom of the lens)
  • Larger image sensor than smartphones
  • Full control of manual settings
  • Can shoot in RAW

General disadvantages:

  • The lens is fixed to the camera body, not allowing you to swap to other lenses if needed
  • As expensive as a smartphone


DSLR cameras

The first step towards professional photography is getting a DSLR-camera. DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex and is a common technology for more serious and professional shooters.

The system itself is completely modular, meaning that you combine a separate camera body with different lenses depending on what kind of photography you’re doing. Everything from macro (close up), wide-angle and telephoto (large optical zoom) is possible with this system.

A DSLR works like this: A mirror inside the camera body reflects light coming in through the lens up to a prism (or additional mirrors) and into the viewfinder so you can preview your shot. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up, the shutter opens and the light hits the image sensor, which captures the final image.

General advantages:

  • Fully modular with lenses and flashes
  • Better image quality
  • Large sensor
  • Full control of manual settings
  • Shoots in RAW

General disadvantages:

  • Bulky and heavy compared to smartphones and compact cameras
  • Can be very expensive, a body+lens combination can cost up to $60’000
  • Takes a lot of practice to learn, understand and master


Mirrorless cameras

Mirrorless cameras are what many professionals are using. They are much more compact and weigh less than a DSLR-camera.

In a mirrorless camera, light passes through the lens and right onto the image sensor, which captures a preview of the image to display on the rear screen - just as a smartphone camera does. Some models also offer a second screen via an electronic viewfinder (EVF) that you can hold up to your eye for a better view when you're in bright sunlight.

General advantages:

  • Fully modular with lenses and flashes
  • Better image quality
  • Large sensor
  • Full control of manual settings
  • Possibilities to shoot in silent mode
  • Shoots in RAW

General disadvantages:

  • Can be very expensive, a body+lens combination can cost up to $60’000
  • Takes a lot of practice to learn, understand and master

So, which one is most suitable for you?

In the end, it all comes down to how serious you wanna get with photography. If you’re happy with the quality your smartphone produces and don’t wanna spend around $1000 - $2000 worth of camera gear, then you probably should stay with it.

Depending on what smartphone you have, investigate the possibilities of shooting in RAW as this will help you greatly in the editing process. For example, Apple just released their own RAW format (ProRAW) together with their iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max.

But if you’re looking to step it up a level or two, consider investing in a dedicated camera. I personally shoot on the Sony A7iii (mirrorless) and the difference in picture quality between this one and my rather outdated iPhone 7 Plus is huge, it’s not even comparable to be honest.

My tip to you is to do some research on different cameras, YouTube is your best friend here. Canon and Sony are two great brands to start with. Find out what price range you’re prepared to step into and don’t forget to scan the second-hand market.


3. Shutter speed, Aperture & ISO
- Understanding and mastering them

These three tools for controlling the exposure (how bright or dark the picture is) are crucial in understanding how to make your photo look as good as possible.

Let’s dive deeper into what each one does.

Shutter speed

What is a “shutter”? The shutter is a small “curtain” in the camera that quickly rolls over the image sensor and allows light to shine onto the sensor for a short period of time. The longer the shutter allows light to shine onto the image sensor, the brighter the picture will be. The faster the shutter, the darker the picture - since less light is let into the sensor.

The duration that the shutter allows light onto the image sensor is called the shutter speed and is measured in fractions of a second. A shutter speed of 1/5th of a second will allow more light to touch the image sensor and will produce a brighter picture than a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. So if you're taking a picture and it is too dark, you could use a slower shutter speed to allow the camera to gather more light.

The shutter speed is also principally responsible for controlling the amount of motion blur in a picture when you shoot moving subjects, the slower the shutter the more motion blur you will have.

A cool technique to practice is to go with a slow shutter speed setting, and then pan along with a moving subject. If you do it correctly, your subject will be in focus but the background will have lots motion blur to it. For this to work, you have to pan at the same speed that your subject is moving in your frame.



The aperture is a small set of blades in the lens that controls how much light will enter the camera. The blades create a "round" shape that can be widened or closed down to a small hole. If you shoot with the aperture wide open, more light is allowed into the camera than if the aperture is closed down to a tiny hole, allowing less light to enter the camera.

Aperture sizes are measured by f-stops. A high f-stop, like f/22, means that the aperture hole is very small and a low f-stop like for example f/1.4 means that the aperture is wide open. But, the size of the aperture controls more than just the brightness or darkness of the picture: it also controls the depth of field, or how much background blur (bokeh) your subject will have.



If you want to take a picture of a person with a blurry background, you should shoot as wide open as your lens allows (as low f-number as possible). If you want to take a picture of a landscape, you should use a small aperture size (high f-number) so that the entire scene is in sharp focus. But keep in mind that most lenses will lose some contrast and general sharpness if you max out the f-number, to, for example, f/22.



The ISO controls the exposure by using software in the camera to make it more sensitive to light. A high ISO, such as 2000, will produce a brighter picture than a lower ISO such as 100. The drawback to increasing the ISO is that it makes the picture more grainy.

You have probably noticed that a picture you took during nighttime with your smartphone contains a lot of grain if you zoom in a bit on it. That is because the camera tried to compensate for the dark scene by choosing a high ISO, which causes more grain.

My personal preference is to avoid shooting with an ISO higher than 1000, especially if I plan to crop my pictures in the editing process, which I do most of the time. Sometimes adding grain/noise to your picture is an artistic style, so depending how much grain you are willing to accept straight out of camera is ultimately up to you.


Bonus: Focal lengths

Focal length is the distance (measured in millimeters) between the point of convergence of your lens and the sensor on your camera. The focal length dictates how much of the scene your camera will be able to capture, lower numbers have a wider angle of view and show more of the scene, while higher numbers have a narrower angle of view.

Focal length impacts the look and quality of a photograph in several ways:

Field of view: Focal length determines how much of a scene is captured in an image. Shorter focal length lenses are called wide-angle lenses because they allow you to get a wider field of view in one image. Lenses with long focal lengths are called telephoto lenses, and have a smaller field of view.

Depth of field: Lenses with long focal lengths tend to have a shallow depth of field, which means they can focus in on small objects at specific distances. Meanwhile, lenses with short focal lengths have a deeper depth of field, which enables them to get a wider range of elements in focus.

Perspective: Focal length can also change the perspective and scale of your images. A lens with a shorter focal length “expands” perspective, giving the appearance of more space between the elements in your photo, while telephoto lenses tend to stack elements in the frame together to “compress” perspective and focus more on your subject.

The different groups of focal lengths

Ultra wide-angle (up to 24mm)

These lenses are sometimes called fisheye lenses, which have a very wide viewing area. Most of these lenses will also distort the sides of the picture, making straight lines look a bit bent.



Standard wide-angle (24mm - 35mm)

Smaller focal lengths and a wider angle can distort images. With a lens of this size, distortion is minimal and the image appears more natural.>


Standard lens (35mm - 70mm)

These versatile lenses are good for just about any type of photography, from portraits to landscapes. These all-in-one lenses render images roughly the way the human eye sees the world, and easily adjust to a shallow or deep depth of field, depending on aperture.


Telephoto lens (70mm - 200mm or more)

​These lenses are ideal for picking out a distant subject, the way a telescope does. Great for compressing your subject and the background, which makes the background appear much closer to the subject, yet being very blurry. Telephoto lenses quite often have a shallow depth of field unless everything you’re shooting is far away.​​



4. Composition, Lighting & Camera settings
- How to nail your photos

What is Composition?

Composition is a way of guiding the viewer’s eye towards the important subject in your photo. Good composition can help make a great result, even if the content is not especially interesting. On the other hand, bad composition can ruin a photo completely, despite how interesting the subject may be. Poor composition is also not something you can usually fix in post-processing, unlike simple and common exposure errors.

My guide for a great composition:

1. Don’t be lazy. Always try to find new angles, whether it’s standing on your knees or climbing a hill. There’s nothing more boring than pictures shot only from eye level.


2. Always plan your shots with the “Rule of Thirds” in mind. This is a type of composition in which an image is divided evenly into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and the subject of the image is placed at the intersection of those dividing lines, or along one of the lines itself. My personal favourite composition is “negative headspace”, meaning your subject has more space above it than below it.


3. Avoid having distracting elements behind your subject, always aim to have a clean background.


4. Always keep sufficient distance between your subject and the background. This will increase the depth in your picture, as the background will be more blurry, hence increasing the contrast between the background and your subject.


5. Shoot “through” stuff, meaning you have both foreground and background blur. Sometimes it’s enough to cover a bit of the lens with, for example, a glove, to create more depth in your photo.



This is a very important thing to consider - bad lighting can ruin a whole photo completely. Avoid shooting in direct mid-day sunlight as much as possible, as this light is very harsh and makes everything over-contrasty and hard to edit in post.

If you however want or have to shoot midday, try to find a spot with sufficient amount of shadows and keep in mind not to have sunlight or sunlit places as background, as these areas easily get “burned” when you compensate the camera settings for your darker subject.

The best time to get great shots is during the “golden hour”, which is the time around sunrise or sunset when the sun is low. Due to the low position of the sun, the light gets very warm and soft, making it easier for you to edit in post-production.

Here you can see the difference in contrast between direct mid-day sunlight and during the golden hour:


Camera settings

So what are the best camera settings? Well, it really depends on the situation and how you shoot.

As a rule of thumb, my priorities look like this:

  1. ISO - as low as possible
  2. Aperture - as low as my subject allows to
  3. Shutter speed - last adjustment for perfect exposure

​Firstly, I always want to keep the ISO as low as possible to avoid unnecessary grain in my pictures - my preference is to control this in post-editing.

Secondly, I keep the aperture (f-number) as open as possible (lowest f-number) if I’m shooting from a distance. This is because I want my subject to “pop” from the background.

Thirdly, I adjust the shutter speed to get a proper exposure of the overall picture. When shooting moving subjects, if you're not aiming to have motion blur in your background I wouldn't recommend a slower shutter speed than 1/800 to avoid the subject looking blurry or out of focus - but this only applies when you are panning along with the moving subject.

But, what if I’m at the lowest ISO, have a wide open aperture (lowest f-number possible), 1/800 shutter speed and the picture comes out underexposed (too dark)?

If you’re shooting a moving subject, now is the time to start raising your ISO. If you’re shooting a static subject, first lower the shutter speed. If you have a steady hand, 1/50 should be no problem without using a tripod. If you’re at around 1/100 shutter speed and the picture still is too dark, raise the ISO.

Something worth mentioning when shooting closeups with your subject in a 3D-angle, is to raise the f-number to around f/8. This is to avoid having the majority of the picture out of focus, if that's something you’re not aiming for, of course.

Have a look below:





5. The Editing Process
- Where the magic happens


There are numerous applications for picture editing out there, some are free and some will require either a one-time payment or a monthly subscription.

The software I use is Adobe Lightroom Classic for desktops. Adobe also has Lightroom CC which is a cloud-based version, where everything is shared automatically between your devices.

Personally, I prefer editing on my 27" iMac as the screen is way bigger than my iPhone or iPad, and I also prefer working with a mouse.

To in-depth describe and deep-dive into all the possibilities you have with Lightroom Classic would be a bit too much for this blog post, so I recommend that you watch the following YouTube video before I describe what tools I use to get great results:

Lightroom Tutorial Basics


My editing process

Now that you have a brief overview of what all the tools in Lightroom do, I thought I'd guide you through how I edited one of our most popular pictures on our Instagram channel so far this year, featuring the BMW R1250GS Adventure 40th Anniversary Edition. This picture got over 13 000 likes - thanks for the support!

Step 1 - Aspect ratio

The first thing I always do is to adjust the aspect ratio. For instagram, I use 3 different aspect ratios:

  • 4x5 - Standard format (used here below)
  • 1x1 - When 4x5 is not necessary or simply gives the subject to much negative headspace
  • 9x16 - Full screen ratio for Stories
​I never use Landscape format as the pictures get too zoomed out for my taste.



Step 2 - Basic tab

Unlike what was shown in the video above, I first make my picture look a bit more flat by lifting the Shadows and lowering the Highlights. I also increase the Contrast a bit while raising the Blacks.


Step 3 - Curves

Now it's time to introduce the contrast, and I do so for each color as well, as you can see, on the curves. The current look I have for the season has a dark, moody vibe to it so contrast is important here.


Step 4 - Hue, Saturation & Luminance for Colors

After Step 3, the image had way too strong and saturated colors. The first thing I do is to adjust the Hue by dragging green towards yellow and yellow towards orange, to make the colors look more like the current season (late winter).

The next step is to desaturate green, aqua, blue, purple and magenta, making the warmer colors more present.

Lastly I fine-tune the Luminance (brightness of each color) slightly to make the final minor but necessary adjustments.


Step 5 - Color Grading

The picture looks a bit warm for the season, doesn't it? We fix this under the Color Grading tab.

Here I make very subtle adjustments to Shadows and Highlights, dragging them both towards a blue tone, very carefully so as not to overdo it.


Step 6 - Detail & Calibration

I add small amounts of Sharpening to make the picture look just a bit more crisp.

In the tab Calibration, I increase the Hue and Saturation of the Reds about 10-15 steps, to make the image look more "golden".

Then, I increase the Hue of the Greens by about 30 while reducing the Saturation to around -30, making the greens look colder.

And a final touch to the Hue and Saturation of the Blues, both decreasing to around -15, giving the picture a subtle amount of "cold magenta".

Step 7 - Radial Filters & Adjustment Brush

My edits would never be what they are without these features. These tools are so vital to my editing process and can make a flat-looking picture really pop and come to life.

You can find these tools just above the Basics tab, where you select the Crop tool to change the aspect ratio.

Select the Radial Filter tool and drag a circle or an oval on top of your subject. From here, you can now adjust the exposure, highlights, shadows, saturation, temperature, tint, etc, of the highlighted area, making it very easy to brighten up darker parts without affecting the rest of your image.

Adjustments I made with the radial tool on this picture:

  • Increased overall shadows on the bike only
  • Increased exposure on the MiniBags and crash bars
  • Increased clarity on the front tyre
  • Increased saturation and adjusted the Hue on the Headlight Guard
  • Increased saturation on the turning indicator daylights
  • Adjusted the Hue of the hand protectors
  • Decreased exposure of the ground below the bike
  • Decreased Dehaze above the bike, making the light coming from above seem brighter and more hazy

By pressing the shortcut "O" while using the filter tools, the selection turns red (by default) making it easier to see what area is affected (see the front tyre on the image here). You can also control how harsh or soft the edge of the selection is going to be by adjusting the Feather, whereas 0 is very sharp and 100 is very faded.


And here you have the difference between the shot straight out of camera vs the same shot cropped & edited and ready for posting on social media:

That's it for me, I hope you enjoyed this article and that you learned a thing or two. Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel where I'm going to upload more photo-related and behind-the-scenes content during the coming months.

Until then, I wish you a nice day and Ride Safe 👊😎

// Alex | Lone Rider Team