The first section of my Arizona Trail By Any Means adventure: Backpacking passages 18 and 19 through the Superstition Wilderness.
First Things First: How It Works
To take a good photo, it helps to understand how PandaVision works nowadays. Back in the dark days of 2014 when we started taking orders, Nick would use some complicated voodo math to create a pattern. But then a couple years ago we switched to a new method, where we simply project your image onto a table and then adjust to the correct scale.
It’s basically like seeing your bike in person, except better – because it’s 2-dimensional and we can draw on it. We like this method because it gives all the convenience of ruler photos, but we still get to visually see the bike and make sure it looks right before committing a pattern to fabric.
Step 1: Ruler Placement
The first thing to do for a good photo is make sure your ruler or tape measure is placed well. The scale can be anywhere in the frame, we just need it to scale up the image. But here are some things to look out for:
- Make sure that the ruler isn’t covering up any important braze-ons or bolts that might be important
- Make sure it’s up against the frame and not standing out away from the bike at all
Another Option – The Humble Dollar Bill
If you live in the US, you can probably place an order with just what’s in your pocket – your phone and a dollar bill (ok, and some tape. You probably don’t have that in your pocket). Just fold the crispest bill you can find in half (hot-dog style), and tape it to your frame.
Anywhere works, but we suggest the down tube since that’s the thickest tube and thus the easiest way to avoid obscuring important details.
Make sure your tape isn’t completely covering up the ends of the bill – we need to see those for scale!
It's All About Perspective
Once you’ve got your scale in place, you need to get the right angle on the shot. Let’s start with some photos of what not to do, and then we’ll move on to the good ones:
The Camera was Too High
In this photo, the camera was too high. In order for the scale to apply uniformly across the bike, we need all parts of the frame to be the same distance from the camera. In this photo the bottom of the bike is farther away than the top, so we can’t scale the photo accurately.
One thing to look for to double-check your photo is the handlebars – in this case you can see the camera is a little above the level of the handlebars. It should be much lower, centered on the middle of the frame triangle.
This Photo is Too Close
This photo has the position correct (centered on the bike), but the camera was too close. We can tell because of the separation between the chain stays – there should be very little to no separation.
If you’re not sure you’re far enough away, then you’re probably too close. In fact, the farther away the camera is the more accurate the result. The only limit to this is the ability to read the ruler. We suggest 15 feet as a minimum distance, but if you have a really big frame and can borrow a DSLR, stepping back 30 feet and using a telephoto lens will give us the most accurate result possible.
Here you see a perfect photo. This one was taken from about 20 feet away, and you can tell the perspective is right because you can only see one chainstay, one seat stay, and one fork leg.