How To: Take Photos of Your Car Like a Pro

 

We all have a point and shoot camera around, or can go to the corner drug store and get a disposable one.  These tips are for you!

1.  Lighting - Professionals have fancy flashes, strobe lights, cameras with long exposures, etc. and could take a beautiful photo of a car under a wide variety of conditions. The rest of us need to rely on our surroundings. Dawn and dusk are of course the "Golden Hours" because the sun provides ample lighting but isn't harsh like it is at noon. Time's not always on our side, though, so if you find yourself taking photos in the harsh sun of midday, it's best to find an angle where the shadows and the sun reflecting off your car are at a minimum. You want all shadow or full sun, but not both, so if you choose to take your photo under a tree, make sure the tree provides full shade and not partial shade.  Some cars will look great in full sun though, especially very light colored cars.  If you want to get fancy, you can use white sheets or reflective materials to bounce light back toward the shadows, softening the shadows.

 

The importance of light and location in a photograph.

 

2.  Location - If you have the chance to make the photo more interesting, then do it! Photos of cars in parking lots and driveways are so cliche'. Your location can help solve the midday light problem; there's no harsh sunlight under an overpass. Nature always provides great back drops, like the mountains or the lake. Industrial areas can be interesting as well, such as  trainyards, overpasses, abandonded warehouses. With classic cars, it's sometimes fun to find a place that matches the car, like a diner or drive-in for a '57 Bel Air or an old gas station.  All photographers know to be aware of their surroundings, so choose a safe location.

 

Location

 

3. Angle - To make your car look strong or imposing, get down low and get close! If you want your car to have a more regal look, get a little further away and zoom in while keeping your camera about hood height. Want to make your car look smaller or emphasize how small it is? Or, maybe your car has some interesting lines when you look at it from above, shoot it from a higher angle. You can also experiment with the distance between the camera and the car. Above the GTO is photographed low and at a distance, below the Corvette is photographed low and up close. While the GTO appears flat and feels like a beauty shot, the Corvette's features are exaggerated and it feels a little more imposing. Shooting with the camera at eye level makes every photo look the same and is boring!

 

Angles

 

4. Composition - You may have noticed a pattern in these photos; cars often look best when shot at one of the four corners so at least two sides of the car are clearly visible. Detail shots of the more distinctive parts of a car are always nice too. Head on shots can be imposing and side shots can show off the lines of a car. If you're using a digital camera, snap away! Pictures are free so take loads and capture that one beautiful shot. Be aware of distractions in your photos too; for instance, at a carshow, wait for people to walk out of frame before snapping your photos.

Rule of Thirds - When you take a photo, you should imagine a tic-tac-toe board on the photo. Put the important bits of the photo either on the lines or on the intersection of the line. If your camera uses autofocus, remember that often pushing the shutter button half way down focuses the camera and pushing it all the way down takes a picture. This focus is in the center of the frame, so focus on the car first, then tilt or pan the camera to line up the car exactly where you want it in the frame before pushing the sutter button down all the way.

 

Composition

 

5. Reflections - Cars are like mirrors. Pay attention to the reflection as you take your photos and adjust your angle to eliminate them.

 

Reflection

 

6. Practice - The more photos you take, the more you learn what works and what doesn't. You'll be shooting like a pro in no time!

Bonus: Driving shots - You've seen them. They're so cool. You wish you had a driving shot of your car... Fret no more! They're easy. OK, easy-ish. This is a three-man job. One needs to drive the car getting photographed, another needs to drive a second car, and a third needs to be the photographer.  On a empty two lane road, with a car in each lane, the photographer holds his camera out the window and snaps photos.  Don't forget, safety first!  Check out how many shots professional photographer, Geoff Stunkard shot of one car just to get the right shot.

 

Driving