Professional Car Photography Tips and Tricks

Professional Car Photography Tips and Tricks

Car photography is an exciting and most rewarding genre of photography. It does not matter whether you are just a beginner or already an expert, there are always options to do something more exciting and fun. But you will need a lot of practice before you can master these highly sought-after photography skills. In this article, we have covered some of the basic questions like the best gear and lens for car photography and some more advanced techniques like panning and light painting. We hope you will get help from these car photography tips and tricks in your journey towards professional car photography.

1.  Capture at the right time of the day.

red car sky background car photo

The first thing to get prepared for car photography is to decide when to take your shots. It is absolutely a bad idea to start in the middle of the day. When the sun is in the middle of the sky, the light is at its extreme level. If you shoot at that moment, you are going to capture some of the worst automobile photos.

Rather you should take your photos either a few minutes before the sunrise or a few minutes after sunset. You would be happy to find out that light is much softer at that time. So your photos would be in a calm and serene environment. There would not be many shadows and contrast in those photos. Also, there would be fewer reflections due to strong light. 

You can also try it out in the golden lights one hour before sunset or one hour after sunrise. But you have to be careful about the reflection and shadows from direct sunlight. The lesser the light the better.

2. Avoid reflections from the car’s surface.

Reflections from car surface

As a professional car photographer, you should always be careful about what reflects on the surface of the car. The most fashionable cars have amazing designs with sophisticated fine lines on the surface which define their elegance. To get the best out of your automobile photography, you should be skillful in capturing the outlines and beautiful designs of each car.

But shiny cars always reflect light almost like a mirror. So if there are objects like people and buildings around the car, these things will be reflected from the shiny surface and will appear in your photos. These will add distractions to your car photography. If there are a lot of distractions around the car you really can’t avoid, you may shoot from a low angle which will look much better. To avoid your reflection on the car, you can use a tripod,  set a self-timer, and go away from the scene. Also, try to choose a place like an empty field under the sky.

3. Take shots from inside another car.

Car shot from another car

Another awesome idea to take creative car photography is to shoot from another running car. But you need to be extremely careful when attempting this. Make sure both you and your camera are well-secured.

But capturing a moving car is not an easy task. You will need to maneuver your camera settings and focus on a fixed position on your car. Follow some tips to capture motion on your frames.

  • Take help from a driver so that you can concentrate on taking photos.
  • Carefully select the speed of the cars. Both cars should be moving at an initial speed of 60 km/h, while your one is slightly ahead of the other one and is in the adjacent lane. If your speed is much higher it would be difficult to take good photos.
  • Set your camera in burst mode and shutter speed at 1/100s to 1/150s range. In this way, you should get a little bit of motion on your pictures. Increasing the shutter speed more might eliminate the motion blur which is not expected.
  • Choose an empty or low-traffic road. This will reduce the hassle for both you and others while shooting photos.

Since everything is moving in this type of photoshoot, you are going to get a lot of bad images. But if you use burst mode, keep changing your shutter speed, you will get some good photos along the way.

4. Shoot from inside the car through the front window.

car interior photo

Most of the time you would be shooting the exterior of the car. But the interior of the car is what the user would be interacting with all the time. That is why it is very much in your interest that you try out a few clicks inside the car. 

The outlook of a car creates the first impression on the viewer’s mind. But it is the inside that creates the lasting impression and wins over the heart of the viewer.

Many modern cars look amazing from both inside and outside. These modern cars with eye-catching interiors make the perfect subject for your professional car photography.

5. Let the car shine in the nature

 

White Sports Car in Nature

If you want to add some difference to your car photography, you should take your car to the diversity of nature. A car is meant to be run on an open and wide road, but you could try shooting your car on a rugged surface along the hill, by the side of a riverbank, or amidst sandy fields. 

While taking shots, you should use a wide-angle lens and if you shoot from a low angle it will make your car look victorious against nature. The key here is to find out what cars will look good in what area.  For example, if you are riding a luxurious car, you would better go for a curved freeway. There are no set rules here. You can explore your imagination and see what works for you.

6. Select the perfect background. 

Perfect Background Car Photo

Photo by Grahame Jenkins on Unsplash

A nicely selected background adds to the theme of the car. When choosing a background, you should avoid any kind of distractions as much as possible. A perfect background does not divert the eyes of the viewer from the main focus of the picture, rather it complements the focus.

A bad background, on the other hand, is disrupting to the viewers and does not make sense with the color, size, and tone of the car. For example, electric lines, garbage disposal, and other cars can spoil your photo. 

7. Capture photos during nighttime.

Nighttime Car Photography

Photo by RAPHAEL MAKSIAN on Unsplash

Shooting car photos can seem to be daunting at first look, but the trick here is to find a quiet and completely dark place where a little bit of artificial lighting can make the difference.  You have to be careful when choosing the light source since there could be unwanted reflections from them. It would be better if you use a large, diffused light. The larger the light source, the softer the light diffused. Random street lights or lights from a full moon can also give you great shots. 

Once you have got the right spot for shooting, place your camera on the tripod. Increase the shutter speed to above 10s and use a low ISO in the range of 100-150 and a small aperture like f/9. When the shutter opens, you will have to use the light paint method to paint the car with a handheld light. There are no hard and fast rules here, you will have to experiment with different painting efforts to get different results.

8. Shoot from different angles.

Red Front Car Running Road

If you want to add different flairs to your car photography, you must have to capture photos from different angles. This will certainly unlock the door for creativity and bring out different compositions.

But there are some classic shots from some angles that always give good photos time and again. For example, shoot the car from a low angle down the ground while the front wheel is placed at an angle that the style of the hubcaps is visible.

This is a much familiar shot that you might have seen many times in advertisements. Of course, you can try other angles as well, you may end up finding some gorgeous images.

9. Use a narrow depth of field to focus on the main object.

Shallow depth of field car photography

Photo by Ted Glass on Unsplash

When your objective is to depict the small details on the car, using a narrow depth of field is a good idea. A shallow depth of field helps us to shrink off the focus of the image. Using this, you can blur anything you do not want to highlight in your photo, but it will enhance the areas you want to focus on. There are many eye-catching details like the logo,  the grill, and the fender that you may want to highlight. 

10. Add the human element.

Smiley woman car photo

Because cars are driven by people, it is an undeniable fact that adding a human element will boost your car photography. It will relate the consumer nature with the car and drive new customers to buy the car. So, you should try to capture some car photos with human involvement in them. It helps the potential customers envision themselves in place of the person in the photos. 

11. Use a drone to take aerial shots.

aerial car photos

The drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that does not require a pilot and can be used for many purposes including military uses, surveillance,  and other civilian roles. It is increasingly being popular to take some aerial shots of stunning places and objects as the price of it are sinking. Drone photography can be successfully utilized to capture frames at weddings, parties, architecture, vacations, and so on. Many successful YouTubers are also using drones to record their videos. But the drone is not only limited to videos, it can be used as a still camera too.  It can be technically used to capture photos of a car from above in different angles and places.

12. Panning for motion blur.

Panning Car Photos

Photo by toine G on Unsplash

We have already discussed shooting cars from another moving car. But if you do not like the idea of shooting from a moving car but want some motion blur to incorporate into your car photography, there is another technique called Panning which you can rely on. Panning is a camera technique used to capture motion blur and convey a sense of movement while keeping the subject sharp. To capture a panning shot of a moving car, stand on the edge of the road and let the car drive past you. You need to set your shutter speed low enough to capture the motion. As the car is moving perpendicular to the direction of your lens, you will need to follow it along the direction of the movement. Rotate your camera along the X-axis horizontally and capture the shot. This is as simple as it is but it will require some practice for you to master this technique and grab some awe-inspiring photos.

13. Tell a story with your car photography.

Car Photography with entire family

Try telling a story with your car photography. This will allow others to relate to and engage with the photo. Think about the utility of your car. Is it for the whole family for a safe journey on vacation times? Or is it for thrilling and adventurous travel with the same-minded people? You can always entertain people by relating a story to your car photography. For example, you can take your family on a day tour and photograph them to tell that story to the viewers.

14. A little post-processing can do wonder

Red Luxurious Sedan

Most photographers do some post-production works on their photos. For handling a large number of photos in batches under certain lighting conditions, lightroom should be your preferred application.  However,  you may use Photoshop for more complex editing. For quick editing, you can also use free software such as GIMP which comes with some handy tools. 

The basic post-production editing is to adjust the curves, white balance, saturation, and overall exposure of the photo. You can also crop your images to avoid redundant portions of the photo, and adjust the sky composition in your photo or change the sky altogether.

You may also read: Automobile Photo Retouching in Photoshop

15. Take a holistic effort to capture the car’s personality

car photography hill nature

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

As a car photographer, you will first need a keen interest and thorough knowledge about different cars. Without this understanding of cars, you will not be able to capture those fine lines, brand logos, and other stylish details that make a car unique. Choosing the perfect background, selecting the angle, type of lens, and everything depends on the personality of the car and how you would like to exhibit the final image.

Conclusion

As already discussed, to take great car photographs, you must need to be a car enthusiast first.  It is your love for cars that will facilitate taking amazing pictures which will force the viewers to fall in love with the machine. 

We have shared several useful car photography tips and tricks to help you get started with car photography. But this is not by any means exhaustive, you have always the chance to explore and utilize your creative faculties. If you focus on depicting the elegance and usability of cars, you will definitely come up with something great. 

 

Car Photography FAQs

1. What camera should you use for car photography?

You may use a wide variety of cameras for your car photography. But using a fast and higher megapixels camera with a reliable focus is always advisable. The higher the megapixels, the more details would be in the final image. For capturing cars in motion, you may use a camera with a higher FPS (Frames per second). 

2. What is the best lens for car photography?

A wide-angle lens is perfectly suited for car photography. But you can also use a lot of other lenses too. We discourage the use of a short focal length macro lens as this may include your own reflection on the image.