Car photography is one of the most glamorous forms of photography that many of us think of when we dream of a career as a professional photographer. Spending time with luxurious cars is exhilarating but it can also be nerve-wracking trying to do the car justice when trying to capture its beauty. To save you from freezing under pressure, here are 10 car photography tips for your next car photoshoot, from the expert photographers at Ted’s Cameras.
Tip #1: Use the right camera
For the best car photography, you’ll want to avoid sticking to your smartphone. While the quality of smartphone cameras is constantly improving, the smaller sensor of smartphone cameras means they will never meet the quality of a DSLR or Mirrorless camera.
These dedicated cameras also have faster continuous shooting rates, so you can capture multiple full-resolution images as the car drives by, as well as more manual control, so you can shoot at faster speeds to freeze your car in the action. DSLR and Mirrorless cameras are compatible with a wide range of suitable camera lenses and are the best cameras for car photography, especially for advanced photographers.
Tip #2: Use a fast-apertured lens
To capture the best car photos, you would ideally like to have full control over your depth of field – this enables you to harness the power of bokeh; this is the name given to the dreamy blurred backgrounds that you find in the best car shots, as well as portraits.
To capture this look, you want to shoot at the maximum aperture of your lens. The best lens for car photography would be a telephoto prime lens. As those lenses don’t zoom, if you are shooting drive-bys you will have to stand by and wait for your car to approach your desired framing and fire.
Tip #3: Consider a tripod or monopod
While it won’t be necessary for every shoot, having some extra support can come in handy if you require a steadier hand. A tripod is a great option for shots of the car standing still. By using a tripod, you’ll be able to fine-tune your composition and shoot with longer exposures without getting blurry photos.
Monopods are quick to set up and stow away, and they can even be used to allow you a slightly slower shutter speed than you can normally shoot with if you are photographing in tricky lighting conditions. These are great to have in your kit for supporting your camera and telephoto lenses during driving shots.
Tip #4: Plan a cool location for your shoot
While you don’t want your location to overshadow the car that you are highlighting, you definitely want to avoid taking too many shots at banal locations or in the middle of busy suburban traffic.
For professional car photography, look for a location that is unique and inspiring, so viewers of your photos can visualise the long exciting drives that they could take if they were the owner of this car.
Tip #5: Shoot at the right time of the day
This can differ from shoot to shoot, but generally, you want to avoid the harsh shadows that are produced by shooting in the middle of the day. By planning your shoot very early in the morning and later in the afternoon, you’ll be gifted with glorious warm lighting, which photographers refer to as “golden hour” – this is the perfect car photography lighting for picturesque car photos.
Other car shoots take place at night, which can definitely be a great option for showcasing how a car looks in different conditions. For making the best use of night-time car photography, set your camera up on a tripod and make use of the streetlights and car headlights.
Tip #6: Pan your camera to achieve motion blur
The aim of this technique is to freeze your car in the middle of the action, while the background is blurred. It looks incredible for sports car photos and helps you to achieve the impression that this car is zippy.
As a basic rule, you want to set your shutter speed to about 1/125-second and experiment with moving with the car as it passes you by.
Tip #7: Get some interior shots
We all love the sleek and shiny exterior of a flashy new car, but having some shots of what can be found inside is a great way for viewers to attain a better visualisation of the driving experience.
Show some shots looking at the dashboard from the driver’s seat, with all lights and controls lit up and get some snaps of the seats – you want it to seem like your viewers can almost smell the leather!
Tip #8: Play around with different angles
Most of the best car shots are taken at a level other than eye level. We are used to seeing cars from this vantage point, so it is less luxurious. Get down low and shoot up at the car, capturing its well-designed shapes and focussing on how it appears when the light hits it from different angles.
If possible, scout for a location where you can capture the car from a high angle as well, so you can tell the full story of the vehicle. You can also bring along a step ladder to get some shots from up high, just be careful!
Tip #9: Understand the selling points of your car
It’s easy to get swept away with the appearance of the car and spend all of your time capturing the elements that you find visually stimulating, but make sure you familiarise yourself with the selling points of the car and try to capture them in your images.
If your camera is known for a powerful engine, get some shots under the hood, while if it has notable storage space, make sure you open the boot up and fire off a few exposures. You may not find these shots glamorous, but they are essential to the character of the car.
Tip #10: Don’t forget your basic composition skills
While you want your image to stand out and reflect your unique style, don’t forget about the basics of what makes a good photograph in the first place – one of these key aspects is composition.
As you would when shooting any subject, remember techniques such as the rule of thirds, using symmetry, and looking for leading lines in your images and avoid every shot being a boring dead-center image of the car. Use your location to create interesting compositions and don’t be afraid to take some images where much of the shot is occupied by the background.
Ready to try your hand at car photography? Get all of the camera gear essentials at Ted’s Cameras and head over to their blog for more tips to take your photography to the next level.