It’s is more difficult than you might think at first. If you have ever tried to photograph a car, you already know that. Although it can be extremely easy to take a clear and simple picture of a vehicle, it turns out to be much more demanding than expected. How can you properly capture the design, details, and essence of the car in a photo?
Every time I take pictures of a car, I learn something! I would, therefore, like to share some basic car photography tips with you. You can get started quickly and better understand this interesting niche in the world of photography.
This is the most common mistake people make when taking pictures of cars: they do it at the wrong time of day. The best time to take pictures of cars in a few minutes after sunset or a few minutes before sunrise. The time around the blue hour is simply the best. Use a tripod and use the harmonious light that falls gently on the paint.
It’s one of the best car photography tips for the photographer. A clear lacquer cries out for reflections. You must always keep an eye on these when taking car photos. Take a look around you and check what is visible in the reflections on the surface of the car. A car (especially a new, shiny one) is like a mirror. So the environment is extremely important. Avoiding reflections altogether becomes difficult, but with the choice of the background, you can at least influence them. To begin with, try an open space such as a field or a parking space behind you. Buildings or trees in your back are off-limits. One of the most important things you want to show with car photography is the design lines of the car. Unfortunately, reflections can quickly spoil these curves.
So be very careful. You don’t want to have a reflection of yourself in the photo. Place your camera on a tripod if you can’t avoid your own reflection. With the time-release or a remote release, you then have the time to distance yourself far enough from the recording field.
All types of color paintings react differently at different times of the day, which are accompanied by a different light. Most paint finishes hate direct sunlight, but some also go very well with it. Just look at this baby of blue beetle that was photographed in the middle of the day.
Particularly cool car pictures are created when you photograph the car from another moving car. But please be super careful when you do this – watch out for signs on the roadside! Take pictures of the car from your window while driving at around 60 km / h. Use a shutter speed of 1/100 second.
With this setup, you will later see a nice movement in the road and wheels in your picture. You can even reduce the shutter speed a little more to increase this effect. However, the longer the shutter speed, the more likely it is that your picture is too blurry and at most nothing will be recognizable. This alpha was photographed before sunset at a speed of 70 km / h and with a shutter speed of 1/80 seconds.
Make sure the background matches the car and the theme. Avoid showing things in the background that distract the eye. Things like trash cans, power lines, and other cars can kill a picture. A simple background was used for this Aston Martin. The orange paint harmonizes with the color of the environment – the soft sunlight.
Another cool car photography tip: Stand on the side of the road and take pictures of moving cars to bring some movement into your pictures. Follow the car with your lens in one smooth movement and set the shutter speed to 1/125 second. It’s really easy – you will be amazed! This Auro was taken with an exposure time of 1/125 second and a focal length of 200 mm. The car drove at an estimated speed of 60 km / h. These settings result in a cool distortion effect. Learn more about this great effect, which is also called motion blur.
Before you start auto-shooting, you should take a close look at the car and consider which features you want to highlight. Because you can deduce from which angle you have to take pictures. Just as with people photography, perspective plays a crucial role.
To get started, you can just start taking photos at eye level. To take special snapshots, you should try different perspectives and viewpoints. A particularly popular variant is taking pictures from just above the ground. This gives the car an imposing and threatening look. Experiment and find out for yourself what works best for you and your car.
Depending on the angles you choose, I recommend a tripod for full shots of the car. However – don’t just leave your camera on the tripod. For all the wonderful angles you need a hand gesture!
Try to relate the car to the environment. Do you have a pickup or an off-roader with 4 × 4 drive, for example? Then an open area fits very well. Whirl up some dust or look for harsh environments. A smart would certainly be placed incorrectly in this environment 😉
Once you have photographed the full shots of the car, you can think about any external detail shots. These will help to significantly improve your photography portfolio. After taking the first few pictures by car, you should know the main design features. Take a good look and try to photograph details such as body shapes and lines, manufacturer’s marks, wheel structures, and grille. Again, it is important to think about the lighting and angles for the shots. Don’t just assume that the previous settings work just as well for the detail shots.
Many interesting inner details are also worth photographing. The manufacturer’s logo will appear many times inside the car. Make sure there is enough light for the shot. Especially if you are photographing a location in the evening light. Perhaps you should wait until you can turn on the light and use it effectively. It would be a shame to miss the details.
That may sound overwhelming, but you’ll be amazed at how easy and awesome it is! The biggest secret here when taking pictures of a car at night is finding a place in complete darkness. Any street light or even a full moon can make life difficult for you.
Once you’ve found such a place, mount the camera on a tripod. Set your ISO to 100, the shutter speed to 30 seconds and the aperture to f / 9. Once the shutter opens, take a strong, constant light source and run around the car to ‘paint’ with the light. An ordinary flashlight will do the trick.
The creative process is not over once you press the shutter button on your camera. There is still a lot you can do with your photo afterward. We really want to make it extraordinary.
We use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to edit my car photos because it allows easy adjustment of light highlights and shadows in the image. For example, if you have to assert yourself against a bright bright sky in a sunny outdoor scene, the first thing you should do is tone down some highlights. Next, look at the car itself – does it fall in the shadows? If so, you should lighten the darker areas a little. You may even want to use Lightroom’s correction brush tool to “paint” on the car so that it is brightened without lightening the background itself. If you don’t have an idea about photoshop then feel free to hire a car photo editor company.
There is no right or wrong way in post-processing. If time permits, play with different things and find out which approach you can use to achieve cool effects. Just as you choose a location for your photography, think about the subject of the car when you edit the photos. With this car photo, I wanted to keep the beautiful autumn landscape. That’s why I used warmer tones in the background and lightened the car a bit to make it stand out from the scene.
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