There are many types of photography that you will fall in love with, such as landscapes, products, and portraits. One genre he combines all of this is automotive photography.
Car photos are surprisingly popular on Instagram, VSCO, and anywhere else you post photos online. As long as you have your own car, it’s like you’re constantly having challenges, so you have a lot of opportunities to practice.
Here are some tips for taking the best car photos.
1. Turn on the headlights
This sounds like the simplest of tips, but it’s amazing how many times we see cars against a backdrop of stunning scenery, but photographers forget to turn the lights on. Lights are the biggest part of a car’s personality, and taking a picture without it is like taking a picture of a beautiful faceless model.
Even if you’re shooting on a bright, sunny day, the headlights give your viewers something to catch their eye.
Take the photo above as an example. Even with the taillights off, the photos look great with good framing and lighting, highlighting the shape of the car. However, when you turn the lights on, the taillights match the beautiful sunset colors in the background, adding a whole new element to your photos.
This one simple tip can make all the difference.
2. Learn the best angles of the vehicle
The next most important part of the car’s personality is its stance and body lines. For the best possible photo, walk around the vehicle at the shooting location and comfortably frame the vehicle at each angle.
It’s also helpful to see how the sun hits the car at each angle. This creates incredible pictures depending on the color of the car and can greatly accentuate the body lines.
For starters, here are some of the most common angles for photographing car exteriors. Front, front three quarters, rear, rear three quarters.
As mentioned in the previous section, headlights and taillights are some of the most important parts of vehicle photography. A close-up of the headlights and taillights makes for a very cool photo. The front and rear three quarters are shot to show the full length and body lines of the vehicle.
The more you know the best angles of your car, the better your photos will be.
A tripod allows you to get a clear image while the vehicle is running. There are a few things to consider when buying your first tripod.
3. Choose a beautiful background and foreground
Pay close attention to where you are filming the car. Just like in product and portrait photography, the background and foreground make a big difference. This doesn’t mean you have to be in an area with mountains or expansive vistas, but you’ll get some pretty cool pictures. Be conscious of where you take pictures.
For example, in the photo above, a McLaren 765LT was shot with red flowers in the foreground. This made for a much more interesting photo than shooting the car straight on, and the red flowers went well with the orange paint.
You can achieve this even without flowers. The photo of the red Mazda 3 was taken with an 85mm lens as it was not in a very scenic part of town. The compression blurred the background well while giving the photo some color and texture. Instead of warm tones, it had autumn foliage in the foreground and a dark brown house in the background, resulting in a more rustic photo.
Choose your background and foreground intentionally for beautiful results.
4. Try unique compositions
Once you know the best angle for your vehicle, move it to a location that will give your photo a unique perspective.
Shooting at a low angle is great for showing the low profile of a sports car or capturing a beautiful reflection in a puddle. Getting a higher angle reveals more of the background, which helps with vehicle lifestyle his shots. For example, it can be used for off-road shooting of cars driving on dirt roads or hills.
If you’re not trying to get a specific shot like the example above, a general rule to follow is to set your camera at vehicle height. Place your camera on a tripod and line it up with your car’s side mirrors. This angle gets a more professional, modern shot that is often seen by dealers when listing cars for sale.
Check out our photo composition rules to get some ideas.
5. Get the lighting right
Lighting is a very important part of product, portrait and of course automotive photography. Most of the days I decide to shoot, the best natural light is in my favor. However, sunny days also have some drawbacks. Cars with glossy paint often have a lot of reflections on the hood of the car, causing the image to appear washed out.
Using a polarizing or UV filter on the lens greatly reduces reflections and makes the editing process much easier.
Using the sun is one of the best ways to illuminate your subject and accentuate the body lines of your vehicle. If you want to do this more purposefully, a strobe light or even a smaller portable light will give you more freedom to illuminate your vehicle. Experiment with light the way it affects shadows or makes paint colors pop.
If you’re new to using artificial lighting on your subject, here are some of the best tips for using strobe lights inside and outside the studio.
Step up your auto photography
Automotive photography is really a combination of landscape, product and portrait photography, which is great because it gives me the skills to do better in all of these genres.
It teaches you how to play with subject position and lighting, background and foreground colors. A car is a model that will always be there for you when you want to take a cool picture. Keep practicing shooting in different locations and master your technique.