Car photography can be very fun and very challenging at the same time. For some people, cars are a form of art and their aesthetics of design make them very appealing. Because of that they represent a very interesting subject to photograph, as some of the cars are vintage, some exotic and some are wonderful sports models. You can sometimes treat car photography like event photography if you are shooting cars at an auto expo for example, or like commercial photography if you want to place the image in an ad and even like sports photography if you are shooting at a race track.
Types of car photography
This article will discuss three main types of car photography: commercial car photography, for ads and catalogues, car photography at an exposition and car photography at a race track, which might be the most fun type.
Commercial Car Photography.
A commercial photograph must point out the different particularities and qualities a car has and present them in a favorable light. In this case a good photograph can help sell the car. If you either shoot a car for a commercial presentation or for a magazine ad, you must keep in mind that a picture says a thousand words and a non-professional image of the car will reduce its chances of being sold. It doesn’t matter if you are shooting the car for a dealer or a manufacturer or even for a car owner that wants to sell his used car, your photographs must look professional and in order to achieve this you should keep in mind the following aspects.
First of all, you must make sure the car you will photograph looks spotless, because you don’t want any ugly details to appear in your photograph. Make sure your shot does not include any scratches or dents of the background, and if the image has those problems, then try to shoot from an angle that will mask them.
Take a look at the car from all angles before you start shooting. Some angles point out the particularities of the car more nicely than others and if you are photographing an old vintage car you should take a closer look and observe all the fine lines and shapes and remember the details you will want to emphasize in your picture. Sometimes, an image that has all the details emphasized will look more interesting than a simple overview image.
Every time you photograph a car, if it is either a modern or a vintage model, you must choose the right angles for your shot. Don’t take your shot from your normal eye level, as this will not make the picture interesting. People see cars from that angle all the time. Instead try and shoot from a lower point, like the headlight level. Take a look at the environment surrounding the car. If the car is an SUV, it might look great on grass but that will not be a good idea for a sports car, where a tarmac or concrete ground will be a more suitable environment.
Make sure, if you have reflections of the environment on the car, to maximize their potential in your shot. Those reflections can emphasize the car and give it a professional look.
If you are shooting a used car for an ad you should not remove any scratches or problems the car has in post processing, because doing so will not help the owner sell the car. Instead, try and get a professional image that will present the car the way it is. In this type of photography the interior of the car is also very important. So, make sure you capture all the details of both the interior and the exterior
Class car photo by Thrillhasgonst
Photographing cars at an event.
Events like auto shows or expositions make a great environment to photograph cars, but depending on whether the event is held indoors or outdoors, you may encounter some difficulties when trying to get photos.
The biggest issue at auto shows is the fact that they are full of people and it is difficult to get a picture of only the car in that environment. However, you can achieve that if you have patience and wait for the right moment. In order to do this, you must be prepared for the shot you will take and make the settings on your camera accordingly. You can take a few shots from the angle you chose, just to help you calibrate the right settings and after the area gets less crowded you can make the final photograph. You should however take the photograph with a fast shutter speed and with a wide aperture setting that will provide you with a low depth of field, in order to have only the subject emphasized, in case something else gets in your frame.
If the auto show takes place indoors you have to adjust the white balance accordingly. It might be difficult to obtain a correct setting of the white balance because there could be a lot of different sources of artificial light indoors and you could also have natural light coming from the outside in some areas. Sometimes the car manufacturers want to present their cars in a different light that will emphasize some aspects of the car but in return, will make the colors look unnatural. Try to find a white area and adjust the settings of your camera according to that area. It’s also a good idea to shoot in RAW, so that you will be able to change the white balance during post processing
If the auto show takes place outdoors, you should look for an angle where the natural light falls in a way that does not mask the details of the car.
Photographing cars in race tracks.
If you like cars and racing you will love to take photographs at a race track. Just like in any type of sports photography this can sometimes be a difficult environment for taking photos, but with a little practice you can achieve some great results when shooting at a race track.
Before you start shooting, you should take a look at the track and find yourself a place with a good visibility that covers an interesting part of the route the cars will be passing through.
When you are doing car photography at a race track, it is important you capture the dynamism of the race by emphasizing the high speed of the cars. You can basically do this in two ways. If the race takes place on a dirt track you can use fast shutter speeds to capture and freeze the image of the race cars. When the car enters a controlled side slip on the track you can freeze the moment when the dirt is lifted in the air and this will make the resulting image more dynamic.
On the other hand, if the race takes place on asphalt, using fast shutter speeds won’t give dynamic results because the car will seem static. It is therefore recommended that you use medium shutter speeds, somewhere between 1/60s and 1/250s, as this will make your subject, the car, appear clear in the image, but the wheels and the background will be blurred and the car will appear to be moving. Using slower shutter speeds will make the image more dynamic, but it will also make the subject more difficult to capture.
Another important part is the gear. The lenses must be of high quality and fast, to make your subject sharp even at wide apertures. Good telephoto lenses are recommended when photographing cars at a race track. For example, a 70-200mm f/2.8 would be a good choice, because it will allow you to make a nice zoom and it will also be very sharp at medium apertures.
Photographing cars is fun especially at an event or at a race track, it takes a little practice to achieve great images, but that is the case with almost all types of photography.
Below, you can see some great examples of car photography:
More car photography resources:
1- How to Digitally Photograph Cars (Performance How-to)
2- How to Photograph Cars
3- The Art of the Automobile: The 100 Greatest Cars