Are you passionate about cars and photography? If so, you should take the time to learn how to level up your car photography skills. You don’t need to purchase a lot of new photography equipment, but you do need some specific expertise. With these tips, you’ll be on the road to success.
6 Tips for Improving Your Car Photography
- Gather Your Equipment
- Decide on a Location
- Know the Best Angles
- Take Close-Up Shots of Details
- Use Panning to Show Action
- Enhance Your Car Photos in Post Processing
The pursuit of automotive photography can take you in many directions. You can focus on modern or vintage car photography, shoot exotic race cars, and even explore toy car photography. These are just the tip of the iceberg for potential car photography ideas.
6 Tips for Improving Your Car Photography Skills
You can always take car pictures for fun, but you might want to consider ways to turn your passion for cars into an income stream. Imagine having your own car photography studio or working at car shows. You can achieve these or other goals if you work diligently to improve your car photography skills.
1. Gather Your Equipment
Even if you don’t have high-caliber photography gear, you can get started taking pictures of cars. In fact, many beginners find they can take great images of cars with just a smartphone. But if you’re serious about growing your skills, investing in a better camera is the right way to go.
Many experienced photographers suggest that a DSLR is the best camera for car photography. These cameras let you use interchangeable lenses to take a variety of shots. They allow you full control over settings so that you can achieve proper exposure. Also, you can shoot in RAW format, which gives you more editing flexibility during post-processing.
So, what is the best lens for car photography? There are two lenses you should consider. First, you may want a wide-angle lens with a focal length around 24 mm. With a wide-angle type of lens, you can capture a better shot of a car on the road.
Another style of car photography lens uses a macro lens. Typically, these lenses have focal lengths ranging between 50mm and 160mm to let you take close-ups of details like interior components or wheels. When shopping for lenses, you may also learn about macro zoom lenses. These do allow you to take some close-ups, but they aren’t as powerful as a true macro zoom lens.
Consider using a tripod when taking photos of cars. A tripod stabilizes your camera and prevents the introduction of camera shake. If you have any interest in night photography, a tripod is a must-have. Why? When taking photos in dim lighting conditions, you’ll often need to use a slower shutter speed and longer exposure to let in more light. There’s a high risk of camera shake in these long exposure car photography scenarios.
2. Decide on a Location
In your first photoshoot experiments, you’ll likely be taking shots of your own car in an outdoor setting. You may have the good fortune of being able to borrow a car from a friend or neighbor for a photo shoot. Always think of the personality and character of the vehicle when choosing a location for your photoshoot. The background of your shot should complement the car and not be overly distracting.
For classic photography with an old pick-up truck as your subject, heading out to an old barn the country can give your photos a vintage moody and rustic vibe. A sleek, modern sports car would fit well in an urban environment. Visit a rugged trail in the woods to capture an off-road vehicle in its element.
When shooting outdoor car photography, the time of day is also an important consideration. Expert photographers love shooting during the golden hour—the first hour after dawn and last hour before dusk. The reason? At these times, the sun is low in the sky and casts soft natural light on photo subjects. It’s likely you’ll find the golden hour to offer the best lighting.
If you can’t take a vehicle on location, you can find many other ways to practice and improve your car photography techniques. A local used car sales venue may be able to give you permission to practice car dealership photography on their lot.
Or you can visit a local car show event and ask owners to let you take photos. You may get the chance to practice old car photography or focus on detail shots of car interiors or headlights.
Be creative, do some research, and talk to other auto enthusiasts. Gaining experience by taking lots of photos is a vital step on the path to professional car photography.
3. Know the Best Angles
The trick to getting the best images of cars is learning to shoot from the best angles. It’s equally important to know which angles to avoid. If you shoot straight towards the side of a car, you’ll likely see your reflection in your pictures. You can edit this out during post-processing, but it’s better to choose an angle that helps prevent this issue.
Try shooting at a three-quarter angle, which means shooting towards one front corner of a vehicle. At this angle, you can capture an attractive view of the car while ensuring you aren’t reflected in the shot.
Be sure to position the car in a way that ensures the most appealing part of the background appears behind it. Also, try to angle your car to cover up any distracting elements, such as road signs.
If you want to take dramatic car photos, position your camera low to the ground and shoot upwards towards your vehicle. Another valuable tip: Turn the steering wheel away from your camera. This will make the car’s wheels visible and heighten the drama in your car pics.
4. Take Close-Up Shots of Details
When taking car pictures, don’t just focus on shots of the entire car body. Instead, show the character of the car by taking close-ups of interesting details. Before you start shooting, walk around the car and take a good look at the interior. This will give you ideas for the best detail shots.
For exterior shots, experiment with the car mirror or shoot close-ups of the wheels, lights, or exhaust. You may also want to capture emblems or badges, especially for prestigious brands. For interior car photography, take images of the dashboard display, steering wheel, or gear shift. Maybe there are unique features like hand-stitched leather seats or wood paneling that make the car stand out.
And don’t forget to take pictures under the hood! Engine components are perfect subjects for awesome car photography.
5. Use Panning to Capture Action
If you want to photograph fast cars, you should learn about panning. With panning, you keep a moving subject in your frame as it moves past you. While the concept is easy, it can take some practice to master this technique.
When panning, you will want to use a slower shutter speed of below 1/180. This lets you keep the vehicle in sharp focus but blurs the background when you pan. Also, use your camera’s burst mode to capture a series of shots very quickly. It’s also important to use manual focus and set your focal point ahead of the spot in the road where you know the car will pass. With these tips, you should have at least one car picture that portrays motion, speed, and drama for a perfect shot.
6. Enhance Your Car Photos in Post Processing
Pressing the shutter and capturing an image is just the first step toward amazing car photography. Learning how to edit your photos is essential if you want to progress your skills. You can use professional photo editing software—such as Lightroom—to transform a good shot into an outstanding example of car photography.
While you can use Lightroom’s array of manual settings to enhance your car photos, you can also employ Lightroom presets to do the work for you. A preset is a pre-established collection of settings that create a desired mood and effect. If you want to make some quick edits—or if you want to apply the same look and feel to a series of shots from a photo shoot—Lightroom presets should be your primary editing tools.
When selecting presets, be sure you choose ones created by professional photographers and photo editors. This way, you’ll know they’re high quality and will work well for your needs. In fact, there are even preset packages that are specifically created for car photography. Check out the Classic Cars preset collection. This can be a valuable asset for every type of classic car pic and vintage car photography.
Showcase Your Passion for Cars and Photography
Have you ever looked at a stunning car picture and wished you had taken it? Some knowledge and basic equipment are all you need to take your first steps into the exciting world of car photography. There are so many cool avenues to explore—from vintage race car photography to muscle car photography.
An introductory tutorial can teach you some fundamentals, but practice is the key to success. You can start with whatever camera you have now, but consider purchasing a DSLR camera, as well as a wide-angle lens, a macro lens, and a tripod. This setup will give you full control over your settings so that you can take a great picture of cars in any environment.
It’s also crucial to educate yourself on the best location choices, lighting, angles, and composition. With these fundamentals, you can achieve awesome car photography. That’s true whether you choose to shoot stock cars, exotic cars, or any other niche. If car racing intrigues you, definitely learn about panning so that you can capture fast vehicles in action. Don’t forget to learn how to shoot pictures of car details, too. Everything from car lights to interior car parts can be fascinating photography for car enthusiasts.
Remember that editing photos during post-processing can turn a decent shot into a standout example of beautiful car photography. You don’t need to be an image editing expert to achieve dazzling results. With professional Lightroom presets, you can enhance your photos with ease and make them shine.
If you’re interested in becoming a professional car photographer, your options are wide open. Many enthusiasts are willing to pay top prices for photos of their prized possession. If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. With so many opportunities to explore, why not get started today? Before you know it, your car photography visions can be a reality.