Tips for taking car pictures

Discussion in 'Photography & Creative' started by Derek, Sep 13, 2014.

  1. Derek

    Derek Derek Weldon

    Jun 20, 2013
    Yokohama Japan
    A lot of people who are into cars are also into taking pictures of their cars... or cars at a car show.
    Maybe we can thank Speedhunters for part of this.

    What are your tips for taking pictures of cars?

    I am not going to weigh in on this on in much detail yet but here are some of my basic guidelines. Of course, photography can be very artistic and so these are only guidelines for simple photography and not always apply.

    1 - Location is one of the most important things. Finding a good place to take pictures can be difficult but is very rewarding.

    2 - Light is part of location. Natural light is what most non-professionals are going to be finding. Try not to get any shadows on of buildings, people, or yourself. Check to see if you can see a shadow of yourself taking the picture.

    3 - I find that most car pictures look better using a telephoto lens (longer than about 50mm is nice). You get less distraction from the background and the vehicle lines are more honest and less distorted. You can also get a more defined Bokeh effect (having the subject in focus and the background blurry). Though, like I stated above, photography is art and there are plenty of times where shorter focal distances make for awesome pictures.

    4 - I find that car pictures generally look better form a lower vantage point and eye level. We usually see cars from eye level and it can be more visually appealing to see the car from a lower angle.

    5 - Learn how to use Lightroom or Photoshop. Colour balancing is very important and Photoshop can turn a good photo into a great one.

    6 - You do not need a high end camera for excellent pictures. A DSLR camera has a lot of benefits but a point and shoot can get you excellent pics still. The DSLR helps a LOT for high speed pictures, night pictues, and expanding your creative ability.

    Extra notes -

    For night pictures, get a tripod and take the pictures using a timer. Low light makes for slower shutter speed... meaning either blur or noise or both.

    For 99% of pictures, I do not use manual mode. I use Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes very often. This is what I hear from professional car photographers.

    If you are taking action shots, you need two things. A lens that is VERY fast (read- a low F number like 1.4) and a camera that can focus continuously and quickly. I have a mirror less SLR and it is AWESOME but it uses contrast focus and so it has troubles tracking moving subjects fast enough.

    If you shoot in RAW, you have much more flexibility in editing the photos when you bring them to the computer.

    For car pictures, a polarizing lens filter ($15) will help you. It cuts the glare and allows you to see more of the paint and through the windows. It also makes the sky look nice and crisp and the colours pop more.


    My camera is an Olympus OM-D E-M5. It takes pictures very well but videos are only so-so.
    I don't have much money for a nice lens so I use a lower end lens that can do everything well but nothing extremely well. It is a 12mm - 50mm F3.5 with a 2x crop (so 35mm equivalent to 24mm - 100mm). I have a number of lenses I want to get but will wait until I have more money. For now, I shoot with what I have.

    Whoa.. I got more carried away than I thought I would there.
    I would like to hear what other people have to add, agree with, or disagree with.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2014
    Greg and IMPUL like this.
  2. Greg

    Greg Local Grumpy Moderator

    Jun 20, 2013
    Vancouver Island
    Honestly, play with your settings. Not only the obvious ones, but other settings to add effects, warmth, cool, intense, etc...just don't get carried away with it, and don't go adding sunbursts or making things inverted colours...No one likes that crap.

    I think you hit the two most important things in number 1 and 2. I don't care how good your camera is, if you take a picture in direct sunlight, it's crap, and if you have a tree growing out of your hood because of bad location planning, it's crap.
    IMPUL likes this.
  3. IMPUL

    IMPUL Collector of fine japanese lawn ornaments

    Jun 24, 2013
    GTA. Ontario
    Ummmm.... Thats pretty detailed.
    My only camera is my busted iphone.

    My best picture with this was the alberta dusk picture with my R34 during the epic cross country trip.

    It would have been alot better with a good camera ... Case in point wolfies pictures during same trip but in bc.

    Tudors would have been great.... If it were not for the sd card. Lol.

    I like the 3/4 shots at a low angle.

    Thats about it. Oh and the "hella flush cambered tire close up but also showing the rest of the side of the car - shot"

    My low budget a$$ will now sit on the side lines and watch and learn how the pros do it.

    Edu-ma-cate me.
  4. Derek

    Derek Derek Weldon

    Jun 20, 2013
    Yokohama Japan
    Getting into photography has never been cheaper. Used cameras are really cheap and there are some excellent starter lenses that can be had for $100 - $200 used.

    Though be careful... like importing cars, buying new lenses seems to fit ingot he same category of addiction. It has missed me only because I am not rich enough go there yet. Used Olympus Micro 4/3 lenses are not as cheap as Canon or Nikon lenses.