Automotive photography p.2

where? & what with?
Where? – best locations

The location you choose is vital to the success of your car photography. Make your location appropriate to the type of car you are photographing. Shooting a car in a parking lot is easy. The trick is to make it not look like you’re shooting in one. To do this, get in tight or down low, to ensure that the surface markings don't betray you. Also try to avoid the obvious side-of-the-road shot. If you have a gorgeous setting, work to create a great composition that takes advantage of it. In each of these cases, set out to find a location that took advantage of the context—driving around can pay off. Try a variety of settings while shooting, and see which one lets you balance the image best. You must be very careful of what reflects in the car. Have a look around you and look closely at the car and see what reflects on its surface. A car (especially a new shiny one) is like a mirror. Try and have an open space behind you like a field. Try and avoid shooting with buildings or trees behind you. One of the most important things you want to show in your car pictures are the design lines of the car, or ‘her curves’. Reflections can spoil these curves.
Also be very careful not to have your own reflection in the photo. If you can’t avoid your own reflection its best to put the camera on a tripod, set the timer and move out of the shot. Another idea is to use a polarizing filter. These are designed to minimize reflections and glare. By simply turning the circular filter you will cut out any glare or horrible reflections, removing images of clouds or trees from the paintwork. A polarizing filter means you can get close to the car without ruining the shot.
A cool way to get some motion in your picture is to stand next to the road and let the car drive past you. Another very easy way to get a cool image, is to shoot the car out of another moving car. Shoot the car out of your window while driving at 60 km/h with a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second. By doing this you will get some nice movement on the road and on the wheels. This technique makes for really dynamic car photography as it shows the car doing what it does best on the open road.
Make sure your background suits the car and the theme. Avoid having things in the background that will distract the eye. Things like dustbins, power lines and other cars can kill a picture. Another way to make the photo speak to you is to make the car interact with its surroundings.

What with? – equipment and best practices

You can have a crap photographer with the best camera on the market and he will create high-quality crap photos. Or you can have a fabulous photographer only shooting with their mobile phone and get more Instagram followers than the others will ever have because their ‘eye’ for an image is amazing. Hence the type of equipment is a secondary concern here. They say that must have is an array of different focal length lenses (from wide to tele). Tripod, lens polarizing filter, flash, blends will be more than welcome too. The key is that you can handle it and have control over it all the time. All depends on the idea in your head. There is no right or wrong whether you want to use artificial lighting or additional equipment.
Many photographers start with wide-angle lenses, most commonly a 24-70mm zoom. It’s a great lens, but strapping on a wide angle lens can be great for close up shots and also useful to add an imposing feel to your imagery. It can be equally useful for interior shots where space is limited. However you should be careful not to distort the car too much. You don’t want to ruin the lovely curves that the designer at Ferrari spent years crafting simply because you are using the wrong lens. You can fill the frame better with a telephoto. A 70-200mm zoom lets you compose much tighter images, with distant background objects nicely magnified. You might have to walk 50 or so yards away from the car to get it, but the results can be fantastic.
Don’t forget to turn on the headlights while shooting, since that usually makes for a stronger image. If it’s during the day, use the brights, too.
One area of photography where flashes are guaranteed to add drama to an image is car photography. Artificial lighting with colored gels can add real dynamism and a pop of color to another wise boring car photo. Equally if you are shooting at sunset and using flashes you can light your car whilst also capturing the glorious colors in the sky.
If you want foreground and background equally sharp, bump up the aperture's f-stop to higher values (between, say, f/14 to f/20) while adjusting the exposure to compensate for the increasingly dark image. Higher apertures also generate the flares from points of light, as seen in the headlights.
De-focusing the background (a technique called bokeh) highlights your subject. You do this by setting the aperture as wide as possible (f/2.8, f/4) and compensating for the brighter image by boosting the shutter speed. If you compose the shot right, the image will be stronger, and have the benefit of a dash of artistic flair as well.
Also, try to keep the ISO as low as possible, to reduce the amount of grain in the final image. The best way to do that is to use longer exposures, which you can do if you have a tripod. Unless, your creative goal is exactly visible grain.
An easy trap to fall into is always shooting at eye level. Though that’s the most natural starting point, it’s also the least flattering angle for a car, partially because it’s familiar but mostly because it’s not how cars are best viewed. So go high or go low. Get close to the ground. I mean really close! This is a great way to create an imposing feel to the car. Equally, by using this technique it is very easy to throw the foreground out of focus. This is especially true if you use a zoom lens at about 200mm. By doing this the foreground will be a blurry solid color rather than crisp and full of distractions. As a result the car will take center stage and be the main focus.
Vertical images look better on mobile devices, so don’t forget to fold some into your shooting. The challenge is creating satisfying vertical composition of overwhelmingly horizontal subjects. The answer is partly obvious — don’t shoot the car from the side — but it also involves finding nicely balanced strategies for filling the frame. It could be using a segment of the car or having prominent foreground or background objects.
By the way, it doesn’t have to be entirely about the car. In fact, sometimes the most beautiful images emerge when you dial down the car’s presence in an image. Let the environment lead you to the best shot—just remember that it may not be what you expect.
Got a drone? Try something different! This isn’t necessarily the best shot to take if you’re listing your car on a car buying website but it can be a really fun one to hang on your wall. The impressiveness of this image will depend a lot on the road you choose to photograph your car on. Sometimes it looks truly epic with the winding road. Equally it doesn’t have to be your car and will be a lot easier to take if you’re not driving at the same time!
Other than that - just be yourself. If it takes a lot of time to get thrust with a location and a subject, or get into the swing of it and get your photography ‘eye’ warmed up and working – so be it. Just make the best image you can from what’s in front of you. Overthinking can lead to doubt yourself and not to capture the true.

Coming to conclusion I would like to cite British automotive photographer Amy Shore, who once said:
… “Never stop trying to improve yourself but stop comparing yourself to others. … There are still always songs to compose, stories to write and machines to photograph. The car world isn’t just about cars. It’s about anything on wheels, it’s about the stories people have of their machines, the adventures these people go on. There will always be something new and exciting going on and there will always need to be fresh eyes and talent to document it”.
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