Hacking Car Photography: 6 Pro-Tips for Epic Shots

Hacking car photography
June 4 2019

Do you have a beautiful vehicle you want to show off to the world? Or maybe you’re trying to get your foot in the door in the car photography business. Whether you’re shooting for business or pleasure, car photography takes a lot of work to ensure that you end up with perfect photos.

Practice and hard work can improve the quality of your shots over time. You can get an immediate boost today by taking advantage of these 6 pro-tips for epic shots. Find out right here how you can start hacking car photography.

Car Photography Hack #1: Get the Right Light

Lighting has a tremendous effect on car photography, and photography in general. Getting epic shots will require different lighting considerations if you are planning on an outdoor or an indoor shoot.

Outdoor Lighting

The pros advise that you plan outdoor shoots to take advantage of the “golden hours.” Make sure you’re on site and ready to shoot to take advantage of the light during the hour after the sun rises and the hour before it sets for the day. Make sure that you keep an eye out for reflections in the surface of the car as you shoot. You might even find that you’re reflecting in the car’s finish, if you aren’t careful.

Technical Tips:

Getting the most out of your golden light requires you to make some adjustments to your equipment. You might want to consider a tripod and a long exposure period. Focus on keeping your ISO low and the f-stop of the aperture high. You might set the f-stop up to f/20 to keep your background and foreground in even focus.

Indoor Lighting for Car Photography

Indoor Lighting

You can also improve your lighting quality on indoor car shoots. Artificial lighting obviously offers you more control than the unpredictable weather, but you can fall into the trap of oversaturating the car when working indoors. Place your lights carefully and work on not doubling up light sources on one area of the car for the best results.

Technical Tips:

Setting up the lights for an indoor shoot can be tricky. Many photographers focus on setting up their lights one at a time to draw attention to certain aspects of their car, or even specific angles before moving on.

Car Photography Hack #2: Explore a Variety of Shots

There’s no one angle or shot that will give you the perfect shot for every vehicle. Car photography is an art form as much as anything else, and the pros will stretch their creative wings when deciding on shots. Even basic options – like shooting a vehicle straight on from eye level – can be spiced up, depending on your lighting and background.

Trying new angles when taking pictures of your car

Some pros play with viewer expectations by getting in very close to the vehicle. You can see a car from a whole new angle if you get in tight on a specific, striking feature. You can also explore different shot options by changing the height of your shot.

Technical Tips:

Getting low or high on a vehicle changes perspective in an engaging way. This can be as easy as:

·         Standing Tall and Lifting Your Camera Overhead

·         Taking Advantage of a Ladder to Get Some Verticality

·         Crouching Down or Even Laying on the Ground

Car photography can be as much about the position of the photographer as it is about the car. Don’t be afraid to move around as you shoot, exploring new angles and different options for shot compensation as you work.

Car Photography Hack #3: Focus on Your Backgrounds

Capturing an epic shot in car photography requires you to have a great car and an attention catching background. The world around you can be a stage for your shots. You have options when it comes to indoor and outdoor backgrounds for a perfect photo shoot.

Many car photos are especially striking if you place the car in an unexpected setting, instead of shooting on the side of a road, or in another parking lot. Depending on your location, you might have some beautiful natural areas for a photo shoot. Don’t be afraid to explore and take risks when you’re planning a shoot.

Focusing on the background to get cool car photos

Regardless of the setting you choose, you need to make some decisions about how to snag the photos. Some pros recommend that you de-focus the background in at least a portion of your shots. This draws the eye directly to the car.

Technical Tips:

Reducing focus on the background can be done by adjusting your camera settings. Increase your shutter speed and open your aperture – wider is better in this situation, you can even go up to f/4 – to capture a stunning image full of artistic energy.

Car Photography Hack #4: Get Behind the Wheel

The exterior of a car only tells half the story in car photography. Don’t be afraid to open the door and climb inside to get some epic pictures of your vehicle’s interior. You can focus on specific interior details that capture your attention.

Taking pictures from inside your car

You can also shoot into the car from just outside the door. Shooting across the seat can offer a new perspective for you to consider. Keep an eye out for glare on the console or off of the windshield to ensure that you snag some epic shots.

While shooting inside a vehicle, don’t forget to think about the world around you. You always have a background that you can take advantage of when working on car photos. Park your vehicle carefully, and you could have a stunning background right outside the windshield, which can add a professional level of contrast to your shots.

Technical Tips:

You have the option of keeping the foreground and background equally focused on an interior shot, or blurring either your foreground or your background. Lowering your aperture can create the effect of blurring the interior of the car while sharpening any interesting sights in the distance, which can lead to stunning shots.

Car Photography Hack #5: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Car photography doesn’t have to be a solo task. In fact, getting some extra hands around to help on the day that you are shooting can lead to huge improvements on your shots. The pros often work with a team, and, of course, you won’t be able to take shots of the car in motion if you are working alone.

Moving shots utilize an effect known as panning. Panning results in a shot that captures the beauty of a car while it’s in motion, with the rest of the world turning into a background blur. You can experiment with panning by staying in one place while a friend drives the car around. You must move to keep the car in line as your friend drives to snag an epic shot with this technique.

moving shots for car photos

You can also experiment with car-to-car photography. Taking a shot of one car from another vehicle – while they are both moving – can be incredibly difficult, so please don’t attempt this when there are other people around on the roads. When working on car-to-car photography, you generally want to match speed to get the best shots.

Technical Tips:

Moving shots introduce a degree of complication into any photo shoot. Many pros use a special harness when they’re doing car-to-car work. You can also sit in the back seat, but please remain safe and secure while you’re working.

You can adjust your shutter setting to improve moving shots. Increase the drag on the shutter (put the setting on 1/40 or even 1/60 of a second) to ensure that your shots are suitably epic. Focus on keeping your camera as steady as possible for best results.

Car Photography Hack #6: Prepare for a Nighttime Shoot

So far, we’ve mostly discussed indoor shoots and shoots during the golden hours of the day. Setting up a shoot after the sun sets and the stars come out can snag you some truly epic shots, if you’re willing to put in a little work to prepare.

night images for car photos

Taking a great night-time photo is all about lighting. You need to exert total control over light sources at night, which means getting to a dark area. You want to avoid streetlights. Even a lot of light from the moon can have an unwanted impact on your shot, so plan carefully.

Once you have your location and control over your light, you’re going to want to decide on your shot composition and get down to work. You can end up rewarded with amazing images after a night of hard work.

Technical Tips:

Getting an amazing nighttime shot can be easier with a tripod. Adjust the aperture on your camera to around f/9 and slow your shutter to around 30 seconds with a high ISO. This allows you to move around the car with a light source, which can give it an amazing glow. You can also take advantage of the natural lights by getting low and shooting up towards the sky, adjusting your aperture to sharpen or blur the background.

Get the Epic Shots You Want with Car Photography Hacks

Breaking into the world of car photography can give you the opportunity to take some epic photos of beautiful vehicles. There’s a lot to learn along the way, but these tips can put you well on the way to hacking car photography.

Remember to plan your shoots around the lighting you have available. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles for shots, or even to crawl into the car to get some amazing shots. Getting an extra pair of hands – or more! – can open up whole new avenues in your photography as you capture cars in motion. You can even create epic night time photos with a little effort.

Applying these pro-tips to your photo shoots can allow you to start generating epic shots today, so grab your camera, develop a plan, and start pursuing your vision now.