Car photography has long been a passion of ours at All Car Leasing and we have spent years trying to perfect our craft, experimenting with a variety of styles and cameras to get the best shots possible, here is a short list of our top ten car photography tips.
The “golden hour” is the perfect time to take the perfect photo of a car, using the creeping light just before sunrise and just after sunset will give you unique lighting that will set your photos apart from the everyday point and shoot photographer
Get low on your driving shots, this angel will really illustrate the long body lines of the car and when combined with an upward angle it can give the car the illusion of more height. An advanced technique for taking blur shots is to pan the camera for additional blur, this requires precision and a very steady handy to have the shutter close at the exact moment that the car is in centre frame.
Background and foreground are very important in all types of photography and finding a location that accentuates your car and the story you are trying to tell can really change the reception of the photo.
Drama and action help to make any still image exciting. Using the landscape around you can help to create some thrilling images, whether it is some simple dust from a dirt road or a wave of spray from driving through a puddle or stream. These shots can be as much fun to take as they are to see.
Night and low light shooting is more difficult and may require some editing to enhance parts of the image, such as saturation and contrast. A twilight shot with a bright background and some flattering lighting can delivery some amazing photos.
Internal shots are often overlooked since the fall of auto salon cars, the interiors have become fairly mundane with an almost copy, paste and enlarge this feature mentality. Some cars, however, have modified cockpits or have unique features that are photogenic.
If the surrounding is as beautiful as the car you can change your view, shooting vertical will change it up and give you more backdrop in focus to stand your vehicle against.
Action cameras are a great way to capture the very best or worst of a days shooting, although they can often ruin nice exterior shots of the body or be a bit of an eyesore when taking photos of your own car, an action camera can capture photos that the photographer simply wouldn’t be able to.
The equipment you have access to will dictate your limitations on a shoot. If you can’t get a lead car to shoot from you will be restricted to taking stills from the stands. Likewise, if you don’t have a tripod you will have to hold your camera steady for the best shots. Even the use of a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, will enhance your photos when compared to a smartphone or point and shoot pocket camera. Lenses will also play a very important part.
Practice, no matter your equipment or your previous success, practice and experimentation will allow you to explore the art of automotive photography. By taking every picture, at every opportunity, you are guaranteed to never miss the perfect photo.
One of the most exciting photos that almost every photographer wants to take is car rolling shot - this is a photo of a car in motion. To get the best results for a motion shot speed is your friend, while of course keeping to a roads speed limits, cars travelling at 30mph is slow enough for most DSLR cameras to retain a steady focus of the foreground and background, to get the blur and soft focus effect driving above 50 mph is best. To get the very best rolling shots, a photographer has to be dedicated to the shot, when beginning the perfect shot may take a couple passes to get the speed, light and shadow effects just right.
While the cars speed up, you can assist your shot by slowing the camera down, this requires a steady hand or stabilised mount. Adjusting shutter speed to as low as 1/10 can make your shot difficult. Shutter speeds of 1/20 or 1/30 can make up for stability issues while still giving that single focus effect. A shutter speed that is too slow can often result in dark lighting and an overexposed car and a blurry subject with too much wheel spin. Shutter Priority Mode in some cameras will allow the camera to determine the image aperture. Changing the aperture range will adjust the varying focal length and compensate for the adjusting distance between the photo car and subject. This can also keep the background in focus, at least allowing for motion blur and not just image distortion. ISO control in low or synthetic light can add or remove lighting effects.
Wider is better when it comes to your lens for rolling shots of cars especially, a short camera body coupled with a stout wide lens will give you more stability and less image noise where you try to focus. Using a 10mm - 18mm lens will give you the optical zoom to get clear shots from one lane away. A happy medium between subject and background will give your subject matter a more interesting story, wide angle lenses allow you to get close to the subject without losing anything from the edges. For the perfect picture to frame, filters will assist you in reducing glare and reflections while driving alongside or in front of your subject. Polarizing and tint filters are some of the most popular with automotive photographers for this reason.
Assume that the car will be in your frame as you want and set your focus area accordingly, whether you are looking for the car to be left, right or centre frame. To get the focus position and motion blur right you should use the automatic focus feature if available choosing a single spot on your frame to be your lens pick up point.
Before any shoot, you should make sure that you have the relevant permissions to be filming or shooting on that road, particularly where private roads are involved. Highways England, Traffic Scotland, Traffic Cymru / Wales or the Transport Infrastructure of Ireland should also be made aware of any filming taking place on public roads. Safety harnesses and equipment strapping is vital, nothing will ruin a day more than someone falling from a moving vehicle or filming being cut short because the camera or lens is lost or damaged while filming or shooting. Neck straps are standard with most camera bodies. These are usually relatively easy to slip from. Hand straps or rigs can ensure the camera is never dropped. Photographers should also consider advanced restraints such as body harnesses and bespoke seat belt setups to avoid injury. Communication between the photographer and the drivers is also important, it is easier to communicate via radio or open call, with simple and short instructions. Stopping to ask the driver to adjust their position or speed at a specific part of the track or road can be difficult if the driver's focus isn’t the same as the photographer, lighting or traffic can easily change when shooting so two-way communication between cars is important.
Using the live view and not the viewfinder may feel like a false representation and purists prefer to use the viewfinder in every situation but when it comes to moving photography you should practise shooting freehand and trust your camera angle to allow you the opportunity to get those really low shots.
Frequency, the best shot is likely the one that you missed, which is why using the continuous or rolling shot function of your camera will ensure that you can capture every moment, using a sharp contrast with reduced shutter speed in excess of 60 mph will require 10+ shots per second. Multiple shots of the same car on the same road in the same light will also give you more choice of images or inspire a new approach.
Despite what some photographers claim low light photography are not a polar opposite to day time car rolling shots, however, night time moving shots are very different. Rather than a medium to small aperture, the camera needs to be set up to absorb as much light as possible with a high ISO to expose the image as much as possible this will give you a better light pick up through the lens for the picture. Slightly quicker shutter speeds will reduce the opportunity for blur.
The first thing to do is not fake it, there is a multitude of software and enhancement plugins for editing software, however without a professional hand or keen eye the blur and focus can often look amateurish. Whether it is the foreground that is off or, the background hasn’t blended perfectly key indicators like wheel rotation can give away a faked photo making it never as good as the real thing. Although we don’t agree with a fake shot we encourage you to enhance the photo, whether you have a stubborn shadow or a low colour saturation, image enhancement is often crucial to present the best image possible. Advanced changes can help you to improve your skills, and to get that cover photo that you desire through manipulating the contrast, colour and light to make the image pop.
When you are planning your shot don’t shoot with the sun directly in line with the lens or directly behind the car. Automotive photography is either good or great and the difference can be the level of planning having simple mistakes such as a shadow from the lead car or an overexposed image from the wrong angle.
Be ambitious but not too ambitious, some of the hardest shots are with low light or on busy roads with plenty of shadows from other cars. Bending roads can also change the direction of light and cause light and dark issues. It is important to gain experience in photographing cars, especially while in a moving vehicle.
Low ground shots are great but that puts the photographer more at risk, remember falling isn’t the only danger, debris and wind are also concerns when taking rolling shots.
A light car with dark contrast panels/wheels requires contrasting shutter speeds and light pick up.
As with any genre of photography your camera is important but not as much as your lens, most DSLR or mirrorless cameras come with a standard 18mm - 55mm lens in most starter kits, the wide 18mm setting is just wide enough for moving shots, and the zoom is great for most zooms up to 20 metres away. Where the standard lens fails is when you are working in a tight spot at shows, dealing with troubling light or trying to zoom in for high-resolution detail or for full frame shots from a distance. No matter which discipline of photography you are interested in amateurs and professionals alike will agree the money you spend on a lens is almost always an investment.
When taking moving shots or something close up having a dedicated wide lens with 10mm or less, avoiding fish eye or heavily distorting lenses with good aperture settings will give any photographer the ability to take great photos. Wide lenses are also ideal for interior car shots, getting the majority of the car in a single frame, despite the rise of 360 degree and panoramic images a wide single shot is typically higher quality and will work on a larger range of platforms.
Whether you enjoy visiting events or going to the race track to spot exotics, most drivers aren’t willing to let everyone who asks set up for a planned shoot, and so a good zoom lens is vital. The most common for this purpose when starting out in photography is a 70mm - 300mm lens, providing you go for a premium lens suitable to your camera body, action shots or intricately detailed photos of a car’s paint from a couple of metres away are simple.
For the majority of the grunt work the standard lens will do, but where it lacks is the zoom particularly from a distance, and while having multiple lenses will give you the best possibility of a good photo, the best all-rounder is a lens covering 20mm to roughly 70mm of optical zoom with a tight aperture adaptability, this will mean that most photographers will be changing lenses less. It is almost guaranteed that the Kodak moment will happen when you are swapping a lens and without multiple camera bodies the 20-70mm is the most versatile with a minimum focus range of just 0.3 metres the lens can be used for some close quarters work too. The additional 15mm of focal zoom over the standard lens is why this piece of glass is our best lens for car photography.
A common question when considering selling a car is “how can I make it look its best?” Although the condition of the car being photographed is more important than the background of the photo there are some key features that you should consider when taking stills to sell a car.
1. Remove any debris or rubbish from the background, the car is the most important part of the photo, but the scene will also tell people about you and people will assume the worst when buying a second-hand car. Moving old wheels or broken bits of pot from the drive will keep the buyers eye on the vehicle. Extreme examples of this would be to clean anything that could be in the frame to get the best reflection from every surface including walls, floors etc.
2. Clean the car, an obvious one for many but cleaning the car, and using a detailer will ensure that you get the best shine from the paint which will help to sell the car. Inside and out, either professionally or by yourself, consider what you want from a car, a clean and tidy motor is much more photogenic than a dusty or muddy one. Be sure to only take photos of the car when it and the ground are completely dry and looking at its best.
3. Lighting is a more professional aspect of taking photos to sell a car, using natural light as opposed to artificial is easier for most people, waiting until mid day when the sun is directly above the car, casting the smallest shadows.
4. Use the right orientation, although most people use mobiles to shop for cars, they will more often than not rotate their device to landscape to enlarge the images, most DSLR cameras will shoot high-quality images in the landscape as standard. Shooting from a smartphone will reduce image quality, but make uploading easier. Since most every car is longer than it is taller taking horizontal photos will also mean that you can fit more of the car in a single shot from closer which leads into our next tip.
5. Space, if your drive or a public road is frequently interrupted by pedestrians or other vehicles take your car to a quiet location that reflects the type of car you’re selling. This space will allow you to photograph the whole vehicle in a single shot. Being able to walk all the way around the car and take full body shots will help you show of different aspects of the car and play with the height angle of the image.
6. Quantity. As with any photo shoot, once you have your focus and the car perfectly in frame take as many photos as you might need and then take some more. The best photo is most likely the one you didn’t take, while most websites restrict the number of images you can use, having a variety to choose from will let you post the very best while also having extras if potential customers request them.
7. Filling the frame with the subject will show the car with as much detail as the camera can pick up, often a step or two closer is all that is required to get everything in the frame. The cockpit is a difficult shot but by adjusting the seats or even sitting in the back, you can get a full image from the driver’s perspective and the whole dash.
8. Scratches, dents and damage are difficult for some, who want to advertise the car as pristine and well kept. The best policy is to avoid phrases such as “age related marks” and to show the prospecting buyers the exact damage. Dents and scratches on some cars may be worth repairing before a sale, while older cars would typically cost more to repair than it would help the resale price. Taking photos of the damage will identify what the exact damage is and prevent buyers coming to view the car only to be surprised by the damage they consider to be significant and walk away feeling like the viewing was time wasted.
9. Reflections and shadows are a rookie error when taking photos of a car, particularly in well light scenarios with glossy paint the photographer car become a big distraction. If you are unable to get a flat shot of the panel without seeing yourself, the tripod or the camera then adjust your distance and the angle to avoid any reflections. Likewise, avoid parking near tall structures or large trees that will cast silhouettes or dark shadows on the car during a shoot.
10. Don’t use stock images or a professional. This may seems odd but not using a professional or professionally taken images will help your car sell. Similarly with stock images even if there are stock images of your car in the exact same colour and specification, these images are of new cars with no wear or damage and are not real when compared to your own vehicle. Professional images can also suffer from this using creative angles that accentuate the car and avoid showing of the “Character” that the car has developed over the years from cleaning and driving. This wear and tear is a sign to buyers as to whether or not the car has been cared for and indicates to them if they are buying a shed or a reliable well looked after second-hand motor.
Every photo captures a moment in a story and with the right planning, a single image can tell the full story. Think about the subject you are shooting and match the foreground and background to reflect the story. The best examples of this are vehicle advertisers when trying to convey the adventure and accessibility of the Ford range, the manufacturer shows people driving on small lanes or up gravel path hills carrying kayaks or loaded with rock climbing equipment. When SMART advertise their cars it is often in a compact city, showing how small and nimble the SMART ForTwo is and how it makes city driving fun. As a still image it would be nonsense to photograph a small city car at the top of a mountain, likewise showing an SUV stuck in city traffic would not sell a convincing story to advertise the car. Similarly when taking photos of a car you want to capture as much as possible, whether it is how well preserved a car is or the speed it is travelling at the scene and the car will create a story.
Cumbria, in particular, Derwent Water is an idyllic photography location and has plenty of roads surrounding the water with some leading to the shore itself, perfect for infinity shots with your subject. The attractive scenery and quiet locations will give any photography the opportunity for amazing images.
With its high hills, thick green backdrops and plenty for passing points, snake pass between Glossop and the Ladybower Reservoir is a very photographic region through the Pennines, a group of hills and mountains in Northern England.
Industrial Estates, Derelict Factories
When a tough or dirty scene is what will best accent your vehicle, local structures could be the best thing for you.
Here are a few cities with an abundance of industrial estates and derelict warehouses and factories
All have a rich history of old buildings previously used for industries that have either been forgotten or modernised, leaving the old warehouse or factory abandoned and forgotten. The rustic aesthetic can be as photogenic as the subject.
An area of the UK well known for its sandstone brick buildings, quaint villages and lush green meadows, the region has been photographed by thousands worldwide, which is wide it had to be added to this list. Often used as a foreground or background with old or classic cars.
An attractive background to any car is an iconic mountain or hill, British landmarks such as the angel of the north, Stonehenge and Ben Nevis in Inverness-shire. Taking photos with landmarks or identifiable backgrounds will increase the local appeal of an image as well as raising the profile of the photo.
Places with modern features
Another generic shooting location available across the UK is a modern glass or city background, typically used to show how busy and built up an area is. The glass and steel architecture can often be used to complement a new car with sharp edges
For the ultimate photo to show off a race ready car, you need to take it to one of the UK’s numerous race tracks, whether your shot is of it clipping the Apex of a corner running over the iconic white and red curb or in the pit lane ready to pull it to its own team garage. Taking photos at:
Most circuits in the UK will provide a pit walk opportunity as well as plenty of vantage points for photographers to get uninterrupted shots of the cars on race day.
As a broker and not a dealership we purchase a licence from a provider who reviews and shoot all of the vehicles on our website, this gives us the same sequence of shots for each of our cars to a professional standard that we then utilise for our press and promotional materials. We also use the industry standard images from CAP to showcase a sample of vehicles, although this isn’t exact it does represent the cars we offer. At All Car Leasing we express that the images are representative of the vehicles on offer and for customers to visit dealerships to see the cars before leasing.
Using a professional service such as ours is a more cost-effective way for us to be able to source new vehicle images as well as store a catalogue of historic vehicles used in some of our blogs such as the history of the Mini, and the VW Golf history.
We are of course always interested in seeing your images of cars and so we would invite everyone to show off your great car shots in the comments below. For