8 Ways to Get Creative with Your Car Photography

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A beautiful car will talk to you, taunt you with its curves and just beg you to get behind the wheel. But getting those some emotions with a simple image is challenging, to say the least. Simple snapshots don’t capture the car in a way that begs for attention. Just like a beautiful model will look bad with a bad pose or lighting, a beautiful car needs the right set-up to create a spectacular image. Pairing a great car and a great camera isn’t enough—here are eight ways to get creative and take your car photography to the next level. Sometimes your best shorts need some improvements, and companies such as Smart Photo editors can help removing unwanted distractions and enhance your photos.

Get Creative with Location

Chances are, you don’t have a budget big enough to rent a studio large enough to park a car in, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get great car pictures. Photographing on the road shows the car helps the viewer visualize themselves behind the driver’s seat. The first thing to ensure, though, is that you are photographing in an area where it’s safe to do so and other traffic doesn’t pose a threat.

Second, be sure to choose a location that suits to overall mood you want to create. If you want the image to create a feeling of driving down the open country road, make sure there aren’t any power lines in the background, for example.

Another great technique is to find a scene that complement’s the car’s color, like shooting a red car with a graffiti brick wall in the background with a hint of red paint in it. Or, choose a scene with colors that are opposite of the car to instantly add more contrast.



Get Up Close

Often, the craftsmanship that goes into creating a vehicle is best captured by getting in close. Once you’ve got a few shots of the car’s entire body, find a few smaller details and get in close. The manufacturer’s emblem, the curve of the mirrors, the speedometer even the leather stitching on the steering wheel all work well as macro shots, but the possibilities don’t end there.

Use Reflections to Your Advantage

Reflections are one of the trickiest parts about car photography. Instead of getting frustrated with them, use them to your advantage. When you choose your scene, pay attention to what’s behind you as well as what’s behind the car—that’s what will be reflected in the car. If you are reflected in the car, try using a tripod and remote release, or use a photo editing service to remove the reflections that you couldn’t eliminate.

A polarizing filter is also a great tool for photographing cars. By twisting the front of the filter, you can enhance or reduce the reflections, giving you the flexibility to shoot with minimal reflections or to enhance them.

Look For Lines and Curves

Photographing a car is a lot like taking a great portrait when it comes to setting up the shot—angle means everything. A car will look larger when photographed straight on or straight at the side, and will appear sleeker when photographed at a slight angle.

Watch the lines created by the car’s frame. Tilted lines will lead the viewer’s eye into the image, creating more of a dynamic feeling. Horizontal lines, on the other hand, don’t portray that sense of movement and instead offer a feeling of being frozen in time. There’s no right or wrong answer to how you use lines in your image, but be aware of the effects they have on the final photo—that timeless feel of a horizontal line may work better for a classic car while parking at an angle for a diagonal line will likely work better for a new car or a re-imagined hot rod.

Get Moving

Cars aren’t meant to be driveway ornaments—so why photograph them that way? While images of still cars can work in many scenarios, getting the car moving can create dynamic images. Shoot a 4×4 kicking up dirt off-road. A sports car hugging a curve. Don’t limit your creativity by only considering shots where the car isn’t moving.

One method is to shoot a car from another car. Why? With both cars moving at the same speed, it’s easy to freeze the car and get a bit of background blur that helps create a sense of motion. This technique needs to be practiced with some safety precautions and it’s best done on shutter priority or manual mode, but once you’ve successfully mastered the basics, it can be a great technique to try.

Try Panning

Even with the car in motion, it’s difficult to give the viewer a sense that the car is actually moving. Panning is a technique that solves the problem, and it’s commonly used to photograph racing events but can be adapted to any type of car photography

To capture a car with that motion blur in the background, set the camera up on a tripod with a head that allows you to move the camera easily side to side but not up and down. Use shutter priority mode and a slower shutter speed—the exact speed will depend on how fast the car is moving and how much blur you want. Try starting at 1/125 and moving up or down from there. As the car moves in front of you, take the picture while moving the camera the same direction and speed as the car. Panning can be a tricky technique to master, but it’s fun and rewarding to learn.


Experiment with Different Times Of Day

The time of day that you set up the shot can make a night and day difference in the final image (pun intended). The middle of the day is usually the worst time to take a photo because the sun is tough to work with (though an overcast day isn’t so bad). Just before sunset and just after sunrise is a great time to photograph a car—the light is easy to work with and offers a nice warm glow.

But getting creative sometimes means shooting at unusual times—like at night. With the right equipment, including a tripod and flash or video light, night shots can be very dramatic. Choose a location that offers some interesting lights in the background and use a flash or video light to emphasize the car. You’ll need a tripod and a slow shutter speed too, but the results are often well worth staying out late.

Light with Wireless Flash

If there’s one thing that will take a new photographer’s car images from beginner to advanced, it’s understanding light. Wireless flashes, when used right, will draw all the right attention to the car and create more dramatic images. Flashes can be used to light up a car taken with a cityscape in the background, or to emphasize the car’s shine. If you’ve mastered the basics and want to step up your car photography, exploring lighting is the best way to get creative with your shots.

Great car photography requires the same attention to detail that setting up a portrait entails. Getting creative with car photography starts with finding a great location and ends with stunning lighting—but there are endless possibilities in between.

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