Automotive Photography: The Basics
Cars, trucks, and really anything else that uses an internal combustion engine (or electric engine) can make for great models. They are cool, everybody likes them, and they are shiny, not to mention make up an area of photography that especially in the last few years has taken off. With the introduction of movies like The Fast and the Furious, cars have found a new spot light in society, that had begun to die out, creating opportunities for custom shops and automotive enthusiast all over. This new spot light creates an opportunity for photographers as well. Typically when people find something they love or love to show off they want to commemorate it, usually with photos.
Custom vehicle photography has become a major branch of photography, as everybody wants a picture with their “sweet ride”. Individual custom vehicle photography is not the only aspect of automotive photography, however. Many car shows usually openly encourage photographers, and often hire photographers, to take shots of the show and even take photos of the winning vehicle. While these are more glamorous aspects of automotive photography there is still more traditional aspects such as that of advertising vehicles.
Regardless of which branch of automotive photography interest you there are some aspects of this branch that for the most part stay constant.
I once had to redone an entire shoot because I had accidentally captured a small nick in the paint on a custom vehicle. I did not know about or notice the nick, I doubt anybody else would have, and I could’ve easily fixed it in post production, but the owner (my client) didn’t want any trace of the nick. This is something that unless you are shooting an obviously beat up vehicle you need to keep in mind, because it can kill an entire photo set. Always remember to ask the owner if there is anything they want you to avoid photographing.
Shoot to Accent the Vehicle
This may sound a little strange, but it is very important. Think of a car as a person. If you are shooting a person with a larger body type you usually shoot them from the angles that make them seem smaller, a tall person you would shoot to not excessively commend their height. As for vehicles, if your shooting a muscle car try lower angles to emphasize power. You may also want to keep in mind how the owner perceives or wants the vehicle to be perceived. For example someone with a Honda may want it to look powerful, so you would stick with the same angles as the muscle car.
Turn Out the Wheels
Unless you are taking a photo of a vehicle in motion, it is usually better to turn out the wheels rather than leave them straight. To be entirely honest I did not understand why for a long time, but over time I’ve come to learn it gives the vehicle in the image the impression of movement even though it’s still. In some custom vehicles this also accents custom rims. This is not a automotive photography law however, there may be instances where having the wheels facing straight or turned in make for a better shot.