Automotive Photography Tips – How to Photograph Cars Tutorial

Posted on by Harry Elliott

Automotive Photography Tips

As a Professional Photographer I have photographed lots of different things and events from music festivals, golf days, horse racing, air shows & many motor sport events.

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Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival are some of my favourites. At these events I was commissioned to photograph the action, not your normal static automotive shots.  As I have always loved cars I thought I would set my self the challenge of learning Automotive Photography and see what level I can get to. I will be writing this blog post about Automotive Photography Tips during the project giving hints, tips along the way and also problems I come across, hopefully this can save you from making the same mistakes or teach you something new.

A recent favourite of the Ferrari FXX at Goodwood Festival of Speed(Above)

Automotive Photography Tips

The main problem with becoming a Professional Photographer is that when you start out you photograph what you want and enjoy, normally of your favourite sport/interest, what ever it is, you get to choose. When you start getting paid you are just excited about making money from your photography.  As you get more to a more professional level a lot of your work will evolve and you will be shooting more of what the client wants and less of what you enjoy.  If you are very lucky and good enough eventually you can be more choosy about which jobs you decide to take on.

Automotive Photography Tips

Unfortunately this means you get less time to shoot personal projects.  However these are very important to do as it can energise and spur on your creativity.  It helps bring back the spark and reminds you of why you started photography. If you have an idea, get together with people that can help or be a part of the shoot, brainstorm your ideas and do it!

Automotive Photography Tips

I have always had personal project ideas but rarely do anything about them.  After looking at other Automotive Photographer’s work it inspired me to get some shots myself.

Goodwood Festival of Speed Photography Tips

If like me you are a massive fan of Goodwood Festival of Speed please see one of my other photography tutorials specifically for the event.

Goodwood Festival Of Speed Photography Tips Click Here

How to shoot Automotive & Car Photography?

I started by searching lots websites, Photographs, and Blogs on Automotive Photography Tips. Now I have read the basics on automotive photography I am going to try and put it into practice.

The Cars

I an ideal world we want to be shooting classic or exotic cars but this is difficult in practice unless you know someone with one.  But also whats the point until you can take really good shots?

The Location

I also started to think of what locations would make a great Automotive Photography Photograph? An empty car park, a zig zag road, an urban background, etc.  I had think of places I knew and place that are not too busy as people get in the way when shooting.

Inspiration

Whilst I try to organise more cars to shoot I have been researching all the time online.  I have been looking at lots of other Automotive Photographers websites & Google images. This can be great for inspiration and ideas not only for cars, but locations too.

Top 10 Tips

There are lots of websites that have short and simple tips to set you off in the right direction. Here are a few I found most useful.

Jalopnik – Top 10 Automotive Photography Tips

Tuts+ – 10 Tips on Creative Car Photography

Finding Cars to Shoot

My search for cars goes on.  I found this the most difficult part as most of us don’t have easy access to supercars.  But already I have made a few networks and hope to work out some days to shoot the cars in the next month or two.  I have joined some local car groups and been to some meets/events.  If you see a car would like to shoot, just ask the owner. Car people love their cars and spend lots of money on them.  Most would love to have some photographs of the car.  If they say no, don’t worry just move on to the next.

Location Scouting

With the research as mentioned above I have been thinking about the types of shot/background I want.  I have been driving around my local area in Hampshire looking for places I would like use to shoot some Automotive Photography.

Angles

Take your time, walk around the car and surrounding areas to get some ideas and look for potential shots/angles.  Try some very close for detail shots, then some medium

Ongoing Research

I have been looking at different types of Automotive Photography to help me understand the varied styles and methods of how you get the different type of shots.

Static

Static automotive photography is when the car is not moving.  These are the best shots to start teaching your self automotive photography as you can get some great shots even if you have very basic kit.  Park the car, the better the location/background the better the shot will be(Below is a very basic example) Ideally you want to get yourself a Tripod so your camera is still(this will stop camera shake and blurry shots) and so your shot is sharp. This also means if it is low light you can run a long exposure to allow more light in to the shot, this helps get a more even light in your background instead of blasting the car with flash and a dark background.

Automotive Photography Tips

Shot by Harry Elliott Photography

Panning

Panning(motion blur) shots are when the car is moving past the camera. This type of automotive photography keeps the car sharp, but the wheels and background blur giving the appearance of speed/motion.  This technique is a bit more difficult to master as you have to get your shutter speed just right.  If the shutter is too fast the wheels and background are sharp then it looks like the car is not even moving. If the shutter speed is to slow it will just be a big blurry mess.

Automotive Photography Tips

Shot by Harry Elliott Photography

Rolling & Rig Shots

Rig shots use a boom(Long Bar), suction pads and clamps to mount the camera rig to the car. This gives a similar effect as a panning shot with the car sharp and the wheels/background blurred. The main difference with using a rig is you can place the camera almost anywhere around the car giving you a more dynamic shot.

Automotive Photography Tips

Shot by Harniman/CarCameraRig.com

Automotive Photography Tips

Shot by GF Williams

My Practice Shots

First Shoot

I started with my Car and have only a couple of shoots so far to work on the general technique. What angles of the car look best, how long the exposure should be (this depends on lots of things).  On some shots I used natural light, ambient light and other I used some flash to light the car.  Its quite fun experimenting.  The first shot was rubbish, but that was expected.  After 10 – 20 minutes of trying different things my shots got much better(Not quite pro level) but as long as there always improving or your learning from your mistakes then it is a good thing.

This was my first attempt.

Automotive Photography Tips

 Fareham Wheel Specialist Open Day

This was a small local meet with around 50-100 cars.  As it was close by it was a chance to get some shots, practice angles that did or didn’t work for automotive photography. The problem i have found with meets like this is there almost always in a car park/industrial estate with messy backgrounds like skips/bins in shot. But if you find a car that you really like it can be a great opportunity to talk to the owner.  You can exchange details and arrange a shoot at a better location on another day. Also any shots you get of peoples car on the day is a great way of adding to your social media followers/likes by posting up a gallery from the event.

Fareham Wheel Specialist Open Day – Click Here

Automotive Photography Tips

The shot above of the BMW M3 is the best shot of the day and has been the most popular on Instagram. Find me on Instagram – Click Here

I shot around 150-200 shots at this event but only uploaded less than half of that to the gallery.  Only select your best shots, if there good people will want to work with you and let you shoot their cars. These 2 are my personal favourite I shot that day.  I like the negative space on the shot below as its different from having the car full frame and the lines make it more interesting than a plain wall.

Automotive Photography Tips

 Hampshire BMW Owners Club Monthly Meet

This was my first time meting with the group.  The location this month was Portsdown Hill, Portsmouth. There were about 20-30 member at the meet this month with a range on BMW’s including 1 Series, 3 Series, Z3 & Z4.

Hampshire BMW Owners Club – Hampshire BMW Owners Club

Goodwood Breakfast Club

Goodwood’s Breakfast club kicked off this year with Supercar Sunday, it should have been named Super Wet Sunday as the weather was heavy rain for the first half. It soon dried up and there was still a good turn out of cars and crowds.

Goodwood Breakfast Club Supercar Sunday – Click Here

Automotive Photography Tips

Automotive Photography Tips

With this Porsche 911 Carrera RS(Below) I was trying something a little different from my usual style with a lot more negative space around the car.

Automotive Photography Tips

This is probably one of my favourite shots of the year at Goodwood Breakfast Club of the McLaren F1 GTR(Below). I has very little editing on it. Shot with just the natural light.

Automotive Photography Tips

I shot the McLaren 12c(Below) just a few minutes apart from the F1 GTR(Above) and many people think that the car was lit, it was just natural light.  The morning and evening can give you great light.  Many Photographers prefer using natural light.  But it just goes to show that you don’t need lots of expensive lighting to get a great shot.

Automotive Photography Tips

Gentleman’s Jolly

The gentleman’s jolly also attended the Vee Power Sunday at Goodwood Breakfast Club with their beautiful Lamborghini Diablo in a vibrant yellow.

Automotive Photography Tips

Porsche Carrera Club UK

I was lucky enough to have access to Porsche Carrera Club UK annual meeting at Goodwood at the end of the summer. Porsche GT3 RS in the pit lane at Goodwood.

Automotive Photography Tips

Wilton Wake Up

I went along to the first Wilton Wake Up meeting at Wilton House, near Salisbury. Its  similar to Goodwood Breakfast Club and is getting more popular each year.

Automotive Photography Tips

Whats coming next?

More coming soon. Including some of my shots from the next shoot.

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Automotive Photography Tips Automotive Photography Tips