The Perfect Car Pic

SVT4MT

Well-known member
Heres a spot to post any tips you have for taking that drop dead perfect pic of your ride.

I'm no professional photographer, but I've done a bit of research and experimenting with varied results. Thats the beauty of using digital photography, you can take a thousand pictures and you won't have to go to the photo department at Woolco and send the film away for a week for developing, pay $20 to get the film developed with an extra set of prints and still not be sure of what you got. ( Bonus points if you've done this ) Nope, you can take a ton of pics and just delete the crap.

There are essentially two types of car pictures, the first is what I like to call the "functional" shot. Thats the quick pics of a new mod, car show pics, driveway pics etc. They do the job, but don't blow your socks off. You might have a telephone pole growing out of the roof of the car, but that's ok, thats not the intent of the pic. The second type of pic, the one we're going for here, is the glamour shot. Give some consideration to background, lighting and orientation of the car, and you'll get the great shot.

Your examples are welcome, both good and bad.

In no particular order :

- direct sun is not your friend, it creates glare and washes out colour. Early morning or evening is the best, or if you have heavy cloud cover that will eliminate glare. (see example pic for full sun washout)

- a picture of a picture you have hanging on the wall is not a good picture

- blurry, out of focus will never make a good pic

- keep your wheels straight, or turn them so the wheel faces out, not the tire tread....unless thats what you're going for

- speaking of tires....beware the floating front end....you'll see two out of four tires and the front end will appear to be floating. Look at the professional staged shots, or track shots......more often than not, you'll be able to see at least three tires.

- pure side shots are the exception

- the car should fill most of the frame, the focus is on the car, good backgrounds are awesome, but they may draw attention away from the car and leave the viewer to try to decide what the picture is really of - the background or the car.

- have a look at what reflections are in your paint - it may be an awesome shot, but a reflection in the paint of you taking the pic in Hawaiian surf shorts adds nothing lol. How do you avoid this? Use a tripod and get some distance from the car, check the background for power lines, poles and/or trees that may appear to be growing out of the car.

- shots on the grass are great, but you drive on ashphalt

- take pics in the highest resolution possible, you can always downsize to post on a forum, but if you want to blow the pic up and frame it, you'll lose definition and detail as you go bigger

- digital pics can also benefit from digital enhancement, whether its editing out minor imperfections or boosting colour

- cell phone picture quality has improved, but check the orientation of your phone, landscape or portrait, typically portrait does not make for a good pic, and its tough to put a cell phone on a tripod, a simple point and shoot camera will give you the stability with a tripod.

- goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway - wash and dry before staging pics, take your favourite detailing spray and towels for the last minute cleanup on location, maybe your California Car Duster.


Theres a start for now, remember theres no right or wrong way to take pics of your ride, and you could probably argue any of these points, but thats not the intent.

Main thing is to have fun with it, and post up any tips that you use when taking pics of your ride.
 

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2001BlackGTvert

Moderator
Staff member
I agree thanks for sharing. Some very good points.

I always drive around looking for that perfect location that I think might work. A task that is not always easy. But if you get the correct background and lighting it can be so rewarding in the end.

It is definitely an art.
 

Ohtobbad

Administrator
Staff member
It takes quite a bit to be even a good amateur, but great advice for those of us
who don't know how to shoot pictures. I know with a black car showdown help as long as not too much.
Also angle you take pic's from of car can give a dramatically different look.
I agree turning front wheels can work, but just a tiny bit can accent the wheels.

For me half the fun is the drive looking for what you think is the perfect location.
I used to go a lot at 5-6 am Sunday morning, get to the spot while sun was
coming up.
 
From a fellow amateur who is always looking for tips to improve his photography skills thanks for the tips especially when it comes to positioning of the front wheels
Case in point, with the second pic you posted. If the front wheels were turned the other way, would have created the illusion of a "Post Action" shot (minus the skid marks and the tire smoke). Where the car had slid into the position while braking with the rear wheels locked and being steered out of the skid, rather than turning and parking in the position.
 
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SVT4MT

Well-known member
Thanks for the comments and compliments fellows, don't hesitate to throw in any suggestions, thats what the threads for.

Speaking of unwanted reflections, case in point, I just noticed in the garage pic #3, if you look under the passenger side headlight, you can see a pair of legs, and in pic #2 as well. lol
 
Another couple tips

If using a DSLR and you have an external flash or two don't be afraid to use it both indoors & out, even in bright sunlight. The flash will brighten shadows and when shooting indoors, bouncing the light off walls or ceiling helps balance the illumination

Again while using a DSLR I've seen people struggle to get the starburst or beams of light off a polished chrome that our eyes sometimes see. One way to capture in a photo, sunbeams off the edge of highly polished chrome is to set the aperture of the lens to its highest F Stop number or closed right off.

I know especially in a public space its almost impossible not to have an unwanted refection in a highly polished dark car, even that of the photographer. I've forgotten how many times I've photobombed my own shots.
 
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Mcdavis

King of the road trip
Thanks for the suggestions and starting this thread. We all spend a lot of time trying to get great photos.

With the gold undercoat my car only looks good when the sun brings out the gold. Have also found through trial and error that putting the camera in sunset mode brings out the colour more - it can be worth experimenting with things like this.

Talking of reflections and turned wheels....... here are three examples and I have added my own critique in the comments against each picture. The first one shows the colour and the gold in the evening sun and the slightly turned wheels look good. The second one loses the colour in the midday sun and has an unexpected cloud reflection. The third one has nice reflections of the trees but wheels turned the wrong way.

Would be interested in the views of others.
 

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S197CS

Corner Carver
Thanks for all the inputs! I for one can learn of a ton of your tips. I DO own a DSLR (Canon T5) but haven't gotten around to properly actually LEARN to use the darn thing. i am fortunate enough that my Iphone 7+ does take half decent pictures (and that i always shoot landscape ;) ) but i really am jealous of great shots that are properly taken and staged.
I am quite often victim of the ''wheel on the wrong side'' shot. Can't tell why, i just often have the habit to shoot that way, will have to experiment! Being a black car, i still do not have the trick to get it to glow in all of it's glory. I do not wake up as early as Trevor on the weekends (but often damn close!) and I usually miss my opportunities at dawn coming. I really just have to learn the WHOLE car photography thing at this point, and find a suitable tripod haha.

I will be re-reading this tread often to make sure i do not miss any tips being posted. Thanks for sharing!


See? i have the ''bad wheel'' habit that i need to fix. Fortunately enough in this shot i didn't photobomb myself LOL.

 

thundr

Well-known member
I am fan of the early morning or late evening light.
When doing soyou have to place the car and yourself to keep your own shadow from getting in the way.
My DSLR is old , but still gets a decent pic. Lens also allow you to easily get the right fill for the frame.

By the way my new cell, Pixel does a good job too. Good thread to carry on with IDEAS.
 
As an avid DSLR user that has been known to use my phone camera to capture an image (You use what you have available to capture that unique image of that brief moment in time)
In my mind once you learn and am confident enough to take a DSLR camera out Auto Picture mode. The sense of control is almost like taking a modern Auto Transmission Mustang with different shift option modes and shifting the transmission to semi automatic or true manual mode so to experience the true feel and performance of the vehicle
 

Ohtobbad

Administrator
Staff member
one important thing to remember, I will likely only every be an average photo taker :)
This thread will no doubt help. But I have driven endless miles looking for the perfect
spot and picture, some cases taking 20 photos or 3 but drove for 2-3 hours.
pictures sucked, but I still had a big smile.

For those that get out early, country roads tend to be very quiet on early Sunday mornings.
Improve your photography skills, but just important enjoy the places and drive while doing so.
You will gain and we will see some terrific shots.
 

MC Stanger

Well-known member
(Message moved here from the contest page and edited).

Phones now have awesome built in editors. There are usually some good presets and a couple of extra slider options. I do not like working on a small screen so I adjust the color on the PC. I normally use a Nikon D3200 with everything auto. Like noted above the flash in the day can help.

After the shots I copy them to the computer and use the free editor called GIMP. Been playing around but so far just adjusting the Shadows and Highlights has made huge improvements.

I took the adjustments I made in mine (from the 2020 fall contest) and applied the same settings to a photo taken tonight on an iPhone 6. Yep I am that far behind in my cell technology. As you can see we all hold the power in our hands whether it is the car or the phone. Sorry about the crappy car model. Did not have the Mustang out tonight.

Original on top and adjusted on bottom from the iPhone.

iPhoneBefore-After.JPG
 
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MC Stanger

Well-known member
I have now been directed to a very well written thread. Very good information. With the DSLR I have one thing which was hard to do was get a good side shot on a bridge or road as there was no where to stand back far enough without taking a plunge. Fortunately for slightly older cameras there are lots of used lenses online. I picked up a cheap wide-angle (12-24 mm) lens and now I can almost be at the side of the car for a shot. This one was after the contest this year. My feet were at the guard rail.

WeymouthMills2020.JPG
 
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