5 Effective Ways to Jumpstart Your Car Photography Skills

Are you planning to shoot some creative photos with a car as the subject? Here are some simple yet effective tips on car photography to get you started:

Capture the car’s “personality” – cars, because of their particular model, features, shape, color, and style seem to project a personality of their own which you can emphasize in your photograph.

Some cars may look sleek and elegant while others may appear hulking and imposing. Some may have nicks, dents, and scratches that add to their individuality and these unique traits are what you may want to highlight in your shot. Certain cars also have a specific purpose that you can present in your composition. A great example is this photo below of a drift car with a cloud of dust and smoke behind it.

car photography
Drifting – M.A.J photography by Mohammed J

Use the background to add visual interest – cars are pretty large objects and it may be difficult to place them in a controlled environment, such as a studio, where you can easily manage the background. Still, there are lots of ways to use natural surroundings to your advantage. You can place the car in front of an interesting building or structure as a backdrop, or park it near moving traffic where you can get some colorful car light trails from cars passing by in the background (don’t forget to use a tripod and a very slow shutter speed for this), or you can also compose that sweet shot that never seems to get old, of the car on top of a hill with vast fields or a dramatic sky in the background.

car photography
Aventador matte black by Ben

Use an editing program for that aged look – post-processing software or digital darkrooms are not just tools to edit photos such as to tweak contrast, straighten horizons, or remove color casts, but they can also be used to emphasize mood or add visual elements. For instance, you may want to give a photo of an old car the vintage treatment so that the photo itself looks like it was taken a long time ago. You can turn a colored photo of a car into black and white, or sepia, and add textures such as tiny scratches and dust spots to make it appear retro.

car photography
The Old Car by Hartwig HKD

Shoot the car’s details – cars are full of details which you can focus on in some of your compositions. What parts of the car do you find interesting? Look at the interior and exterior and see what catches your eye, then get closer and shoot just those details. Usually, these would still be recognizable as part of the car even if you did not include the entire car in the image frame.

car photography
Blue Boy by Shane Gorski

Show off the car using light painting –light painting is a fun way to illuminate the car, and it can have a dramatic and vibrant visual effect. With a portable light source such as a flashlight (in the photo below, a blue LED torch was used) as a “paintbrush”, you can “paint” the car until you get the results you like. This usually takes practice and probably a lot of trial and error since you will need to light paint while in dark surroundings so that the illuminated areas or any light streaks are more visible. This is a low-light scenario so a tripod is essential to keep the car details and any light trails clearly defined.

car photography
Hyperjump by Kristaps B.

About Kristine Hojilla

Kristine is an avid amateur photographer from the tropical Philippine islands. She always tries to capture the extraordinary in mundane objects and scenes. Feel free to visit her profile here to see more of her works

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