dyintorace UberDork
9/3/13 8:33 a.m.

I know there are some great photographers here, and I would love some help regarding cars and photography. More specifically, I would love to get a bunch of shots of my car that are professional level, making them far better than the typical shots I only seem capable of. I have a nice Nikon SLR, but it doesn't make it out of Auto mode hardly ever.

One of the BaT features this morning prompted the thought. I think these look great, but I have no idea how to achieve them. It was this car: http://bringatrailer.com/2013/08/31/cleanly-presented-1967-porsche-912-swb/

Here is one of the many pictures:

Another picture I love is this one. It is a car that belongs to a GRMer and was taken by a pro he knows:

I imagine that much of the effect is achieve through editing, but, the original photo still has to be good enough, and mine aren't.

JoeyM Mod Squad
9/3/13 8:35 a.m.

Paging David Wallens......

until he shows up, there's this

N Sperlo
N Sperlo MegaDork
9/3/13 8:50 a.m.

Half the battle is finding the right location.

Duke PowerDork
9/3/13 8:50 a.m.

One of the main things that makes the difference between a snapshot and a photograph is good use of depth of field. DOF is the range of image that is in focus.

If you open up the aperture (SMALLER f-stop numbers, not larger), you will get a smaller depth of field. This is demonstrated well in the pic of the yellow 911. The car is in crisp focus and stands out from the background, even tough it is the same basic color.

Larger aperture (remember, smaller numbers) means you are letting more light into the camera. That means you need a shorter exposure.

Most SLR cameras have a full-auto mode as you are aware, but many also have an aperture-priority or shutter-priority setting. In AP mode, the camera will adjust the shutter speed to match the f-stop you select. In SP mode, the camera will adjust the aperture to match the shutter speed you select.

For pics of parked cars, you don't care about shutter speed, and do care about aperture, so experiment with AP mode and see what effect different f-stops have. For action shots, you want a very fast shutter speed, so set that to a low number and use SP mode.

Also, I recommend investing $20 in a cheap tripod. It can make a real difference, especially in lower light when you really need the camera to be steady.

One other thing - pay attention to angle. Most professional-looking shots of cars are taken from about driver's-eye height (42" or lower) NOT from typical standing adult-male eye height (about 54"-60" off the ground). It doesn't give the usual perspective that you'd see walking up to the car, but that is part of what makes the photos grab your attention.

02Pilot HalfDork
9/3/13 9:05 a.m.

If you don't want to get involved in the details of aperture and shutter speed (it's not really all that complicated, but it does seem to put a lot of people off), a quick and dirty way to push the camera toward the larger aperture you want to achieve the sort of subject/background separation you see in those shots is to put it in Portrait mode.

As mentioned, location is a big thing; light is another. A lot can be tweaked in Photoshop, but the better the picture is to start with, the less work you'll have to do in post.

Jerry Dork
9/3/13 9:15 a.m.

As mentioned shoot in Aperture Priority and the smallest number (largest aperture opening) to get that shallow depth of field, that puts the car in focus and everything in front and behind gets more out of focus the farther away it gets. This puts the car as the main subject.

Also, location location location. One more quick thing try shooting low angles, more car and ground, less sky. Helps lower the car a bit IMHO.

SEADave Reader
9/3/13 10:49 a.m.
dyintorace wrote: I imagine that much of the effect is achieve through editing...

I don't believe this, and the thought that other people do makes me a little sad. The basics of photography are the same whether you are using the latest DSLR or a view camera.

The photos above look like they do through the basics of 1)composition, 2) lighting, 3) background selection and 4) exposure. These things are no different now than in Ansel Adams' time.

You can take take pictures this good with your current camera, you just need to wait for good light (early morning, just before dusk, when the sun breaks through on an otherwise crappy day, etc.) , select a good but not overly distracting background, and control your exposure (which includes depth of field).

For example, but normal standards the picture of the Cobra is overexposed. But since it is a picture of a black car on blacktop, the exposure has been tweeked to show the car at it's best. I suspect this would require manual override of some sort (or spot metering) even on the most sophisticated modern camera.

The great thing about modern digital cameras is the ability to immediately review your photo. Remember, back in the day us grey-hairs had to wait until we developed the film to see what we got. So if you are dealing with tricky lighting or subjects, use that little screen and experiment to see what effect a little more or less exposure, more or less DOF, etc. would do for your picture.

Wally MegaDork
9/3/13 10:53 a.m.

In reply to SEADave:

I agree. My father take great pictures and he doesn't own a computer, he is just very good at setting up his camera. He also takes a lot of pictures at different settings to try and get them just right.

pinchvalve UltimaDork
9/3/13 10:57 a.m.

Another thing to try is to position yourself further away from the car and zoom into a tight shot. This will narrow the depth of field as well, blurring the foreground and background. Standing close and going wide will flatten everything together and everything will be in focus.

G8MikeGXP New Reader
9/3/13 7:41 p.m.
SEADave wrote:

I don't believe this, and the thought that other people do makes me a little sad. The basics of photography are the same whether you are using the latest DSLR or a view camera.

The photos above look like they do through the basics of 1)composition, 2) lighting, 3) background selection and 4) exposure. These things are no different now than in Ansel Adams' time.

For the pics of the 911, they most likely used a polarizing filter also. The polarizer will boost the color saturation and cut down on reflections. Other than what SEADave said, there really aren't that many secrets. You may be a photoshop master, but if you can't take technically good photos, your 'shop skills won't matter. At least master aperture priority mode, use a tripod and shoot in good light (the hour around sunrise and the hour around sunset, usually).

bastomatic SuperDork
9/3/13 9:19 p.m.

Spend half as much time as you do here on a photography forum. Take your camera out of auto mode. Buy a 50mm f/1.8 lens. Shoot in good light. Shoot more often.

poopshovel MegaDork
9/3/13 10:00 p.m.

I think there is actually a GRM article on this subject.

I'm no photographer, but as a guy who deals in art, contrast and perspective are personally important in car photography; shooting the car from multiple angles, from multiple spots (on the ground, on a ladder, etc.) with a contrasting (or complimentary background, like in your first pic.) creates a lot of interest.

nicksta43 SuperDork
9/3/13 10:10 p.m.

I don't want to take over the OP's thread but it's very much on topic.

Here is a series of pictures I took of my old GP. Please tell me if any are good and which is the best and why.







I've always wanted to be able to show other people how I see cars. To be better able to effectively do this I need to be good at taking pictures.

Will Dork
9/3/13 10:27 p.m.

I used to shoot professionally for car mags. Here are some quick tips, with the caveat that every photographer has his own style. This is my style, not the one and only answer.

--Avoid hard shadows at all cost. Shoot at sunrise, sunset, or at least in shade.

--Think about reflections. Imagine you're playing pool. If you bounce a cue ball off the side of the car, what is it going to hit? That's your reflection.

--For that really dramatic wet look, shoot at sunset, and keep the pool trick in mind. Try to shoot that cue ball from your camera to bounce off the car and go straight into the sun.

--Darker colors show a lot more reflections than light colors. Plan accordingly. Matte colors reflect nothing, and are super easy to shoot.

--Solid cloud cover can create a soft light box effect, but it can also suck all the vibrancy out of a color. Save this weather for really bright colors if possible.

--If your angle is low enough that the tires on the far side of the car should be visible, make sure they actually are. Don't block the right rear with the left front, for instance.

--Turn the front tires so that the sidewall is facing you, not the tread. Typically, we want to see wheels, not tread pattern.

--Think about what you're doing with your shot. When I did magazine work, I liked really simple backgrounds because it made it easier for the art directors to lay out the text for the story. If you don't need to do that, your background can be more interesting.

--No tangent lines. If the roofline is just barely touching some other line, move.

--I always liked using F8, myself.

--Learn to get off your auto settings by selecting your F-stop and then seeing what shutter speed the camera selects. Switch to manual, go up and down in shutter speed a few stops, and see what happens.

Here are a few shots that I hope prove my cred at least a little.

codrus HalfDork
9/3/13 11:04 p.m.

First and foremost, get the camera out of 'auto'. Shutter speed and aperture have a significantly impact on the resulting image, and you can trade off one against the other to get a different result. There are lots of resources on the net for learning about exposure, I'd also recommend a book called "Understanding Exposure" that does a really good job of explaining it.

N Sperlo
N Sperlo MegaDork
9/3/13 11:07 p.m.

This is one I did with a little shopping, but it was just the coloring around the edges.

I like to get a nice distant shot witha good angle, proper wheel angle, and once again, location. There has been mention above a not shooting tread. In this picture, I feel it makes the car look more menacing. There area always time to break the rules.

Action shots just take timing. JG is the expert to go to. Here is Clem Sparks doing what he does best.

A close up of a section of the vehicle can be neat. Angling the camera can add to the effect.

I took all these photos.

Duke PowerDork
9/4/13 8:26 a.m.
N Sperlo wrote: I like to get a nice distant shot witha good angle, proper wheel angle, and once again, location. There has been mention above a not shooting tread. In this picture, I feel it makes the car look more menacing. There area always time to break the rules.

I would have set this shot up exactly reversed. The side you're shooting at is in shade, which makes the car look muddy and indistinct. I would have moved the camera around about 90* and taken the shot from the right front quarter to get the light on the side facing the camera.

N Sperlo
N Sperlo MegaDork
9/4/13 9:02 a.m.

In reply to Duke:

You're stupid!

Actually I agree. I had stopped in a spot, jumped out and snapped some pictures. Really wasn't thinking about things. I did like the angles, though. If I did it again, I would do just what you say.

I like constructive criticism.

Spoolpigeon Dork
9/4/13 9:27 a.m.

Just take it out of auto and play with the aperture and shutter speed. You'll have a ton of E36 M3ty pics until you learn how each setting affects the pictures, but the beauty of digital cameras is that you can simply delete the junk.

I bought a rebel xti a couple years ago and just played with the setting until I figured it out. I would take it to autocrosses and shoot 1000+ pics and only come home with ~20 good shots lol. It, like anything else, just takes practice and 'seat time'.

4cylndrfury MegaDork
9/4/13 9:31 a.m.

Well, I dont have access to any decent camera equipment (well, thats not true, SWMBO has a Sony Alpha - a few years old, but has a few pieces of good glass and filters to go with it...but good luck getting it into my hands, yet I digress...). There are some good online editing tools, or smartphone apps that can edit photos. Theyre no replacement for talent, but they can help make an ok photo look pretty cool (not poster worthy, but cool none the less)

Here are some that I snapped with my cameraphone, then edited with either the phones editing software, or photobuckets (tho, the PB editing software is...flaky...at best)




Yes, I have a fetish for my car...The point is, that there can be some decent improvement for your pics thru editing, but theres no replacement for talent when it comes to the shot itself...

mattmacklind UltimaDork
9/4/13 9:43 a.m.

Best advice from above is related to angle and reflection. Shooting from the driver's height, not standing height, is true. The better photos I have taken have been this way, although I never really thought about why.

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ArthurDent HalfDork
9/4/13 10:26 a.m.

Also take into account the rule of thirds.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds said: The rule of thirds is a "rule of thumb" or guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as designs, films, paintings, and photographs.[1] The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.[2] Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would.

Cars are big so you may have to fudge it a bit but you can end up with a decent result.

Here is my example. A humble car and a gravel road. Taken with a $50 camera on its last legs. Not too exotic but a decent result (I think anyway).

1970 Mercedes-Benz 220D

Free online tools like http://ipiccy.com/ can give you the overlay when cropping too.

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