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How to scout automotive locations

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The setting you choose to take pictures of your car in has the biggest effect on how the image will come out. You probably figured that out all on your own. But how do you find these amazing spots? Can you find one out of thin air? I’ll show you how to scout automotive locations here!

It begins at home

I’m moving from my home this week, and so this one seems fitting to start with. You drive around the area you live in the most of course – you pass the same structures and roads every day. Start paying attention to them! Make a mental note of buildings, trees, parks – anything you think might be a good spot. I’ve pulled over many times on the way home and taken a quick photo with my iPhone so that I mark the location and have a general reminder of the spot. Then, bring your own car to a spot you’ve picked and do a shoot. You’ve already seen the spot and imagined how everything will look, and you’ll find the shoot itself will go much smoother. The title shot was taken on a road a drive by every day.

BMW 335i
I pass this road, and this view, every day.

Check the Googles

Google maps has been an invaluable tool – it allows me to see places I could not practically visit beforehand. Don’t underestimate the value of scouting a location this way; I did the AMMO Brooklyn shoot with this tool, and was able to visualize the shoot without ever seeing the spot until the day of.

Brooklyn wall
The wall in Brooklyn from one of my favorite AMMO shots.
AMMO Audi R8
The final shot.

Ignore the world

As an artist, you’re trained to look at things from a new perspective, and that’s how you need to approach a location. You only need a corner, or a section of your location to work for you. If it helps, put your hands around your face to cut off your peripheral vision. It’ll give you a better idea of the spot you want to shoot in. Many times have I been to a location only to have the client say “Oh this will never work” – it’s your job to set the scene up so that it will. Once they see the actual image, they will forget¬† about the rusted out water tower or tall weeds that are just off frame.

Arrive early

Whether shooting on your own or with a client, it pays to arrive early. That way, you can pick some sections that will work before good lighting runs out. It also looks better if you’re not looking around while the client is watching you.

Bring your phone

Sometimes it can be difficult to imagine a shot in your head. For that, a smart phone is an invaluable tool. It gives you a quick shot of what your final image will be, where lighting and shadows might fall, and the best angle to put the car in. I have an entire folder of images from shoots that show me a before and after of the location. So bring it with you and fire away!


Sometimes a location is so good that you don’t get all the angles in one shoot – save it for another! Bring a car back to the next street, or even the same spot. Just have the camera facing a different part of the scene. And one of my favorite things with a good spot is to revisit it later. You’ll see how you’ve progressed from that first shoot. And it may help you see the location in a new light.

Feel free to email me at with any questions.

Follow along on Instagram @machineswithsouls


Due to factors beyond the control of Machines With Souls LLC and Mike D’Ambrosio, I cannot guarantee against improper use or unauthorized modifications of this information. Machines With Souls LLC and Mike D’Ambrosio assumes no liability for property damage or injury incurred as a result of any of the information contained in this post. Use this information at your own risk. Machines With Souls LLC and Mike D’Ambrosio recommends safe practices when working on vehicles and or with tools seen or implied in this post. Due to factors beyond the control of Machines With Souls LLC and Mike D’Ambrosio, no information contained in this post shall create any expressed or implied warranty or guarantee of any particular result. Any injury, damage, or loss that may result from improper use of these tools, equipment, or from the information contained in this post is the sole responsibility of the user and not Machines With Souls LLC or Mike D’Ambrosio.

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