Automotive interiors will never get you a million likes on Instagram, but they are an important part of shooting a car, especially one going up for sale. Remember that you spend 95% of your time with any car on the inside, and there are usually a ton of little details to capture.
I had a recent shoot for a Bring a Trailer client with a 2002 Range Rover, and wanted to demonstrate some unique ways you can shoot interiors.
Items you’ll need
- A scrim
- A lens polarizer
- A light source (either natural or artificial)
Pick a location
As covered in last week’s post, picking a location can be crucial, even for interiors, because you can still see what’s outside the windows. Try matching the colors of the interior with what’s outside, and ensure nothing distracting can be seen. It’s best to shoot interiors with an aperture of around F/4 so you can blur out any background through the windows. In this case, the wood fence outside matches the wood trim of the interior.
Make sure you capture everything important about the car – from the seats, to the tailgate, and everything in between. I usually have a list with me of standard items that need to be covered, then ask the client if there is anything in particular they might need (which, in this case, was the cup holders of the center console).
Light automotive interiors properly
This is where a scrim and light bar come in handy. If you’re shooting during the day, the sun can create hot spots and high contrast areas, causing your image to have some dark spots, like in the foot wells. Using a scrim can help diffuse some of the sun’s natural light and create a soft area in the section you are shooting. Use the sun to your advantage too – you can get low and aim your camera up, giving you a chance for some nice lens flair or sunbursts.
I usually do just one exposure for an interior shot, but there are times when multiple are required, especially at night, and for this I’ll use my Ice Light. It can be mounted on a stand and used as a conventional light, which is great for helping to focus light where you want it. Trouble spots are usually foot wells, where heavy shadow lives, and windows, which can reflect the light, so be mindful of how every part of your shot looks.
There are some additional things you can do at night to show off the interior:
- Modern cars have many LED accent lights throughout. This can have a nice effect, so make sure to take an exposure with them on.
- Ensure the dash board lights are lit up. Try doing a timed exposure where you rev the engine and have the tachometer spinning.
- Try a shot from the back seat looking out the front window with a nice vista. Keep lighting low and pump up the ambient lighting.
Vary your shots in automotive interiors
Interior shots don’t have to be boring. Just like you might on the outside, vary your lens angle to get different points. Try sitting in the back seat and shooting over the shoulder of the front seat, aiming for the steering wheel. Get close so the front seat is blurred in front of you, giving the shot some depth. Or, get low in front of the driver side open door and aim up at the driver’s seat. It’ll give your shot a more heroic look.
Details Matter in automotive interiors
That little clock in the dashboard? The shift patter on top of the shifter? The stitching on a head rest? They all matter, and they all help tell the story of how special a car is. So after you shoot everything from a wide angle scale, focus in on the little things. They could be the difference between selling the car or just making it an also-ran.
The goal is always going to be to make sure you’re selling the lifestyle along with the car. You want people to imagine themselves inside, driving and having fun.
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