If you’ve ever been on a shoot with me, you’ll notice my lack of hesitation for lying on the floor to take a shot. The reason is simple: cars look best when shot low. This post will go into why that is, and illustrate the difference between standing and lying down. Before we head out to the shoot…

1. Wear old clothes

Look nice if you’re shooting for a client, but be comfortable with the fact that you’re going to be lying on a street, or in dirt, for the next few hours. My go to is usually a black t-shirt in summer, and an older hoodie in winter.

2. Ditch the tripod

It’s rare I shoot without one, but sometimes, if you want the foreground to be blurred in the shot, placing the camera on the floor is your best bet. You can also use a small tripod if you need multiple exposures. Use one hand to aim, and the other on the lens itself to keep a steady hold on the camera and avoid blur.

3. Check the horizon

If you’re at a car show or an area where there is a lot of activity going on, you may not be able to get as clean a shot as you like. Getting low helps clear some of that noise away, as show below:

Jaguar Alternate angles
Left side shot standing, right side show from the ground.

You’re shooting the sky and making the car look much more dramatic.

4. Unconventional angles

You see cars every day from a standing height. This becomes the norm for everyone. When shooting a car, you’re looking for ways to make the car stand out and grab attention, so shooting it from angles not seen in every day life is a great way to achieve that. It also includes shooting high, from ladders or cherry pickers.

BMW F80 M3
Shot from the bottom of the small hill in the road, this makes the car look even more heroic.

5. A time and a place

This isn’t always the right way to shoot a car – for instance, see this AMMO R8 shot, taken from about hip height:

AMMO R8
Shot from about hip height, using a tripod.

This was shot on a tripod, raised to about hip height, and it felt like the right angle for the car in this shot. Getting low here means missing some of that beautiful sunset, so be aware of your situation and adjust accordingly.

Bonus level: Pick up the trash.

Because you’re shooting on the ground, you’ll be seeing a lot of garbage, rocks, and weird things that will just take away from the image, so take a minute and look around to make sure there isn’t anything in the shot – this will save you time in post production. Speaking of which…

BMW F80 M3
See trash I neglected to move out of the frame before I shot, circled in red. I had to remove it in post.

Post Production and the Patch Tool

So, you’ve gotten low, taken your shot, and you’re really happy with it. But there’s a weird light pole or some other object sticking out of the top of the car. I’ll show you how to fix that now. Let’s take this shot from the recent Cars and Cafe shoot of a BMW M2:

BMW M2
Check out the ugly handicap sign, and those birds too.

How can we get rid of that handicap parking sign? We’ll use two tools: the Patch tool and Clone Stamp tool. They look like this.

PS tools
The Patch and Clone tools in Photoshop

First, select the Patch tool, and draw a line around the area you want gone:

Patch Tool
Draw a line around the section you want gone.

Get the line as close to the section you want gone as possible to avoid having to rebrush in something. Then click and drag that section over to a very similar one, indicating that you want to replace your selected section with that.

BMW M2 editing
Dragging your replacement section over to a new one.

Line the 2 up as best you can, then use the stamp brush to clean up the edges. Make sure to hold OPTION down to sample the area you want to clone first. With some minor finessing, you can make it appear as though nothing was ever there.

BMW M2 retouched
The final image retouched. Birds and sign now gone away.

Feel free to email me at mike@machineswithsouls.com 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.