Top 5 beginner tips for shooting cars in quarantine

Like all of you, I’m stuck inside as I write this. No client shoots, and no places to visit. But one thing we all have is extra time. So if you’re looking to get started shooting cars as a hobby, or a living, here are some tips that will help you get started.

1. You need a DSLR

You just can’t get the resolution and dynamic range from a cell phone camera, so for now a DSLR camera is the way to go. But, you don’t need to spend a ton of money to get the results. Here is an entry level Nikon D3500 with kit lens that has everything you’d need to get going.

If you’re looking for something a little more serious, you can go mirrorless for less than $1,000 with the Nikon Z50. I shoot Nikon, but Canon, Fuji, Sony…you can’t go wrong with any well-known brand today.

As for lens selection, you just need one, usually a zoom, but even a prime is nice to start with. Wait to see how you like it before buying multiple lenses.

2. Use Google Maps

Shooting a car has always meant that you need to avoid people – you want a nice, clean shot. But you’ve got to do it now more than ever, so it’s best to pick a spot that you know will be quiet. It’s also best to stay local to your home, but don’t think that limits you. I found a small airport less than 3 miles from my house, and it serves as a nice backdrop for my 335i.

Old Bridge airport
Start out by looking at the satellite view, then once you seeing something interesting, zoom in to street view and have a look around.

3. Sunset/Sunrise

Simple, easy and now that the days are longer, easier. Choose to shoot your car during sunrise or sunset for a dramatic look. It’s always been this way, and it will always be so.

Shoot both into the sun for dramatic lens flair, and away from it so the car is lit evenly by it with no hot spots.

BMW 335i Sunset
Sunrise / sunset times are always the best to shoot a car.

4. Clean your car

I just did a post on this, but since we have the time, give your car a nice cleaning, both inside and out. Clean wheels, front fascias, exhaust tips and windows will help the car POP.

If you don’t have access to a hose right now, use a waterless wash like AMMO FROTHe. Then, finish it off with something like Nanolex SiSplash from Detailer’s Domain, and a spray wax. Taking the time to detail your car before your shoot can really make a difference. Plus, clean cars drive better.

BMW 335i
Some Nanolex SiSplash made the car really pop.

5. Composition

One thing I can’t really teach you is composition, unless you want me standing over your shoulder when you shoot. But there are 3 things I always look for when I set up a shot:

  • What’s around the car? Is anything sticking out of the top of it? A tree, or light pole?
  • What’s under it? Any trash or big rocks on the ground that might distract someone’s eye?
  • Where’s the light? Is it to harsh? Giving the car hot spots? Or too dark, with the car losing to much detail?

Remember to always take your time when you set up a shot. We’re past the days of film and a limited number of shots, but that doesn’t mean you want to waste time going through 10 bad shots for every one good one. Ask yourself the questions I posed above as you look through the lens, and you should be just fine to set up your own personal photo shoot.

BMW 335i sunset
Pay attention to the space around the car as much as the car itself.

Shout out to Phil at Detailer’s Domain – if you need your car cleaned and detailed, or need some cleaning supplies, he’s the guy to see. Learn more at https://www.detailersdomain.com/

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.

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