This blog goes into great length explaining how to light paint, shoot rollers, even retouch. But what if you’re starting from scratch, and you want to learn how to shoot a car? You can make images like I produce, and I’ll show you how with 10 easy tips.
1 – The camera
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it here: You can create great art with the most basic camera. You don’t need my Nikon Z7. Get a used D3200, or equivalent, with an 18-55mm kit lens, and you can start shooting today.
Have a new iPhone? Even that can be used for learning basic skills, but if you want to heavily edit, you’ll need a higher megapixel count.
2 – The vision
Where do you go to shoot a car? Wherever you want. If you’re reading this, you must have pictured in your mind what a shot will look like. Make it happen. Use Google Maps to scout spots, and bring a friend if you’re unsure of a location for safety.
3 – Lighting
There’s no secret here: Magic hour is best. Park your car in a parking lot at sunset (or sunrise). Walk around the entire car and shoot it from all sides. What do things look like backlit? Can you get a lens flair if you get low and peak up just enough to cut the sun out behind the car?
No film to waste. No client’s budget. Just go out and have fun trying.
4 – Angle
Speaking of getting low…get low. Remember that we see cars from eye level all the time, and getting low (or high) gives the sheet metal new perspective.
5 – Composition
The number one mistake I see people making? Composition, or where things “live” in the frame. Don’t get tight on the car so it fills the entire frame – that’s not car photography. Consider your entire environment. If you’re on a race track – show the track! Or the city.
Another mistake? Keeping the car dead center in every frame. Put it on the left, or right, and have something else balance the opposite side.
6 – Details
A car is a big, complex piece of machinery. So make it about the details too. Wheels, headlights, taillights, badges. You’re going to get inspired while you’re out there, so try things you didn’t think of prior to the shoot.
7 – Rollers
Yea, everyone loves rollers. They are dangerous, so bring a crew you trust.
No idea about shutter speed and aperture? Go for a ride with a friend, ride in the back seat to avoid the side mirrors, and just aim at cars passing by. Keep practicing until you see what settings you need for the time of day you’re shooting. It takes practice to keep your hand steady, so don’t get discouraged if your first set is blurry.
8 – Practice with cars you love
There is no “wax on, wax off” routine when it comes to learning how to shoot a car. Get out there and do it. Daily if you can.
And if you like muscle cars – shoot muscle cars! Choose subjects that interest you, or you’ll get bored.
9 – Should I go to school for photography? How do I start?
I went to art school, where I took…zero photography classes.
If you really love this stuff, you probably have all the training you need in the form of car magazines, blogs, and movies. Find a shot you love and recreate it.
And if you want to work with someone, or a certain company? Ask them!
10 – Have fun!
Seems simple, but you have to love this. I’ve been out in extreme weather, 16-hour days, covered in dirt and dust, lugging gear all over the place. If I didn’t love it, it would be torture. It’s a mindset – you’ll be uncomfortable, just accept it and look through the lens.
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.