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Top 5 tips for detailing your car for a photo shoot

Learn the top 5 tips for detailing your car for a photo shoot, from your own garage to using a pro detailer in a studio.

Audi AMMO R8

How can you detail your car perfectly for an upcoming shoot? Everybody that loves their car usually has a wash and detail routine for it. After all, we want to keep it looking its best.

The point of this post is not an end-all be-all of car detailing. For that, you should head over to AMMO NYC and watch Larry Kosilla do this thing.

But there are a few detailing tips that will help get the most out of your shoot, whether you’re the client or the photographer.

#1 – Leave it dirty if you can’t wash it

It’s always best to wash your car before the shoot, but if you can’t don’t worry.

Truth be told, the camera has a hard time picking up dust, and although a coating of it can dull the paint, we can bring the color back with a boost of saturation in post.

The problem comes up if you bring some spray wax and start going to town right before we shoot. You will undoubtedly miss a spot or 2, and then you’ll notice through the lens. Those dirt patches are much harder to mask in post production.

If you simply “must” clean the car, use a product like AMMO FROTHE, which will safely clean the paint and make it much harder for you to miss any spots. Never use spray wax alone.

AMMO Frothe
Use a waterless wash if you need to clean the car at the location of the shoot.

#2 – Beware tire shine

Two reasons. First, tire shine is by nature, sticky. If you apply it after you wash, then drive to your location for shooting, you’ll undoubtedly sling the goop all over the wheel and paint. It also makes brake dust stick to the wheel much easier.

Second, depending up lighting, hot spots can show up in the tire because it’s so shiny. So don’t slather it on like butter. Use a thin film and a tire shine applicator to bring out the black. If it’s to much, rub it in with a terry cloth towel to even it out.

Land Rover Discovery
The amount of tire shine on this Land Rover is just about right, perhaps even a bit much.

#3 – Clean the glass

One thing I do encourage on location is to clean the glass. Because you can see right through it to the interior, any stain, spec, and dot will show up in the lens. Save yourself the headache and give all the glass a good wipe down before you shoot.

#4 – Bring the right tools for detailing

I make it a policy to never touch a client’s car unless they specifically ask for it and you are insured. Regardless, you should always come prepared with the following tools

  • Clean Microfiber towels
  • Spray Wax
  • Waterless Wash
  • Glass cleaner
  • General purpose tool like a Leatherman, to remove plates
  • Empty bag for dirty rags
Porsche 911 GT3
If you’re getting up close, flawless paint is a must – so make sure you use the right tools!

#5 – Know when to use a professional for detailing

If you’re shooting your own car, or a friend’s, by all means, use your own hands and have fun! But, if you’ve got a shoot with a Ferrari F40 lined up, you might want to call in a professional detailer. I worked with Dan from Turn 7 Auto Care on the Camry shoot, and his experience paid dividends when it came time to shoot, in both time saved and effects needed. Just work out the rate beforehand, so you can give an accurate estimate to your client.

Do these things, and your shoot will go much smoother overall. Have fun!

Pro Detailer
Using a pro can save you time and effort, and give you better results, like Dan from Turn 7 Auto Care here.

Feel free to email me at with any questions.

Follow along on Instagram @machineswithsouls

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