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Survival Guide for Beginner Automotive Photographers

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Are you getting tired of taking picture after picture of your own car! How can you find new vehicles to shoot and sell to clients and agencies? To get started in automotive photography, give this quick car photography tutorial a whirl. When you are finished, you will have a much better idea of how to photograph a car. In addition to building a bank of great car photography ideas, you will find some great sources for honing your car photography techniques.

Step-by-Step Car Photography Tutorial

1. First order of business--stop using your iPhone for car photography! While phone cameras have come a long way, cell phone photos will never compare to pictures taken with a DSLR camera for car photography. You need equipment designed to capture the best possible shot under a multitude of environmental circumstances to make a name for yourself in the car photography business.

2. Consider the color of the vehicle and its finish (Is it shiny or is it matte?). The time of day will greatly impact the car shot, as well. Be mindful of what will reflect on the surface, and be extra careful you and your equipment are not reflected on the body of the vehicle. Spend the time and energy to research the best car photography settings for your camera, and you will soon be rewarded with car shots that wow car enthusiasts at every level. Hard-core car photographers know that car photography at night is entirely different from shooting cars in the glare of the afternoon sun. Car photography settings on your camera must accommodate shooting conditions, no matter the time of day or weather.

3. In automotive photography, it’s OK to pose the car. Make sure the background environment works well with your car. There are many color combinations to consider. Each color combo will bring different results. Here are some color concepts to incorporate into your car shots:

• Complementary- Colors opposite of each other on the color wheel.
• Analogous- Three colors next to each other on the color wheel.
• Triadic- Three colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel.
• Split-complementary- Three color scheme using a base color and two colors adjacent to its complement.
• Tetradic- Four colors arranged in two complementary pairs.


4. For professional grade car photography, use the rule of thirds in creating a unique and well thought out composition. This is a historical technique used to direct your eyes by splitting the composition into nine equal squares. The subject focal point should generally sit within one of the four outside corners within the center square but should never be fully centered within the middle square itself.

 



5. Use angles and detail shots to create a versatile car photography portfolio. Don’t forget to include a few interior shots, as well!

6. Once you have a car photography portfolio, go ahead and establish a website linked to social media that you feel represents your best collection of automotive photography work. This can be a great online venue for direct sales to clients and businesses.

7. Selecting the appropriate material for your work can take your car photography to a new level. Consider your client’s space, and what look they are going for when they order automotive photography. Metal is a great option for automotive photography, considering it has a metallic finish similar to the body of the vehicle. Metal will show a high level of detail, crisp lines, and brilliant colors, and give the space a very modern feel. A lot of professionals simply give their clients photography on paper, leaving it up to them to frame and display. This can often overwhelm the customer with too many options. Instead, you may want to suggest a framed paper print with acrylic, so your car photograph is ready to hang the moment it’s in your client’s hand. To see more about enhancing your art with your material choice, click HERE.

8. Research and connect! Research local car shows, dealerships, and magazines that spark your interest. If you go the car show route, be mindful not to be too pushy! Sometimes just carrying a camera and politely asking someone if you can take a picture of their car (99% of the time you will get a YES) is enough to spark a conversation. You can casually slip them a car photography business card afterwards. Feel free to reach out to magazines as well, but this can be tricky if you do not already have a relationship with them. You will typically get the best results by sending them an email discussing a relevant article in their magazine and suggesting a similar topic they may have not considered. You can then include a couple car shots, and provide your phone number for a follow-up phone call to discuss the possibility of some freelance car photography work.

Below you will find a list of auto shows and popular magazines to get you started:

• North American International Auto Show (Detroit)
• New York International Auto Show (New York City)
• Chicago Auto Show
• Grand National Roadster Show (Pomona, CA)
• Orange County Auto Show (Anaheim, CA)
• Charlotte AutoFair in North Carolina
• Truckin’ Magazine
• Car Craft Magazine
• Hemmings Classic Car Magazine
• RACER Magazine
• Motor Trend Magazine