I am a petrolhead who likes to point my camera at cars, something I’ve been doing so for some time now.
Through the years, I have picked up a few tips and tricks, by not only watching and learning from others, but also going out there and shooting as much as I can. I want to share these tips in the hope of helping you improve the quality of your automotive photography and Instagram posts.
Tip 1 – Change your perspective
When you look at automotive photographs on Instagram or Facebook that were taken by your average cellphone shooter, they are almost always shot at eye level and usually a front or rear ¾ view of the vehicle. This gets a bit boring after a while.
So, how do you make yours look different from the others? Change your perspective.
Shoot from low to the ground or maybe get some height by shooting down from steps or a balcony. Shoot straight up frontal or rear shots or side on. Change it up, try different angles.
This is true for track shooting as well. Don’t always shoot from the same spot or corner. Move around, find new spots and new angles to shoot from. Photography is a very personal thing. It’s about how you view the subject, so let that reflect in your angles and perspectives.
Tip 2 – Focus on detail
In a world where things seem to become more and more generic, it’s the details that make the difference. This is very true when it comes to cars. Manufacturers spend a lot of time, money and effort on small details to make their vehicle stand out.
For BMW, the iconic feature is the grille (which is a bit controversial at the moment). For Audi, it’s their lights.
If you shoot a vehicle in its entirety, the details can sometimes get lost, so don’t be afraid to highlight those details, or even just shoot them on their own.
Whether it’s a unique pinstriping on a custom Hotrod or the louvers on the engine cover of a Ferrari Testarossa, capture those details, as sometimes they make for far more interesting photographs than the vehicle itself.
Tip 3 – Learn the art of panning
There is nothing worse than seeing a photograph of a fast moving vehicle where everything is frozen and clear, as though the vehicle is parked on the track. The only way to truly capture the essence of speed of a moving vehicle is by panning.
But what is panning? Simply put, it is moving along with your subject by sweeping your camera along a horizontal plane from right to left or left to right, all the time keeping the subject in frame and in focus.
If done correctly, the subject (vehicle) should remain clear and in focus while the background and wheels of the vehicle blur, creating a sense of speed. The most important part of a panning shot is the correct shutter speed. Generally shutter speeds of 1/125 to 1/160 should give the right effect. To get this right, you will have to take your camera out of automatic, which is not a bad idea in any case.
Tip 4 – Filters are your friend
More often than not, the reflection of a vehicle’s bodywork or windows can really spoil a well composed photograph. It is especially relevant in a country like ours where harsh sunlight is an almost year-round factor.
There is a way to reduce the effect of glare and reflections. A CPL (Circular Polarizer Filter) is a graded filter that screws onto the end of your camera lens and can be adjusted to place the filtering over the area required.
Cellphone camera user? Don’t worry – you can even use a loose CPL with your cellphone camera by just holding it in place over your lens.
Tip 5 – Shoot…shoot, and shoot some more
The beauty of digital technology is that you are only limited by the amount of storage you have available. There should be no reason not to shoot as many photographs as you possibly can.
Never take just a single shot, because more often than not that single shot will not be enough to give you the “perfect” picture.
On average, I shoot between 2,500 and 3,500 frames at an event. That gives me a lot of options and plenty of media to work with and edit further. The more you shoot, the greater your chance of getting that shot that no one else got, which will make your photographs stand out when posting and sharing. This is probably the most important factor when it comes to any form of photography – shoot, shoot and shoot some more.
What are you waiting for? Start shooting!