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How To Take Great Photos of Your Car

Uncategorized January 10, 2018

I had a lot of fun putting together the collection of readers’ rides for the January 2018 issue of Muscle Car Review. Lots of great cars with fascinating histories, and I know you’ll enjoy reading about them, too. As I was going through the photos of the cars, though, I realized that some of you might benefit from a few tips on how to take photos that will best show off your beloved ride. I am no Ansel Adams, believe me (that’s why you don’t see many of my photos in the mag), but, well, you know what they say: Those who cannot do, teach.

For the majority of you who use digital cameras (or the cameras in your phones), I cannot stress enough how important it is to shoot photos with as large a file size as your camera or phone allows if you want your car in a magazine. Photos shot at a low, web-friendly resolution look fine on your screen but will not reproduce well on the printed page. Please make sure the photo files are at least one megabyte (1 MB) in size. More is better.

The only drawback to big photo files: The email service we use has a limit of 25 MB per message, so if you are sending a bunch of high-resolution images, you may need to send them in batches.

If you are shooting film, or sending us family-album-type shots of the car from years ago, please send us copies of the shots, not the originals. We don’t want to risk losing them in the mail, and we cannot return prints.

As for the photos themselves, what we like to see are shots of the whole car taken from various angles (front three-quarter, rear three-quarter, side); photos you may have of the car in the condition it was in when you found it or bought it (especially if it’s vastly different from now); photos of you or friends and family members working on it; and detail photos of the car’s engine compartment, interior, and other components of interest. Mirror the kinds of photos we typically use for our feature cars, and you’ll be set.

This next tip sounds way basic, but be sure the whole car is in the overall photo. I get tons of pictures of cars with grilles, taillights, and bumpers cut off.

Where’s the best place to shoot your car? Pose it in front of the least-distracting background you can find: an open field, lake, drab industrial park, big empty parking lot, places like that. If you’re shooting the car in your neighborhood, pay attention to things in the background that you don’t want in the photo, like trees behind the car that may appear to be growing out of the hood, or garbage cans on the curb.

Play around with the photo’s composition. Don’t just shoot it at your head height. Hold the camera low, up high, both. Walk around the car as you shoot, to get a variety of angles. If you have a zoom lens, step in and go wide, or walk back and use the telephoto. You’ll be surprised how just zooming in and out will make a big difference in how the car looks.

Lighting makes a difference, too. You may have heard the terms beauty light or golden hour. They refer to times at dawn and dusk when the sun is below the horizon but is casting an even, shadowless light on the scene. We shoot many of our features at this time of day. Try it. Just keep in mind that because the light is low, you may need to use a tripod or some other means to steady the camera.

Photographing a car on an overcast day will also give you even, shadowless lighting, though if the cloud cover is really thick, the photo may appear dark. For shooting in sunlight, put the sun at your back so the car is fully lit and not backlit (where the car is between you and the sun). Backlighting creates shadows and makes the car hard to see—though you’ll notice here and in other magazines that pro photographers with lots of strobes and other lights can make backlit cars look very dramatic.

Detail shots—like the engine and interior—look best if taken on an overcast day or in open shade, so there are no harsh highlights or deep shadows in the photo. The shade cast by a big building is perfect to get this lighting effect. We often turn on the camera’s flash, too, to pop just a little fill-light into the image to brighten it.

And then there’s the little stuff: When shooting overall photos, turn the front wheels away from your camera position so we can see the tire and the wheel. For interior photos, straighten the steering wheel, pull the keys out of the ignition, and take any items (papers, hats, and so on) off the seats so we can see the upholstery.

It’s a lot to think about; that’s why our feature shoots take hours. But you will be so happy with the results. –Drew Hardin

MSCP-180100-EDIT-01
n Photo tip No. 1: Don’t do this.

The post How To Take Great Photos of Your Car appeared first on Hot Rod Network.

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