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Forum Home > General Discussion > Advice on taking photos of your car

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With acknowledgement to Original post by Shinobi and RonnieRenaldi on E46Fanatics.

Unfortunately the photos have not come up. I will try to resolve that.

Tips on taking good photos of your car

1. Light Management Part I: First thing you should know is that there are optimal light conditions you should strive for when taking a photo (outside of a studio that is).

The best light is early in the morning or late in the evening. It’s generally referred to as "magic light".

Colours are better, contrast is not as intense and shadows are softer as opposed to the light at high noon.

Here is an excellent example of this:

Good Light: Warm colors, with smooth soft shadows



And here is a bad example

Bad Light: Light way too intense and colors are washed out



2. Light Management Part II: Another ideal condition to take photos is an overcast day, where the light is naturally soft, is not coming from any one direction and there is little to no shadow.


Good Light: Very little editing required, because the light was very good to begin with.



3. Light Management Part III: As much as possible...have the light BEHIND you. You want the colours of your car to come out so you need the light on the car, not against it. If you take a photo with the light in front of you, you'll have to use a flash. Otherwise, you'll get shadows instead.


Good Angle: Here the blue colour seems normal




Bad Angle 1: At a different angle, the same colour is now lighter and washed out


Bad Angle 2: The blue is muted because you're taking a picture of the car's shadow instead



In summary - Do not just park the car and walk around it to take photos. At some point, you will be facing the light and taking a picture of the car's shadow.




4. Depth of Field. There are two main factors that enable you to control the depth of field in a photograph - the focal length of a lens and the aperture (measured in f-stops/f-numbers). The longer the focal length and the wider the aperture (lower f-numbers), the less depth of field (shallow DOF) you'll end up with. Wide aperture makes the background blur and draws the attention to the subject.


5. Shutter Speed. Use slower shutter speed if you want to capture movement or if you're shooting in a low light environment.


6. Composition. A photo with the perfect lighting can look like crap with bad composition. Photography is art, so a lot of it is imaginative and subjective, but some key things to remember are:



- Balance. If you have an element on one side, try to duplicate that or complement it on the other side. Here is a good example of that. The car is a little off centred, but you get the idea. The lighting here is excellent:




- Background. Make the effort to find a nice background for your photo.

Its very difficult to manage a background after the fact (unless you're a Photo Shop wizard), so its better to find a good location.

Avoid taking photos in common areas like your garage or driveway. Go out and look.

Keep it tidy. Do your best to avoid distracting elements in a shot. If you can't help it, they can be photoshopped out later.

For example, on the photo below I photoshopped out a light pole above the car and one on the left and ended up with a cleaner picture:




Also, an ideal background should have some colors that contrast the color of the car.

The green grass in this picture is a perfect contrast to a black car. (See a later note however about not parking on grass for a photo)



Here's another example.




- Rule of Thirds. By far the most widely used approach to composition is where the frame is divided into nine equally sized boxes using two vertical and two horizontal lines. The strongest four points in the frame are where the intersections of the lines occur, and any subject placed at these points will always have a strong visual appeal.


- Angles. As far as what angles of the car are good to take, you should browse through various car pictures you can find. If you find an angle that appeals to you, then try to copy it. You can also use various lens types to achieve different effects.


7. Post-Processing. It's easy to take a photo and then manipulate it with Photoshop. Image editing with Photoshop is a whole other thing. Here are just a couple of basic tips:


- Use Photoshop to edit out distracting elements. That would include things in the background like litter bins, light poles, etc. Also, if you are taking pictures in a car park you can remove the parking lines. Edit out things on your car too, like paint chips and scuffs.


- Crop for perfect composition (reframe). To crop more subtly (when shooting), use your zoom lens to move in a little closer to the subject, removing distracting matter from peripheral areas of the photo.


- Use a noise-reduction program (third-party filter) like NoiseNinja to get much smoother surfaces or after shooting with high ISO (ISO 800 or more).


- Use Smart Sharpen filter for better results sharpening the subject. This should be the last step on image post-processing.


- Adjust Contrast or Levels for deeper dark colours and Saturation to bring out bright ones.


- And the most important: DO NOT put too much contrast on a picture.

Remember to AVOID blown-out highlights (whites) and loss of details (blacks).


For example, there's too much contrast in this picture, you can not see the details on the tires at all and also blown highlights - only whites appear on the sky:



Loss of details in blacks:



Whereas, you can clearly see the details of the tires in this pic without losing contrast:

Tips from professional photographers.


Top 8 DON'T - As Advised By 'Speed' Magazine

-Don't shoot your car on grass or sand (You wouldn't believe how many times this came up over the article) leave it for the cows.

- Don't allow telegraph poles or trees to be in the background as it will look like they are sticking out of your cars roof.

- Don't leave windows half open.

- Don't shoot dark cars in the middle of the day.

- Don't have shadows cast under or over the car.

- Don't forget to wash your car, dirt really shows up in pictures.

- Don't just take one shot.


I know most of them are gimmies but you'd be surprised how many cars I see on here not following the most obvious ones.


Top 8 DOS - As Advised By 'Speed' Magazine

- Do shoot your car on concrete or asphalt; it looks natural

- Do shoot dark cars in soft ambient late-afternoon light. (Sunset always looks awesome)

- Do examine the paint all the paintwork for clean, simple reflections

- Do point the wheels AWAY from the camera (so everyone can see your wicked expensive rims)

- Do keep the background clean and simple (remember it's about your ride not the scenery)

- Do try to find a low angle that will make your car look phat.

- Do detail everything, such as windows, tires and inner guards.

- Do experiment and practice.


Other photo tips from professional photographers such as Mark Bean, Guy Bowden, Cristian Brunnelli or Tony Rabbitte.


- Shoot dark cars at sunset or sunrise, shoot bright cars in sunshine. Pearl, candy and metallic need sun and lots of it.

- Again NO grass, sand or trees growing out of the roof.

- Gaffer tape is a useful waxing tool on carpet if a vacuum cleaner is not at the ready.

- Black the tires, black the tires, black the tires.

- Check the off-camera objects and make sure your mates yellow R32 isn't reflecting in your beautiful paintwork. Ensure your shots are clean. Top photographers use the reflection of the landscape horizon to emphasize body lines.

- Hit the deck cars look great from a low angle, giving that mean outta-my-way stance. Beware of ants.

- Do try taking shots of your car on the move action shots always look great.

- Again make sure your car is immaculately clean with all those little extras not forgotten.

- When taking interior shots park the whole car in a shaded area.

- Study your subject first. Walk around the car and view it at different view points, to see which angle looks best.

- Don't be afraid to move your car around, this will make your collection more diverse.


Two good advices I got from a photographer:

1. Never use the flash indoors, ONLY outdoors. OR If you must use a flash indoors then point it at the ceiling to bounce the light off.

2. ALWAYS use a tripod, NEVER freehand.


Moving shots is one of the best things you can show, i mean thats what our cars are made more right. So lets get those wheels moving.


We have three types of motion.


1. is called the rig shot. (the hottest shots, most cover mags are taken with)


the camera is connected to the car with a rig and then you'll push the car in motion, car will most likely be off for less vibrations then because it will be like 13secs of exposure it will look like your going reaaaaaally fast. In the original the rig will be seen so you will have to remove it in post-processing.



2. Rolling shot (car to car)



3. Panning shots (motorsport events)


all three create emotion and speed to your pictures.


They are all single exposure shots.


1. rig shot was 13/1 sec (13 seconds)


2. was 1/80 sec.


3. i forget but its in the exif data. I think 1/50




Got a life ..... Got a Mini ...... Re-living my youth!!

January 13, 2013 at 7:10 AM Flag Quote & Reply

JanZ Moke
Posts: 97

Wow.... any advice on ASA? I like pulling Tri-X Pan back to 100ASA and then under developing..... for that maximum grain effect8)


Get a life, get a Mini... or a Moke:lol:

January 21, 2013 at 8:56 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 190

JanZ Moke at January 21, 2013 at 8:56 PM

Wow.... any advice on ASA? I like pulling Tri-X Pan back to 100ASA and then under developing..... for that maximum grain effect8)


Bit of a technical question for this forum.

Suggest you go here:



Got a life ..... Got a Mini ...... Re-living my youth!!

January 23, 2013 at 4:06 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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