To help you achieve the best results, I will share with you my 10 top tips for automotive and auto photography. These include lighting considerations, angles, polarisation, and space requirements.
You who know me will know that I do a mix of commercial product photography and some beauty and fashion photography. I also teach photography in Visual Education.
You may not know I have been a motorbike enthusiast for many years. My wife, who has two children, forced me to give up my passion for motorbikes.
As a result of my love for bikes, I have always enjoyed photographing them. Photographing is complicated, but the results are stunning if you do it well.
The technical aspects and lighting principles for automotive are very similar to what I shoot. There is often a mix of glossy and matte surfaces and complex reflective curves.
Even though many car images today are created using CGI, there is still demand for natural photography. This is especially true for classic cars.
After installing the ceiling rig into the studio, I tried it again and produced a new series of tutorials covering how I’d do it with a few different sports cars at different angles.
The whole classes are available in our automotive photo course. However, I have gathered some of the best tips for you to try out.
Karl shares his professional techniques and tips on how to photograph cars & bicycles.
Read More Join NowFocal length
It is more important than first thought. The focal length determines shooting distance, angle of view, and perspective.
Determining the focal length that will deliver the shot would be best. What is the focal length you will use? Are you planning to shoot from low, middle, or high up, and does the distance from the vehicle influence the shape you see when you look at it?
When you view a car a few meters from it, you may not be able to see certain features, like both headlights. However, as you move away, you will begin to notice the second headlight and other features.
The weight of the car is also a factor to consider. By weight, I refer to how heavy and squat it feels or how agile and quick it looks.
A vehicle with a long focal lens may look chunky if you shoot from too far away. A wider lens can make the car appear bulbous if you hit too close.
During various classes, I tried different focal lengths to see what worked and what didn’t. This helped me to determine the best perspective.
Angle of View
The angle of view combines the shooting position you choose and the rise of the actual picture, measured in degrees.
If you use a lens with a wide field of view, you can see more of the backdrop, giving you more space to work with in terms of lighting or scenery to consider if shooting on location.
Considering your shooting position the angle of view would be best. This is the view you will have of the vehicle or bike. You can shoot at a standard height or low, but you may also want to try a higher angle.
This decision should be based on what you want to say about the vehicle’s aesthetics.
With this beautiful Mercedes GT, I wanted to highlight the curves at the car’s rear. For the rear-view photo, I chose a higher position on a stepladder and a slightly smaller focal length to allow me to see those curves.
It’s personal to decide what angle you want to take. There is no right or incorrect option. It’s essential to get an idea of the car, its best features or lines, and decide how to showcase them.
A low perspective can make something look powerful and threatening, while a standard view is more acceptable.
Multiple lighting is a mix of lighting
Some car photographers use continuous tungsten lighting. I, however, prefer daylight-balanced studio flash.
Car photography requires many lights regardless of your preference for light. You may need more in your arsenal.
You can choose between two options. Using studio flash with continuous lights like LED or HMI is possible, but you can also use the same light several times.
Photographing a car is easy because it isn’t likely to move. As long as you have your camera well-locked down, you can use this technique to light different areas of the vehicle with the same lighting and then combine those images in post-production.
If you have the time and inclination, you can use one light to light up an entire car.
Another technique involves painting the car in continuous light over a long exposure and combining it with flash within the same shot. I used this in the image of the Mercedes. The full shoot can be seen here.
This technique allows for traditionally illuminating panels that are impossible to light.
Separate shooting lights and taillights from the primary shot
Some car photos look better when the lights are on, while others look better without.
You can experiment by shooting the lights of the car at the end. This will allow you to capture the headlights and taillights with various exposure levels without changing the depth of the field.
You’ll need to use a darkened room or shoot at night. In my “Professional Car Photography – Front View” and “Studio Motorcycle Photographics” classes, I demonstrate the technique of photographing car headlights.
If you shoot them separately, you can add or remove them later in post-production.
You may need to start the engine to have your car’s lights on. You should only turn the machine on briefly if you are working in a recording studio to prevent carbon monoxide from building up and subsidizing the air.
Watch Class Join NowDepth of Field
You’ll want to be aware of your depth of field as vehicles can reach several meters in length.
Test your field depth after choosing and fixing your viewing angle.
You will waste depth of field by focusing only on the front part of the vehicle and closing the aperture.
Consider moving the focus point down the vehicle to maximize hyperfocal distance and depth of field.
The best solution is a technical lens or camera that allows you to tilt the depth of the plane and use Sheimplfug’s theory.
If you use a conventional zoom lens, you should achieve a sufficient depth of focus at f11 and f16.