Words and images by Ryno Fourie.
Ryno Fourie aka the Digital Monkey, focused on automotive photography after he completed his studies. He became chief photographer at South Africa’s largest automotive press agency. He loves being behind the camera with a beautiful car in front of the lens.
We all love taking photos of cars, whether it is your own or someone else’s. Here are 5 photo tips from a professional photographer to improve your car photography.
Click here to see Ryno’s images of a concours-winning Ferrari 328 GTS.
Location, location, location
When scouting for your next location keep in mind the following: either the location needs to show a vehicle in its natural ‘habitat’ eg: a bakkie going off-road, or you can create juxtaposition eg: a supercar in front of a dilapidated building. Whichever style you choose, ensure the background is clean. Try to avoid dustbins, light poles or distracting objects in the background or oil spots and cigarette buds on the floor. Unless you are shooting a comparison vehicle test, do not include any other cars in the photo. Bonus tip: Ask permission before using a location.
Angle of attack
It is important to showcase as much of the car as possible for your ‘money shot’. Position the car to show a three-quarter front- or rear view, this way you include both the front- or rear and side of the car. Your shooting height also plays a big role. Shooting from a higher angle will create the impression that the car is small. A lower angle works well on muscle cars as it shows ‘dominance’. For all other photos, adjust your camera height to the height of the vehicles side mirror. Bonus tip: Move in closer for some photos.
Let there be light
Photography is the act of capturing light; this is why car photographers always shoot during the best lighting conditions. Photograph vehicles just before dawn or just after dusk to get the best results. The softer light drapes the car evenly and will help with those annoying hotspots and reflections. Bonus tip: Shoot in your camera’s manual mode for greater control over exposure.
When composing your photo you can either fill the frame with the car or have it far away, you can shoot horizontally or vertically but be sure to always keep the horizon line straight. Look at elements around the car and try to use it as part of the foreground or background to lead the viewer’s eyes to the car. Bonus tip: Shoot on a tripod for sharper and straight photos.
Car photographers usually have a long list of equipment they use on a daily basis but the basics needed for a great car photo are a DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual controls, tripod for sharper photos, polarizing filter to cut down reflections, tyre spray, microfibre cloth, and chamois leather. Make sure your car is as clean as possible before you start to shoot and you will spend less time with post-production. Bonus tip: Set your aperture to f8 to get the whole car in focus.
There is a whole lot more involved in taking a great car photo than the car itself, don’t let the novelty of the car distract you from your goal.