- You can’t expect to shoot excellent digital photography of automobiles, and all other two-, three- and four-wheeled vehicles, unless you are properly equipped. Sure, you can pop a few frames with a compact, or point-and-shoot, camera at the next auto show; but if you’re a professional or serious about capturing great car images, as a photography and automobile enthusiast, then you should use the information in this two-part PhotographyTalk.com article to help you make the right photography equipment choices. Part 1 presents an overviewof camera body and lenses to consider, while Part 2 explains the value of various accessories.
There are a myriad of filters that you can use for car photography; however, the three primary filters are clear/UV, polarizing and neutral density.
A clear or UV filter may be the most important, as its primary purpose is to protect your lens. Virtually all pros will tell you that when you purchase a lens always purchase a matching clear/UV filter.
A polarizing filter is critical both to your creativity and the clarity of your images. In most cases, this filter darkens the sky, eliminates reflections and increases contrast. Reflections are always a concern for car photographers, be they other parts of the car or objects or people standing near the vehicle. Many companies manufacture and market polarizing filters. If you buy a high-end, well-known lens brand, then it’s best to use the same manufacturers’ polarizing filter. From whatever company you buy a polarizing filter, you’ll be pleased with the results if you select an above-average model.
A neutral density filter is not commonly found among a car photographer’s gear; however, it could be very useful under the right conditions. An ND filter retards the amount of light entering the lens. This can be very helpful in bright light, such as an exterior shot at noon, when there aren’t as many aperture/shutter speed combinations available. With less light allowed through the lens, you have more control of depth of field and the length of an exposure.
A tripod has limited, but specific, uses for a car photographer. Most experienced photographers don’t want to carry a tripod all day, but it can be needed when shooting low-light interiors or any exterior night photos. All other car photography (which is the majority of images) shouldn’t require a tripod because there will be enough light to handhold your camera. If you decide you need a tripod as part of gear, then it’s better to shop at a store than online, so you can handle and operate a variety of tripods to find one that feels right for you.
When shopping for a tripod, consider a monopod (single leg), which is popular among many pro sports photographers. Read this PhotographyTalk.com article for more information, Digital Photography—How to Choose a Tripod.
Lighting equipment is as varied as camera bodies and lenses. Which you purchase and use is again a factor of your budget and your level of automotive photography. Professionals that shoot the best beauty shots, or car portraits, need multiple flash units, just the same as the pros photographing portraits of humans (or pets). This kind of set-up may also include light stands, umbrellas, soft boxes and remote triggering systems, which increase the investment considerably. Even if you’re not a pro, but would like to capture some excellent car portraits or will be shooting inside, you need more than the built-in flash unit on your camera. That direct blast of light will cause multiple reflections and deep shadows and just won’t show a car at its best. At a minimum, you want to purchase a separate flash unit with a bounce head; however, to come close to duplicating professional images, you’ll need multiple flash units.
Car Photography Rigs
This is an extreme piece of equipment that only pros will actually acquire because of the cost and expertise required. A car photography rig is typically a long arm that is attached to the hood or maybe under the car, with the camera at the end of the arm. This permits the photographer to shoot a car in motion, remotely, without photographing it from another car. Most of these rigs are custom built, which is another reason why even the most serious car photography enthusiast is unlikely ever to have the opportunity to buy or use one.