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I'm assuming if you're reading this that you love cars and photography.
It's a good combination, if you ask me.
After all, cars are great subjects for photos because they have so many features that are ideal for photography, like colors, shapes, lines, and textures.
Car photography, like any other type of photography, benefits from a solid approach that utilizes the right gear, the right compositional tools, the best lighting, and so forth.
With that in mind, here's a step-by-step guideline for improving the quality of your car photography.
Use a Prime Lens
Photo Credit: Alex Schult
Prime lenses are perfect for car photography.
Not only do prime lenses capture sharper photos than their zoom counterparts, but with large apertures, they're ideal for shooting cars in daytime or at night (or in dim lighting inside, as shown above).
Beyond that, prime lenses are smaller, lighterweight, and easier to handle than zooms, so you can more easily maneuver around the vehicle and get up close for detail-oriented shots.
An ultra wide-angle prime, like a 12mm, is ideal for interior shots. For shots of the car's exterior, try a 24mm, a 35mm, or even a 50mm prime.
Use the Shutter Speed for Creative Effect
It's actually a lot easier than you might think to get an interesting panning shot like the one above.
Panning really just involves the right timing, both in terms of when you press the shutter and how long the shutter remains open.
The easier of the two to figure out is the shutter speed - 1/125 seconds is a good place to start.
The more difficult bit is actually learning how to pan in a smooth motion as a vehicle drives by. Get a few insights into photographing vehicles in motion in the video below by CanonUSA:
This step will take some trial and error, but the primary goal is to move in a single, smooth motion along with the car, maintaining it in the viewfinder as you move.
Not only that, but you need to frame the shot such that the car has room to move into, so if the car is moving to the left, the vehicle needs to be on the right side of the shot.
The key here is to frame the shot well in advance, following the car for a second or two to match its speed.
Then once you press and release the shutter button, continue to pan the camera to ensure the smoothest results.
Editor's Tip: You can get smooth panning shots when handholding the camera, but using a tripod with a pan head can help you get even better results.
Find the Best Lighting
As is the case for any type of photography, natural lighting is ideal for taking photos of cars.
In particular, Golden Hour offers the best lighting because it's soft, even, and warm light.
This type of light not only minimizes harsh shadows, but it also offers ample opportunities to highlight the reflection of the soft light on the paint of the car.
Photo Credit: Alex Schult
Editor's Tip: If at all possible, avoid shooting during the middle of the day, as the light at that time is very direct and harsh. If daytime shooting is a must, wait for an overcast day, as the clouds will help diffuse the light and reduce harsh shadows, as shown above.
Be Careful of the Reflections
One of the great things about photographing cars is that you can capture reflections on the metalwork or in the windows.
That's fine if it's something like another car or an object that should be there.
But if you or your camera gear is reflected in the car, you've got a problem.
To avoid getting unwanted reflections in the shot, try setting up your camera on a tripod far enough away from the camera such that it doesn't cause a reflection, and use a remote or the camera's timer function to snap the photo.
Editor's Tip: Background elements often reflect on the car's surface, which can cause a distraction just as much as a reflection of you or your gear. To minimize distractions, find a shoot location that's empty with a flat horizon.
Show the Car in Motion
Photos of cars sitting still are fine, but photos of cars in motion gives your shots much more visual appeal and excitement.
Car races, like rallying, offer a great opportunity for these kinds of photos.
If you use a fast shutter speed, say, 1/500 seconds, you can freeze the movement of the car for a truly dynamic look.
It's easiest if you use a tripod for these kinds of shots and fire the shutter using a remote.
Frame the shot such that you can capture the car coming around a corner, remembering to leave room for the car to move into, as seen in the image above.