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    Alternative automotive photography: capture the details


    The Alternative Automotive Photography: Capturing the Details post first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Charlie Moss.

    Cars & photography often seem to go hand in hand. Whether you are a car owner with a camera or a photographer with a passion for classics, the perfect car photo often seems just out of reach.

    Automotive photography can be both difficult and expensive. To get catalog-ready images of cars, top commercial photographers often use large specialized studios with large banks of powerful lights and massive devices to block or reflect light. Each recording can take days to set up, even with a team of assistants.

    Realistically, most car enthusiasts do not have this type of space or equipment. Instead, we look for opportunities to photograph cars at race tracks or other gatherings. These events rarely offer "perfect" conditions to create flawless images of cars, so a little creative thinking is usually required!

    The Rallye Monte Carlo Historique stops every year in Banbury, so that enthusiasts can see these classic cars from up close. But the background is far from ideal for beautiful pictures!

    Car encounters can often be crowded with cars that are parked close together, non-inspiring backgrounds, and many people cycling around. Concentration on the details is a way to bypass some of these problems and still get away with photos that you love and that you can feel proud to add to a portfolio. Detail shots often also work well on platforms such as Instagram, where the small format shines close-up images.

    So with that in mind, here are some ideas to take great photos of the cars you see during your travels if you can't photograph them at a location of your choice.

    Get closer … closer than you think!

    By getting close, you eliminate many of the problems that would otherwise sneak into your photo; other cars in the background or people in the corner of your shot. If you concentrate on just a small part of a car, you can remove all those distractions.


    If you do not have to take the background into account, you are also free to concentrate more on composition. You no longer have to worry about whether the background compliments the car or what the air is doing!

    You can also use a shallow depth of field to blur annoying elements in your photos. Use precisely enough depth to emphasize the details that you are photographing. Everything else will melt into the background, so that your viewer looks exactly where you want it.

    Choose a theme

    Over the years, at some point I have the habit of photographing the exterior mirrors on cars. I don't know which one was my first, but I soon noticed that they were all different. Each mirror was only a small part of the car, but they take a big hit when it comes to design! Now I can't walk past a classic car without taking a picture of its mirrors!


    By choosing a theme, it challenges you to look for recordings that are different from everyone else's. You will also notice other details while you train your creativity. Soon you will be looking for creative and different images without really having to think about it.

    Create iconic details

    Choose only one detail to highlight and then try to take the perfect photo of exactly that part. Maybe it's a classic Cadillac fin or an elegant Rolls Royce grid that you keep an eye on. Whatever you like most about a car, or the most iconic and famous, use that as a starting point when you are working out which photos you want to take.


    Cars are more than just machines that take us from A to B. The most iconic are beautiful and remarkable designs that the original designer has perfected for hundreds of hours. Nothing like a good car is an accident; everything is designed to be exactly as you see it.

    The good thing about iconic details is that they are often immediately recognizable. It tells people what the photo is from, even though it is an abstracted close-up.

    Depict the luxury

    Beautiful cars ' s are a luxury; there is no debate. So challenge yourself to convey the luxury through your photos.


    Lifestyle photography with shallow depth of field, blurred foreground and tinted colors are now really in vogue for luxury brands. Now is the time to try this style if you can be up to date with top class machines!

    Make sure that you are sharp on the nail when you try to take photos with a small depth of field. If you miss the focus even slightly, the recording is not worth keeping.

    Stay at a neutral focal length

    Extreme wide-angle photos can look cool, there is no doubt about that. And I know that every car photographer has landed at least once with the wide-angle lens in the front corner of a car to try and make it look more impressive and dramatic.

    But wide-angle focal lengths disrupt cars and change the carefully designed and often iconic lines and functions. Instead of grabbing the easy (and predictable) gain when it comes to creating a dramatic image, try to maintain a neutral focal length and challenge yourself.

    By maintaining a focal length of 50 mm, you photograph images that are much closer to the way the human eye naturally sees the world. With a focal length of approximately 50 mm, you keep the cars ' s much closer to the original vision of the designer when you photograph them.

    This may mean that you have to work harder to find different ways to produce impact with your photos. However, it also means that you represent the cars as they are meant to be seen. It gives an element of authenticity to your images.

    I have never been someone to believe that photography is just about capturing the world around you exactly as it is. But when it comes to car ' s design, I'm pretty sure the original designer knows more about how the car looks best than me. Deforming it with wide angle lenses is rarely high on my priority list!

    Embrace mirrors … and wear black

    In ideal circumstances, you would be able to use black and white maps and lights to block reflections and place them exactly where you want them in a car before taking a photo. Realistically, however, you will rarely get the chance to work with this kind of precision in the great outdoors.

    Always include a 5-in-1 reflector in your set. Sometimes you just have to lift a shadow on a little paint or cut out a reflection in a chrome. But instead of trying to turn off any reflection that you don't like, try embracing them instead!

    Reflections of the sky or foliage around you can create a number of interesting patterns when they reflect in the glass of a car. In the right conditions, with a well-polished car, they can even reflect in the bodywork. Use the reflections to add interest to your recordings. They can direct the viewer's attention to exactly where you want them to look. A well-placed reflection can also make something messy that you don't want to distract.

    In that case, wear black when you go out with your camera to photograph cars! Too often I have ruined my own photos by shooting the perfect image and then noticing my own mirror image while wearing a brightly colored jacket. Wearing black will not completely remove you from the image, but it will distract you a lot less if you manage to capture yourself in a reflective surface.

    The next time you go to a car show to take some photos, think smaller and capture details for alternative car photography! And share them with us in the comments below.

    Do you have any other tips that you want to share?

    alternative automotive photography

    The Alternative Automotive Photography: Capturing the Details post first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Charlie Moss.

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