5 Tips For Taking Better Car Photographs - David Glessner Photography
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Huracan Performante. Photograph courtesy of David Glessner.

5 Tips For Taking Better Car Photographs

 If you’re ready to take your car-capturing ability to another level, start with these professional tips for automotive photography from David Glessner Photography.


Time of Day 

Even though it’s become a bit of a cliche thanks to the advent of social media hashtags, the “golden hour” is still an important concept for all photographers to keep in mind. 

The name of this time-sensitive strategy is a bit misleading, however, as there are, in fact, two hours per day that photographers may consider gilded.

The rule of golden-hour shooting refers to both the hour in the early evening before the sun fully sets, as well as the early-morning period prior to the sun’s complete rise into the sky. Whether you’re shooting a luxury sports car or a refurbished vintage pickup truck, your vehicle will look best when shot outdoors during one of these two golden hours. 

Pro tip: if you can adjust the ISO on your camera, keep it as low as possible when shooting. This will reduce the coarseness and graininess of the final photos.

Stop & Reflect

Take a moment to reflect — that is, take a minute in advance of your first shot to assess your surroundings and note any reflections or reflective surfaces. Any seasoned automotive photographer knows that reflections and mirrors are a fantastic way to highlight the shapes and curves of the car being shot. 

If the background or surroundings of your shoot have especially interesting patterns or textures, get up close and use the reflective areas of the car, such as chrome hub caps or ultra-shiny steel bumpers. If you can, avoid the obvious reflection shots — for instance, don’t immediately gravitate towards the car mirrors themselves. Been there, done that.  

Consider Color

Remember when you took art classes in grade school and studied those strange color-wheel diagrams? Turns out they’re actually useful for doing artistic things in adulthood, and car photography is certainly no exception. 

Keep color theory in mind throughout the duration of the entire car-capturing process. Beforehand, consider when and where you’ll be set up for the shoot, as the natural lighting (or lack thereof) as well as the surrounding environment should both be suited to the results you’re aiming for. Not all of your automotive photography experiences will go off without a hitch, but the more you know in advance, the better prepared you can be.

It probably goes without saying that the color of the car itself is pretty critical to the overall interplay of hues and tones in your scene. You may or may not know this detail before you get to your photography site — that’s kind of the nature of some commercial photography gigs. However, just as is true of the environment and the time of day, the sooner you know about visual features of the car such as its colors, the better your shoot will go. 

For further reference — and a quick crash course in what you likely haven’t studied since age 10 — check out this infographic on color theory for automotive photographers.  

Blur the Background

If you’ve ever seen an amazing photo that manages to capture the subject in fine focus while aesthetically blurring the surrounding details of the background, it’s extremely likely that the out-of-focus effect was produced using the Bokeh technique.

You can try it for yourself the next time you capture a car — or any subject, for that matter — by making proper adjustments to your camera settings and by following these best practices:

  • Move the camera closer to the car
  • Increase distance between the car and its background
  • Widen aperture as much as possible (f/2.8 or wider is ideal)
  • Lower ISO
  • Use a high (“fast”) shutter speed and/or a “prime” lens

Pronounced BOH-kə, this style of photography comes from the Japanese root word boke, which roughly translates to English as “blur” or “haze.” It’s been a favorite of technical and detail-oriented photographers for decades, but only recently in the last 25 years has it come back into the picture, so to speak. 

The advent of high-shutter speeds of modern camera and photography equipment have allowed the Bokeh technique to reach an all-time high of popularity, especially among automotive photographers with an affinity for fine-tuning their aesthetic elements. 

Get An Inside Look

If you have permission from the car’s owner — or if you’re lucky enough to call the vehicle your own — don’t be afraid to get up close and personal with the auto interior. Shoot from the driver’s seat to get a commanding perspective of the dashboard, including any noteworthy tech features, whether it’s an LCD screen monitor or a high-precision assortment of gauges to monitor vehicle specs. 

If you aim the lens from the inside of the car during your next automotive photo shoot, be sure to capture more than just the interior. For example, you can get pretty remarkable results by shooting a landscape scene through the auto-body “frame” of the windshield. The structural body of the car, which holds the windshield in place, can create sleek borders, so whatever you’re capturing through the glass gets adorned with edges of crisp chrome. 

Need Professional Car Photography in Denver? Work With David Glessner

If you’re in need of photography or visual marketing for a car dealership or a related commercial enterprise, contact David Glessner to learn more about his professional services in Denver. For special events and high-priority shoots, David also loves to collaborate with individuals and businesses for out-of-state photography sessions.

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