advice on shooting cars outside please

mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
edited April 2013 in Nikon DSLR cameras
hi all

im doing a car show this weekend, anyone got any tips ?

the cars wont be racing, just sitting around

i doubt a flash is needed ? or am i wrong ?
Post edited by Msmoto on


  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    I do not use flash as it will tend to give you less than professional results. The light is usually adequate.

    But, as the cars are genially lighted by spots and mixed light sources, a lot of post processing may be required.

    Here is a link to the North American International Auto Show shot in January. Exif data is available with each photo. Oh, a lot of the cars are shot with the camera on a monopod held above eye level so as to give a nicer perspective IMO. I used a 24mm for many of the shots, 10.5 for a few and I think 85mm for others.
    Msmoto, mod
  • JohnJohn Posts: 134Member
    edited April 2013
    A flash is not needed for static cars. If you shoot fairly wide angle then the areas closest to your flash will receivc a lot more light then the areas at the other end of the car. Bouncing via the ceiling isn't always an option. So, I would bring my flash just in case but I would not expect to use it.
    I would opt for a tripod if that's possible.
    In terms of lenses the standard 24-70 zoom should be quite useful for most regular compositions.
    For more extreme closeups and impressive perspective shots you can use the 12-24.

    One final thing that you might want to bring is a polarizer. Most car show have a lot of spot lighting and sometimes you need to cut a lot of those reflections in order to have good, saturated colors and detail.
    Post edited by John on
  • mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
    oh yes, i have a polariser, and will be using it

    i think most of the cars will be outdoors maybe

    they are having a formula one car too, so hopefully i will get some nice pictures of that
  • Benji2505Benji2505 Posts: 522Member
    try unusual angles/POV. UltraWide angles give you the option to bring out a detail and the car as a whole.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    The image of cars is often the reflections of the surrounding light,I.e., sky in outdoor shots. So look carefully at the reflection that is being photographed.
    Msmoto, mod
  • scoobysmakscoobysmak Posts: 215Member
    My tips would be to have the sun at your back unless you use a flash. Depending on how wide of an angle lens you use will depend on how much flash will help the entire vehicle or just a part of it, the wider the lens the more coverage of your flash. It still will have more of an effect to the closest parts of the vehicle. The polarizer will help depending on the finish, the glossier the paint the more it will help. For light colored cars or high gloss paint jobs usually I have to add +1 or more to the exposure, darker colors the opposite. The sun outside can dictate a lot of this. I usually try not to take pictures during broad day light unless I won't get another chance. The sunlight hitting a vehicle straight down produces weird shadows at times unless you pull out a flash. The other thing is to not just point the camera down to get the car, kneel down to get a better angle and more sky as your back ground. This is my personal taste so that might vary depending on your situation. I try and pick up trash or crop it out of my shot. There is nothing more distracting to have a great car with a dingy or odd colored garbage can to ruin it all.

    Sent from my phone so excuse the typos.
  • scoobysmakscoobysmak Posts: 215Member
    Since I can't edit my above post, I usually try to avoid using a flash but if I have to I also have some sort of light diffuser to help get more of the vehicle.
  • BesoBeso Posts: 464Member
    @mikep - I have done a lot of cars and the biggest issue for me always seems to be reflections. In a controlled studio environment the reflection issues can be managed but at car shows that is difficult. Vary your angle and DOF to see what works best with your gear and the image you are trying to produce. Lighting does not seem to be an issue indoors (car shows) or out provided you have a reasonably fast lens. Make sure you adjust your white balance for the type of light. A flash will likely cause more problems in terms of glare/reflection off of chrome, windows, or just the vehicle body. Outdoors an overcast sky can work like a giant softbox and is preferable to clear sun but we don't get to control the weather.

    Good luck and enjoy the show.
    Occasionally a decent image ...
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    Concerning the angle etc. the others have already made good points.

    One point can't be stressed enough, since even pros often times don't explicitly mention this: To make a glossy surface look glossy, it is ALL about what it reflects, in other words, you have to have very hard-contrast reflections with sharp edges, which you will get if you have dark objects with sharp edges in a bright environment. If the reflection is soft, the surface will look dull, so it's of no use. If the brain doesn't get fed a sharp reflection, it will not be able to judge whether the surface is glossy or not. A flash and all that won't make any of the surfaces appear glossy – at least none of the flashes that we're talking about here.

    At studio shootings of cars, huge softboxes are used that will result in those white gloss lines on the car's surface, so what you essentially see as a reflection on the car is the dark studio in contrast with the bright white "softbox", if you still wanna call it that. A somewhat ok impression of this can be found on the Chimera website, check out the division of the orange surface of the car into a bright and a darker part that the lightbank produces with its reflection:

    Now, in real-life, or rather: open-air shots, you can get this gloss thing going on if you consciously look for those reflections. If it's only the bright sky: not very useful. If the sky has some contrast going on, clouds etc.: good. If there's a bridge that the car's parked near to or under: good! It will (from the right angle of course) produce a dark, sharp-edged line on the surface that emulates what they try to get in the studio.

    Also, people walking by, the road surface, other cars next to the car you're taking the picture of, all those things can be of help for getting contrasty, sharp reflections.

    Hope that helps a little, at least for this one aspect.
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    Oh sorry, just now notices Beso's comment. But anyway, as I said, it can't be stressed enough :-)
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,648Member
    Watch the sky and shoot fast when you have what in the old film days we called "hazy bright." This is when there is a thin cloud layer between you and the sun. If you have no clouds you are out of luck. Sometimes there will be a "haze" early in the morning. Sometimes you can get catch the sun just entering the edge of a cloud. Basically, these times of "hazy bright" produce a more diffused light so your highlights do not wash out and your shadows are not so black so they still contain some information. Think of "hazy bright" as when the sky becomes a giant lightbox for you.

    If you like and want warmer colors you can try seting your white balance to cloudy.
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,286Member
    For me, when I shoot cars I feel like one needs to get down low. My photos don't look right if I take it from a standing position, I need to crouch down. I also don't like my photos when I use the wide end, 18mm, on DX.

    I end up going to 24mm. A circular polarizer may be useful, but I've never used one.
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • RenardRichie13RenardRichie13 Posts: 51Member
    @NSXTypeR: Not discrediting you on this i'm just merely adding asking. 18mm on a DX is effectively 27mm on FX. 24mm DX is 36mm FX. Both are somewhat wide. the wider you go the more distorted a thing is. I would have thought 24mm fx on a car would work just fine given the fact that it is a car so the distortion fix on lightroom would have fixed it just fine. So my question is am i correct to assume that between 27mm and 36mm you like it going at the 36mm range because you're farther away from the car thus reducing the potential self reflection on the car?
  • blandbland Posts: 812Member
    I agree with most everything posted, mikep.

    Get there early before the crowd, backdrop is important and having a few people in the background adds to the shot, try to always stay at 24mm FX and get creative at the angle you shoot from, always auto iso and 1/125 works great, shutter mode is good because DOF isn't a factor shooting that close to the car.

    There's nothing more boring to see then just a picture of a car. Get creative to add spice to the shot and also do single shots of the wheels, mirrors, logos, dash, seats and etc. Looking forward to seeing your shots.

    ......and don't forget the F1 girls!
  • VipmediastarVipmediastar Posts: 55Member
    I love car photography. I have shot with DX camera with 10-20 for extreme perspectives and 35mm and 50mm for normal view.

    This year I haven't don't a car show outside with the FX. I did do an indoor show and street photos.
    Get creative. Don't use flash. Try HDR but don't do goofy editing.

    I have a couple street photos on my blog if you want to check them out its my username plus .com at the end. I also have a car gallery that you can view.

    Use the sun to your advantage for shadows or even the sunset for better photos.
  • autofocusautofocus Posts: 625Member
    edited May 2013
    Hope for an overcast day if you must shoot mid day. Wide angle shots from ground level provide some interesting photos but will distort the car. If you are shooting from a low angle and the car has a low roofline it will almost disappear. DOF is a big player when shooting a crowded parking area. Losing some focus on the outer edges may be acceptable so you throw the background out of focus. Most have already commented on flash. Beware, it will leave a signature and is hard to control outside. Commercial auto photography is a whole different ballgame. If you are shooting for fun then just look at every angle and watch your histogram. You won't find the histogram to be perfect very often so plan on some post processing work later. Some also mentioned shooting manual. If you have the time I would also suggest bracketing your exposure at times. Look for details that promote the car. What is it that makes a Ferrari a Ferrari. Don't rule out a telephoto lens. I use a 70-200 quite often to capture the small details and compress the DOF. It's much safer than bending over someones million dollar car. Wood grain on dashes, shifter emblem, dash plaques, steering wheels, and such all have character. I will shoot a car from high to low, from front and back, even from ground level with lens angled up and then search for those little details. Sometimes even the little decals on windows say something. In the end every photo you take won't resonate with every person but you will have captured enough so that everyone can find the things they like. YOU CAN'T TAKE TOO MANY PHOTOS AT A CAR SHOW! If you shoot conservatively I guarantee you will regret it when you get home. You'll look at the photos and say, "Wow! why didn't I get a detail shot of that ____________."

    Edited to add, Make sure that anything hanging from your body is removed or well controlled when walking around the cars. Car owners take notice of photographers and watch like a hawk to protect their investments. Never touch the car before asking the owner. Most owners are happy to open doors or hoods/bonnets to provide access. If the owner is present ask them about the car and they will probably point out details you may miss. Also be prepared for the many requests for copies of the photos. Often I'm asked if I can provide the owner with print/s.

    Post edited by autofocus on
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,286Member
    No, nothing wrong with asking. I take photos for my own enjoyment but I don't like editing. So Light room may very well correct for any distortion. However, I wouldn't know because I don't use it.

    Personally, I don't like photos of cars taken with intermediately wide lenses. If you have space issues and don't have the room that's one thing, but unless you really go all out with a fisheye I always think the cars end up looking weird. Yes, if possible I prefer a "normal" lens with cars. And with self reflections, I have no idea how to avoid it. I guess you could avoid it with longer focal lengths, but unless you can control the surroundings, it's hard to implement.
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    Car photos generally require a lot of post in "air brush" years ago...
    Msmoto, mod
  • mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
    lots to think about, thanks for your replies
  • blandbland Posts: 812Member
    edited May 2013
    Car photos generally require a lot of post in "air brush" years ago...
    I use Topaz to edit cars most of the time. One rule I have followed is too much is bad, just a little is good.

    I start with a basic edit like this:
    Basic Car Edit

    Then I mildly put the juice to it. Remove the noise some and then saturate where I want it:

    Sometimes I get radical with it but normally I just make it pop enough to get a clean effect. I think the best part with effect editing is one can create a car just like one enjoys seeing it and there's 100's of ways to it, and they're all fun and easy to do.

    ......and a radical. ( all of this and I like the first basic edit the best LOL )
    Post edited by bland on
  • mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
    yeah, im really not sure what angle is gonna work best. gonna have t experiment, i guess like people, cars have their best side to be shot from
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    Here is a lot of desaturation in the background and as the vehicle was lighted by spots, a ton of smoothing out the colors on the car.

    NAIAS 2013

    And, desaturation of the background:

    Rolex Grand Am Sports Cars

    I prefer to have my cars really pop. At the auto show venues, almost everyone is down low. I like to see the vehicle from a high perspective as it is not so often done. Also, in most cases the closest headlight will be close inline to the midline of the vehicle near the windscreen.
    Msmoto, mod
  • mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
    mm that yellow one looks good

    what do you use to smooth the colors? drop the clarity?
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    I use Lightroom with the "brush" altering saturation, tonal range, contrast, and in some cases the clarity. If one looks carefully, the variations can be seen. But, for my purposes (non-commercial) I am satisfied. In the days before computers, the car photos used in advertising were done in many cases via a dye transfer print, then air brushed heavily to control the reflections.
    In this shot, the wheels were lightened and contrast increased. The car wheels are much like the eyes on a face. If they pop, the car looks better. The overall reflection is the dark sky with the silhouette created by the sky reflection.

    Porsche 996
    Msmoto, mod
  • VipmediastarVipmediastar Posts: 55Member
    Msmoto awesome sunset photo .

    Here are two if my sunset ones. Take note I usually don't edit much on photos and only a handful I process or do hdr
    these two were my first try at HDR

    Moonlight cruise

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