Life in the Fast Lane: Better Automatic Photography (Part Two)
By Matty Graham | August 2, 2022
This is a two-part series on automotive photography. You can see the first part, from last week, here.
Don’t forget the details
While overall and three-quarter compositions are excellent, too many photographers fall into the trap of overlooking car detail. Teams of designers have spent hundreds of hours sculpting those curves, badges and grilles and some of those little details are the very thing the make or model may be famous for.
The trick with detailed shots is to use a shallow depth of field to isolate the subject and blur the background to help the details stand out even more. Getting closer is a great approach, but it’s not always possible or desirable – macro lenses can be very useful here thanks to their 1:1 magnification ratio which will show subjects at full size.
Change your focal lengths
While developing a signature style associated with your automotive photography can be a good thing, shooting with the same lens can make your images look a bit stale. The best way to add variation to your automotive portfolio is to change your focal length and varying wide and long angles can add new energy to frames.
Ultra-wide lenses will allow you to show more of the scene while making the most of the foreground interest in the frame, with the wide angle stretching the perspective of areas close to the lens. Meanwhile, a long lens will provide a compressed perspective, which is great for tighter framing.
If you have a bag full of glass, you can use specialized lenses, such as fish-eye optics or tilt-shift lenses to correct for converging verticals if you include tall buildings in the background of your shot.
Polish those pixels
In these days of digital photography, clicking the shutter is of course only half the battle and processing your image is just as important as taking it. The first step on this journey is to shoot in RAW rather than JPEG. While JPEG files take up less space on the memory card, RAW files retain more tonal data, allowing photographers to push those pixels even further, saving highlights in the frame and also revealing shadows if necessary.
This requires RAW conversion software such as Lightroom, and you can speed up this processing work by developing your own presets to achieve the stylized look you desire, such as a super saturated effect or something more matte and flat. .
However, the journey doesn’t end there, because once you’re done with Lightroom, you can open the file in Photoshop to further refine the image and that’s where the frame elements can be precisely cloned. removing any dirt. or scratches on the quarter panels or windshields.
Get better access
One of the biggest challenges in automotive photography is finding the right subjects. Newbie photographers may struggle to get to supercars, but there are things you can do to broaden your exposure to cool vehicles. The first is to contact local auto clubs and show up at a regional meet.
Talk to people, find out the story behind their car, ask why they bought or built it, then offer to take pictures. Another route is to approach local car dealerships; offer to provide images for marketing materials in exchange for access to their most exciting car models.
As your portfolio grows, it will become easier to access racetracks as you can show off a website/portfolio or even attend on behalf of local media.
Two wheels is good too
The reality is that many of the skills, techniques, and kit tricks we’ve already mentioned are easily transferable to firebikes as well as cars. For photographers looking to make money from their automotive images, photographing bikes and cars opens up additional doors and means there are more events to cover and more magazines to sell those images to.
On the contrary, bicycles are more affordable and therefore likely to be more subjects to photograph. But what’s even more important is that the bikes are beautiful machines, dripping with camera-ready design cues. ❂