Triumphs and Turmoils: Composition Tips for Beginners


The one thing all of us automotive photographers have in common, besides a love of cars, is a creative spirit and a desire to learn constantly. With this desire comes a yearning for connection and of course being unique! For me, and my images, my goal is to always strive to be different than everyone else; to come up with ideas that no one else has ever thought of. A large portion of my thought process is dedicated to automotive photography, but I'm always coming up with ideas on how I can improve the industry while also making it more welcoming and accessible to those just getting their start.

Recently, I decided to pursue a podcast and YouTube page that will give a behind the scenes look at the racing world, from the racers and their families to the Marshalls and track staff, as well as the media personnel and of course the fans! I want to create a way for Canadian and international race enthusiasts to share their experiences and what the industry does for them. Keep an eye out for this coming soon.

In the spirit of providing accessibility to new photographers, I wanted to offer a bit of a behind-the-scenes look from my perspective, focusing on my compositions. I will share how I go from idea to completed image, step by step. Now I tend to be very spontaneous on account of my ADHD, but I typically have a basic idea of what I'm trying to achieve in my photography, even if it's very loosely formed. Part of my current mission outside of motorsport photography is something I'm calling "WalMart Lots to Beautiful Spots". The basis behind this project is to find a nice car parked at WalMart (or any parking lot really) and subsequently place it amongst a stunning landscape background. Usually these are my own landscapes, but I will also do collaborations with talented scenic photographers. I search specifically for landscape shots to use for compositions. I have to be very careful in my selection as I will only use the background one time for one car and there will only ever be one print. As a business decision, I've decided that I will only ever provide one print per image for all of my photos, in order to keep images original and authentic.


First step in my process is going to a WalMart in search of a cool car to photograph. Once found, I will then shoot approximately 75 images of it from many different but similar angles. The purpose behind this is that every background is different, and rather than messing around in post, I shoot enough photos that I'm covering all possible angles I may use. After shooting this image, I leave a business card on the car and then make my way home and scour my images to find a background that matches perfectly to the car. I consider many different things, including but not limited to colour, composition, style, and geographic location. I will now take this image into Photoshop to clean it up and make sure it's edited to look as close to perfect as can be. I'll play with many things including temperature, exposure, cropping, dust and scratches, colours and more. I then do all the same edits to the car separately, making sure it looks perfect and has the same feel. Once I've made the two images perfect I will use the pen tool and begin selecting around the outer border of the car (I use the pen tool because I feel it's the most accurate for me). Sometimes I leave the parking lot, other times I cut out just the car and maybe its shadow. Then I move the freshly cut out car and place it into the background image. I will free transform the background to make it fit exactly with the angle of the car. I do this step to make the car feel as though it was shot on location. I size the car to make it fit in the appropriate size to the background (this is the most important part as, if done wrong, it will be very obvious). This is the most time consuming part of the whole composition, as you want to make sure it is exact. I will use the clone stamp tool and healing brush to get rid of any imperfections or inconsistencies. Once I feel the image is perfectly adjusted I do one final touch up with some selective dodging and burning. Lastly I fix a watermark in a very low opacity. I will save the image to my desktop and send the print to my print guy, Ted at Brooklin Canvas.


Get out there and try something different today, if you need any help I'm a call or text away at (289)385-3850


Your friend, in happiness

Richard Hornby


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