Triumphs and Turmoils : How to improve your automotive shots immensely
For those of you who love cars, trucks, and motorcycles, and enjoy taking photos of them too, there can be a lot to pay attention to in the pursuit of that perfect photo! Sometimes it can get overwhelming trying to figure out how to improve your photography when you feel stuck. In an attempt to hopefully help you improve your work, I thought I'd make a quick list of a few of the most important aspects. These things may not be overtly obvious, but can really make or break your images.
The most important thing in automotive photography is shoot time. The time of day you shoot at can have drastically different effects on the final image. For example, the best time of day, in particular on sunny days, would be during the Golden Hour both in the morning and evening, during the first and last hour of sunlight. On an overcast day this is not much of a problem, as the clouds will act as a giant softbox and provide soft light. If you absolutely can't get around shooting in the sunny part of the day, a very worthwhile and almost necessary piece of gear would be a circular polarizing filter (CPL).
This leads to the next most important thing to pay attention to: reflections. Reflections can be a killer to your great photo, but don't fret, it can be controlled with the use of the previously mentioned CPL filter. I got mine, the 77mm platinum MC-CPL filter, from Best Buy for $30. Just imagine getting an awesome car photo but then noticing that in the door all you could see is you holding a camera, or something inappropriate or distracting. Now this may be possible to edit out if you catch it, but it could ruin the image if missed. Unlike in other forms of photography, it is much more important to pay attention in a full 360 degrees to avoid those bad reflections in automotive shots. You will want to find an aesthetic background, but not too distracting or flashy (sometimes boring works best; think brick wall), then also be sure that all of what's behind the camera is pleasing to the eye, as it will be reflected in the body of the car.
Next up is colours. Paying attention to colours of both the background and the car is quite important, because if they're too similar the car will just blend in, and too different, the background may steal the show. As with the background or the reflections, it's a balancing act between being creative and being careful not to distract the eye away from your car as the main focus. Think of a green car in a green, busy background for example - the car will likely be lost and just blend in. In contrast, think of a black car in a green background that's slightly blurred - the car will pop out at you and scream for attention.
Lastly, don't be afraid to have the vehicle interact with its surroundings. As an example, if you're shooting an off-road vehicle on a dirt road, having the vehicle perform a burnout or drifting in the dirt, throwing dirt everywhere adds a thrilling, live action element to your shot. This will add a genuine attraction to the image, showing how much fun can be had in a vehicle off-road, and proving that it can be abused a little without worrying about it breaking.
Don't be afraid to play around with all your settings, the speed of the vehicle, lighting, time of day. Have fun and be safe!
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