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Automotive Photography Guide

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Tags: Tech, Tech, Street, Race, Street
Try looking for leading lines! Do some research on composition techniques like the rule of thirds or the golden ratio!

You can admit it; you have dozens of pictures of your car. It is okay, we all do. Did you know that Speedway Motors wants to see them? That’s right, we like it when you send us photos of your pride and joy. Check out the following tips and tricks our resident shutterbugs put together for you!

Camera Gear

First, while the cameras in today’s smartphones are becoming more and more capable, a good quality camera such as a DSLR or at least a quality compact will still offer a higher resolution and sharper photos. This will come in handy if you decide to enlarge one to hang on your wall or submit it to us. (We like high-resolution images.) Take lots of photos! You can always delete the ones you don’t like later. Also, try a tripod. No matter how steady you are, a tripod is steadier. Plus, tripods help in low light situations.

Lighting is KEY! This is an advanced professional engine photograph taken using off camera soft box lighting.
Beginners Guide
  1. Keep your car’s shine intact. Watch out for reflections on shiny surfaces (like a great paint job). Do you see yourself, trees, buildings, etc. reflecting off of the car? Reflections take away from the perfect finish paint job look. Working in a wide-open space helps cut down on reflections.
  1. Keep an eye on the background. Look out for anything distracting in the background—bright colors, plastic bags, garbage, or anything you don’t want in your photograph. ALSO–does it look like tree branches poking out of the car? Do you see people or a trash can in the background? Is the horizon straight?
  1. Pull the subject further away from the background. If you are shooting against a wall, for instance, park further away. Separating your car from the background makes the subject (your car) “pop.”
  1. Soft light is great light. The golden hour (1 hour after/before sunrise/sunset) is a great time for photography. Check Overcast days are also good. Harsh sunlight makes it hard to get good shots.
  1. Get your car’s good side. The first position is a front left 1/4 shot, front Left 3/4 shot, Front right 1/4 shot, front right 3/4 shot, front shot, side profile, straight down the back of the car, back right 1/4 shot, back right 3/4 shot.
  1. Change the composition. People are used to seeing things from a standing height. A photo becomes more interesting when it's taken from a different perspective. Images taken from higher up on a ladder or low to the ground look interesting because they’re always different from what we’re used to seeing every day.
  1. Turn rims toward the camera. Because rims/whitewalls/whatever you’ve got on there, look better than the dark rubber of your tire.
  1. Wide-angle lenses (50mm or less) will exaggerate car features. A wide-angle lens is also perfect for photographing the interior of the car. Get close to take detail shots of what is interesting or features that are unique to the car.
Moving Forward
  1. Learn to shoot in Manual mode. Automatic means that the camera decides the settings for you and that may not give you the look you want. A great book to learn about this is “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson
This image was taken using an HDR technique.
  1. Advanced HDR. If you’re comfortable with Manual mode and have a tripod, this is cool.

HDR brings out the details lost in shadows and brighter areas. The only way to do this is to bracket your camera in the settings. This will take multiple exposures that can be blended together in photoshop. The only way to do this is with a tripod and setting the camera on a timer so the camera doesn't shake when you take the shot.

You need 3 shots. Underexposed, “Correct” exposed, and Overexposed. Use a tripod, and set the timer on your camera to a second or two delay. Take all three, and combine them in a program like Photoshop.

An exceptional example of using the panning technique to achieve motion blur.
  1. Driving shots. Pan for motion blur, stand on the side of the track/road and pan with the car as you take the shot. The car should be sharp but the background and wheels should be blurry. This is not an easy shot to get and the speed of car and shutter speed should be kept in mind. Normally slowing down is a good idea but this is an area where overshooting is ok to do.

We love to share our passion with our customers, so if you would like to share your project with us please email your photos to

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