WASH THE CAR
Hands down, this is the single most important thing that you can do. Take the time to clean and dry the car, to clean the windows, and dress the tires. Make sure that there aren’t any water spots.
CHOOSE YOUR SETTING
Try to find a setting that will make your vehicle stand out. For example, a red car in a sea of green grass will jump out at you, whereas a white car against a light colored stone wall will get lost. A dramatic setting will make your vehicle look its best, and will make for a dramatic photo.
When shooting the car, look for things in the frame that distract from the car. Is there a telephone pole growing out of the roof? Is there an object in the background that draws your eye away from the subject? Patrol the area you are shooting for debris, such as trash, leaves, or sticks.
Avoid taking pictures from just eye level. Try shooting up at a low angle, which will exaggerate the proportions a bit, making your car appear more impressive. Another trick is to use a step ladder and shoot down on the car, creating sort of a bird’s eye view.
WIDE ANGLE LENSES
The use of a wide angle lens — or simply zooming your camera’s built in lens to its widest setting — is a great aid to car photography. By using a wide angle and getting in close, you get a different perspective. The area closest to the camera will seem larger than normal, while the area furthest from the camera will seem farther away. By using this technique when shooting automobiles, it can really make the vehicle “pop” out of the frame. A wide angle lens is also particularly useful at concours events and car shows, where there is not a lot of room to maneuver, and you want to get close to the car to eliminate people and other distractions.
If your camera allows the use of filters, buy a polarizer. A polarizer is quite simply one of the most indispensable tools any photographer can have. A polarizer eliminates glare and reflections, increases color saturation, and can improve contrast. Your car, with all its chrome, glass, and shiny paint, is like a magnet for reflections. By using a polarizer, you can control the reflections, either eliminating them completely, or using them to your artistic advantage.
WHEN TO SHOOT
While you can certainly shoot your car at any time, the best light is typically found just after sunrise, or just before sunset. As the sun “travels across the sky” the lighting direction changes relative to your subject. Not only does the lighting direction change throughout the day, but the color changes as well, from cool before sunrise to warm just after sunrise to neutral at midday to warmer near sunset to cooler after sunset. Night shots of cars can also be very dramatic, particularly if you have the vehicle in a setting with interesting lighting (neon lights, gas station, lighted signs, etc.).
TURN LIGHTS ON
Try turning the parking lights on, maybe even the headlights if it’s just before dusk, just to add a little more interest to your photos.
The best pictures are typically a result of experimenting. And since digital photography is practically free, shooting lots of pictures will just make it easier for you to have plenty of images that showcase your vehicle at its best.