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Posted by Joseph Clement on 24 March, 2018

Practice, practice and more practice.

That is the best way to get better at car photography.

In fact, that is the best way to get better at anything, in my opinion.

I’ve started out by saying this because similarly to a lot of things in life the road to becoming an excellent car photographer takes hard work and dedication.

That said, if you are prepared to put in the effort, car photography can be an exciting and rewarding hobby.

It may even lead to a career in photography. Who knows?

The great thing about car photography is that you don’t need to own a car yourself. As long as you have a camera, and some comfortable walking shoes, you can get out into the world and begin taking pictures of automobiles.

It should be easy for you to practice your craft, and with time, you are bound to get better.

In the beginning, it’s easy to get bogged down with all the details. For example, the type of camera you should use, the software you should use to edit the photographs, the locations you should visit etc. However, when you’re just starting out, I recommend that you just focus on the basics. All that other stuff will come later.

There are a few simple steps you can follow to get started with car photography.

The first step is to get a camera.

If you cannot afford to buy a camera, try asking a friend or family member if they have one that you can borrow. It’s surprising how many people have cameras lying around that they don’t even use. Failing that, although it’s not ideal, you can resort to using the camera on your phone.

At this stage, it is about you getting out there and taking pictures, not making sure you’re using a high-end digital SLR camera.

Later on down the line, if you start getting more serious about photography, you may decide to invest in a professional camera, but for now, any camera will do.

The next step is to start taking pictures. Lots of pictures.

Start out by going for walks in your local area. You may struggle to find a selection of exotic supercars doing this, but I’m sure you’ll see some nice ‘normal’ cars to photograph.

Take this opportunity to experiment as much as you can. You need to take lots of different pictures from varying angles, heights and distances to figure out what looks good.

After doing this for a while, you should start thinking about the composition of your photographs.

In short, the composition is the position of the visuals in your photograph.

A great composition makes a great photograph. That’s why it’s important to think about the positioning and arrangement of the visual elements in your picture before taking a shot.

Of course, this is a lot easier when you are working on a private shoot because you can position the car yourself and choose the best location/backdrop for your photograph. But it’s still something to consider when you are starting out and don’t have that luxury.

Another thing to think carefully about is the background of your picture. You want it to compliment the subject of your photo, rather than being a distraction. If it doesn’t act as a theme or add character to the overall photograph, then you may want to consider a different background altogether.

In some cases, you will find that a plain background works well as it allows the subject of the photo to take centre stage. That is the reason why abandoned factories and industrial backgrounds are common in automotive photography.

Also, your background shouldn’t be too similar in colour to the car you are taking a picture of. If it is, the subject of the photo will struggle to pop and possibly merge in with the background which, in most cases, is not a good thing.

Another tip is not to hold back on the number of photos you capture. If you take a picture and you don’t like it, delete it. It’s better to have a choice of photos, rather than that one (not so) perfect shot. If you follow this advice, you will be thanking me when you reach the editing stage. Trust me.

The last step is editing your photographs.

Personally, I edit my pictures using the Adobe Photoshop software. However, if Photoshop is not an option for you, there are free photo editing software alternatives – e.g. GIMP – that you can use.

To start out, I recommend that you practice making small adjustments to the brightness and contrast of your picture. The aim is to get the image to look as close to how it looked in real life when you took the shot.

A word of warning. It’s easy to get carried away when playing around with filters and effects. They can dramatically change the look of your picture which in some cases works, but in others doesn’t.

Try not to lose sight of your end goal and remember the vision you had for the picture when you took it. Remember to consider the composition of the photo and crop accordingly.

I will share some of the methods and techniques I use when editing photos in a separate post. But for now, I recommend that you focus on getting good at the basics.

Once you have a few photographs that you are happy with, show them to friends, or relatives, and ask for feedback. Constructive criticism can help to make you a better photographer. For example, if everyone says your pictures are too dark, then you can brighten them up a bit more when editing. Or, try to find a location with better lighting when you next take some pictures. Feedback is invaluable so get as much as you can and act on it.

To summarise, here is a list of actionable steps you need to take to get started with car photography:

  1. Get a camera
  2. Start taking pictures of cars
  3. Take MORE pictures of cars
  4. Practice editing your pictures and get good at the basics
  5. Create final edits of your photographs
  6. Show your final edits to people you trust and ask them for feedback
  7. Act upon the feedback and use it improve the quality of your finished pictures

Follow these simple steps and you should have no trouble getting started with car photography.