Car Photography Tip: Get Closer

classic car

Tip of the Day: Don’t be frustrated by the lack of space and crowded working conditions that you may find in many car collections, museums or indoor shows. Use that situation to your advantage by finding small details and capture them in sharp focus.

Get close to the car—but no so close that you incur the wrath of the car’s or museum’s owner. At a show, talk to the owner first and ask about his car telling them why you want to photograph it. Tip: Begin by working in close and gradually back off or zoom out until extraneous non-car details or people start appearing in the frame, then crop them out–in camera—which is what I prefer to do.

Wide-angle lenses or wide angle zooms let you fill up the frame with part or even the entire car while making sure distractions are eliminated, but make sure your zoom lens allows close focusing. I once purchased a zoom lens specifically for photographing cars only to discover it didn’t focus close enough to do me any good. An expensive mistake.


Close-up of Hood OrnamentThe photograph of the Jaguar leaper was made at a indoor car show using a Canon EOS 5D with Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 lens. Exposure was 1/2000 sec at f/1.4—wide open to minimize depth-of-field— with the camera set at ISO 1600.

To make interesting photographs at a car show, you need to start with the right attitude. A passion for your subject is always a plus and enables you to look beyond the surface of a car to see its essence, its soul