Better Exposures When Photographing Cars

Jaguar XK-E

Exposure for the black E-type Jaguar (above) was 1/320 at f/11 and ISO 200, which is one and one-third stops less that the indicated “correct” exposure. ©201 Joe Farace

Light has four major qualities: color, quality, quantity, and direction. As photographers seeking to master the art of exposure, seeing that light is the key mastering the art of exposure

If there’s any secret to getting proper exposure, it’s learning how to see the light falling on your subject, especially the range of shadows and highlights that occur within the scene. This chiaroscuro, as the Italian Renaissance painters called it, is the use of effects representing contrasts of light to achieve a sense of three-dimensionality within a two dimensional frame. Learning to see light is not difficult but does take some practice. That practice should take the form of not only constantly making new images but also taking the time to analyze those photographs after you’ve created them.

One of the first tips that I give aspiring car photographers is that they should underexpose black cars to ender them as black and overexpose white ones, so they look white. When you think about this concept, it makes perfect sense: By forcing the exposure to middle gray tones, you’ll end up with a white car that looks gray or a black car that looks gray too.