Try Photographing Part of Cars

When photographing a car show or in a museum, I think it’s a good idea to make some close-up images of parts of cars. Don’t be frustrated by the lack of space and crowded working conditions found at shows. Use that to your advantage by finding small details, such as the delicate nature of a Bugatti’s grille or the sensuous lines of a street rod’s fender and capture them in sharp focus.

Wide-angle lenses or wide angle zooms let you fill up the frame with part or even the entire car while eliminating background distractions but make sure your zoom lens allows close focusing. Wide-angle zooms let you get close during crowded car shows but during racing events you’ll need longer zoom lenses to bring the cars closer without getting too near to a Porsche traveling at more than 100mph.

The large crowds at most car shows often make it impossible to use a tripod so I seldom use one but be sure to ask one of the show’s officials before schlepping any kind of support to a show. Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction lenses or other kinds of in-body anti-shake technology are an alternative and let you hand hold slower-than-normal shutter speeds while maintaining small enough apertures.

Tip: Always get permission to use a tripod when shooting in a museum or a private collection.  Some museums don’t permit their use without some kind of permit but monopods provide a steady platform for your camera in low light conditions, including museums or end-of-day outdoors shots and you may be able to get by using a tabletop tripod for on-the-ground low angle shots. Although I occasionally bring a tripod most of the time it stays in my car’s trunk.

The above photographs were made at the J&R Vintage Auto Museum in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. During my visit to J&R, I brought along my Canon EOS 50D and my do-everything lens, Tamron’s 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC lens, that’s designed for cameras with APS-C sized sensors. The lens has VC (Vibration Compensation) that lets you use shutter speeds much slower than otherwise possible, under challenging lighting conditions like museums. This lens will also focus down to 19.3-inchesthroughout the zoom range.

light.bookBarry Staver and Joe are co-authors of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s currently out-of-print but while new copies are available at collector (high) prices you can purchase used copies at giveaway prices—less than five bucks—from Amazon.