Correct Exposures When Shooting Cars

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

One of the classic rules in photography is that 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, especially when it comes to photographing cars.


Learning to see light is not difficult but takes practice of not only constantly making new images but also taking the time to analyze those photographs after you’ve created them. For example, the wxposure for the black Jaguar (above) was 1/320 at f/8 and ISO 400, which is one and one-third stops less that the camera indicated was“correct.”

I’ve always thought that camera’s designers realized that no amount of automation will produce a “perfect” exposure under all possible lighting situations and what some people might like others might not. You are the final arbiter of what’s really “correct.” To hep you home in on an ideal exposure, your camera’s Exposure Compensation feature lets you increase or decrease the automatic exposure by one-half or one-third tops to get the exposure you like. Using the camera’s LCD screen and histogram function will help you home in on what’s “correct.”


One of the first tips that I give aspiring car photographers is that they should underexpose black cars to render 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.



Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s out-of-print but new copies are available for $21.88 or used copies for giveaway prices—less than four bucks—from Amazon, as I write this.