Eight Tips for Better Car Shots at Cars & Coffee

by | Jul 21, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Now that some Cars & Coffee events are back in parts of Colorado, Here are some answers to questions that came up from people I talked with during the last event that I wanted to share with those who couldn’t make it to the event.

  • Tip #1: To make interesting photographs at a car show, you gotta love cars. A passion for the subject you’re photographing is always a plus and enables you to look beyond the surface of a car to see its essence, its soul.
  • Tip #2: Before making any pictures try to talk to the car’s owner. Most owners can talk for hours about their cars because there never was a project that didn’t have interesting twists and turns.
  • Tip #3: Do not make photographs with the hood of the car raised. Many owners like to display the cleanliness underneath the hood but that’s not always the best way to photography a vehicle because it breaks up the vehicle’s lines. If the owner is nearby, ask them if they would please close the hood so you can make a photograph of the car. In exchange, offer to e-mail them a JPEG.
  • Tip #4: It’s also a good idea to remove show placards such as the identification cards placed on the dash or under the windshield wiper. Again, ask the owner before touching any part of his or her car! It’s always best to have them do it, so ask politely.
  • Tip #5: Be sure to make images of parts of cars. Don’t be frustrated by the lack of space and crowded conditions found at many shows. Use that to your advantage by finding small details and capture them in sharp focus.

How I made this shot: If I see a classic VW Beetle at a car show, I have to photograph it. Especially if it looks as nice as this one. Camera was a Panasonic Lumix S1R and Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens set at 70mm. Here’s a trick I use: I like to use the longest possible focal length at shows and set it there and keep backing up until I can frame the image without a lot of people walking in front of me. That’s what I did here. Program mode exposure was 1/800 sec at f/10 and ISO 320.

  • Tip #6: Get close to the car. Start by working in close and gradually back off until extraneous non-car details or people start appearing in the frame. That’s how I made the above image. Wide-angle lenses or wide angle zooms help you fill up the frame with part or even the entire car while making sure distractions are eliminated.

How I made this shot: I photographed this classic Datsun 240Z with a Panasonic Lumix S1R and Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens set at 24mm with a Program mode exposure pf 1/250 sec at f/10 and ISO 320. It’s a good technique to use at crowded car shows because you can get close to the car, simply the background against a nice blue sky, like I did here.

  • Tip #7: Explore unconventional views of the car. Tilt the camera to provide a dynamic image or shoot a Hail Mary image. The crowds at most car shows—although some of the most polite  you’ill find anywhere—make it almost impossible to use a tripod so I seldom bring one.
  • Tip #8: Dress for success. Dress comfortably and wear the kind of clothing you won’t be afraid to get dirty by kneeling on the ground when trying to get an interesting camera angle.

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