For Car Photography: When Space is Tight, Get in Close

by | Jan 13, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

SEMA and the Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO) along with the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) have announced that the next Collector Car Appreciation Day will be celebrated on July 10, 2020. This is now an annual event that is designed to raise awareness of the role that automotive restoration and collection plays in American society.

One of my favorite places to appreciate the classic cars are car museums. Here are  some tips for shooting classic cars in tight spaces like museums and indoor car shows: Don’t be frustrated by the lack of space and crowded working conditions that you will encounter. Instead turn that situation to your advantage by finding small details in the automobiles and try to capture them in sharp focus.

Get as close as possible to the car but no so close that you incur the wrath of the museum staff. At indoor car shows, you can try to talk to the owner and ask about their car telling them why you want to photograph it. Then begin by working in close and gradually backing off (or zooming 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.

Exposure tip: Don’t forget that you should underexpose black cars and overexpose white cars. Otherwise they all end up looking like grey cars.

To make interesting photographs of cars, 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



Along with photographer Barry Staver, I’m co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s available from Amazon for $21.88 prices with used copies starting at less than two, as I write this.