Here’s A Few Car Photography Tips, Tools & Techniques

by | Jul 28, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Next to your camera, the most important thing to bring to the next car show is lots of memory cards and by that I means, fast cards with high capacity.

Whether shooting indoors or outside exposure can be tricky, so you should always be sure to follow one of Farace’s most important Laws for photographing cars: You should slightly overexpose white and light colored cars and slightly underexpose black or dark colored ones. Otherwise they’ll look 18% grey to your camera’s metering system.

How I made this shot… at Cars & Coffee in Parker, Colorado. The camera was a Panasonic Lumix S1R and Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art lens at 14mm. Program mode exposure was 1/1000 sec at f/6.3 and ISO 320. Image file was converted to monochrome with Silver Efex Pro, Platinum tones with PhotoKit and further enhanced with the Glamour Glow filter that’s part of Color Efex Pro.

When shooting in Aperture Priority mode (to maintain consistent depth-of-field), I typically bracket exposures in one-third stops and usually one or more of the three shots is more than usable.

While I shoot most cars in color I sometimes use the camera’s black and white mode to produce images to give them a vintage look. Can’t make up your mind about whether to shoot color or monochrome? Shoot it in RAW+JPEG and you can make that decision later. Of course you can always shoot in color and convert to monochrome later in the digital darkroom, as I often do, especially with portraits but also did with the above photograph of a lad sled.

How I made this shot… at Cars & Coffee in Parker, Colorado. The camera was a Panasonic Lumix S1R and Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art lens at 22mm. Program mode exposure was 1/800 sec at f/7.1 and ISO 320.

Don’t be frustrated by the lack of space and crowded conditions found at some shows. Be sure to shoot images of parts of cars or details. My wife loves doing this at shows. Use that lack of space to your advantage by finding small things, such as details in a Bugatti’s grille or the sensuous lines of a street rod’s fender and capture them in sharp focus.

That’s one of the reasons that I like to use wide-angle zooms for car shows, especially ones that let me get close and fill up the frame with part or even the entire car while eliminating distractions. The Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art lens that I used focuses as close as 11-inches. Tip: When shooting close ups, start by working in close and gradually back off the zoom ring until extraneous details appear in the frame, then crop them out—in camera. A low angle also helps to simplify the background.


Ilight.bookIt’s Exposure Techniques Week on my other blog. If you have time, bounce on over there to see what’s up…

Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photograph that’s now out-of-print but new copies are available from Amazon for $21.88 with used copies starting at seven bucks. For some reason, the Kindle price is really high.