Let’s Photograph Cars at Cars and Coffee

by | Nov 3, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

It seems to me—anyway—that light has four major qualities: color, quality, quantity and direction. As photographers seeking to master the art of exposure, seeing light is the key to mastering the art of exposure, which really is just as much craft as art.

If there’s any secret to obtaining the best possible exposure it’s learning how to see the light that’s falling on your subject whether it a person or a  car, especially in the range of shadows and highlights within the scene. Italian Renaissance painters called this effect  chiaroscuro and it’s the use of effects representing different contrasts of light to achieve a sense of three-dimensionality within a two dimensional frame.

Learning to see light is not difficult but might take some practice. That practice should take the form of not only constantly making new images but also taking the time to analyze those photographs after you’ve created them. One of the first tips that I like to give to aspiring car photographers is that they should slightly underexpose black cars in order to render their color as black and slightly overexpose white ones, so they look white.


How I made this shot: (below) For some reason there are always a lot of McLarens at this particular Cars & Coffee event in Parker, Colorado. This image was shot with an Olympus E-M10 Mark I with a Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 lens showing a few things including how well the lens renders sunstars even at f/10. Exposure was 1/400 sec at f/10 and ISO 320, which my favorite setting for a sunny Cars & Coffee. This car was not a pure refrigerator while but a warmer white, but not quite the creamy tone that English car manufacturers call Old English White.

When you think about this underexposure and overexpsure concept, it makes perfect sense: By forcing the exposure toward middle gray tones, which is what your in-camera or handheld light meter will try to do, you end up with a white car that looks gray or a black car that looks a different shade of gray too.

Both of the images you see here were made at the monthly Cars & Coffee event that is sponsored in part by Vehicle Vault, 18301 Lincoln Meadows Parkway Parker, Colorado 80134. The next event is November 14, 2020. It starts at 9:00 am and officially ends at 12:00 pm. Hope to see you there.

Light is the primary element of any photograph, but it may also be the most frustrating. Rick Sammon can help you eliminate those frustrations. With over 300 new images, Exploring Photographic Exposure takes you through the basics of exposure and how to apply them in any setting.