One of the most important things to keep in mind when photographing cars is choosing an interesting camera angle. To make your car photos stand out from the rest be sure to explore unconventional views of the car. Low or high angles not only provide a different perspective but minimize background clutter. Many pros use twenty-foot stepladders but even a short, two-step kitchen step stool will get you higher than eye level. Or maybe just climb a hill and use a long zoom.
It’s a good idea to try low angles and tilt the camera to provide a dynamic image. This approach will simplify the composition by eliminating distractions seen at eye level, which is the way many people shoot cars. Some of the best shots can be made when you’re lying on the ground pointing your camera at odd angles up at the car. Tip: Be sure to wear your grungies.
One of the disadvantages of using low camera angles and wide-angle lenses is that sometimes the wheels will not be round because of a combination of distortion at the edges of the lens and the camera angles used. If that’s the kind of thing that bothers you, you will need shoot with a view camera or buy/rent a pricey tilt-shift lens. Wheels that aren’t perfectly round don’t bother me.
The image (at top) of a Ferrari practice pit stop was captured at the last US Grand Prix at Indianapolis using an Olympus E-1 with an exposure of 1/640 sec at f/4.6 and ISO 400. I was a guest in the Ferrari suite which was just above their pit area. The windows sloped outwards, allowing me to hold the camera over my head and shoot down into the pit area and I made several shots of their practice stops. While not everybody has an opportunity to make this kind of image, I could have just sipped their wine and schmoozed but instead I grabbed at the chance to make some very special images.
You can find more tips about photographic cars in Joe’s self-published book “How I Photograph Cars.”