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Automotive Photography - The Purpose

In the next few blogs we will be going over everything you need to know about automotive photography. We will be talking about what camera to buy, what the best lenses are, what accessories are beneficial, and many other tips and tricks along the way. First we will start off going over the basics and why you are even taking pictures of the vehicle to begin with. For this one we will talk about purpose.


So you may wonder why I said we will cover the purpose of automotive photography. Seems pretty self explanatory right? Well, there is more to it than just snapping pictures of cars. It's not always about the banger shot you got with the sunset. As a photographer it is your job to tell their story. Tell the cars story.


First thing first is to make sure the car is clean. Windows are a huge problem area. If there are smears on the windows then fixing that in post can be almost impossible. You can remove a bug easy enough, but windows are tricky. The more you do before your shoot the better off you will be. Always check with the owner before you start wiping down their car. I usually make them do it to help prevent anything coming back on me. As with anything though, rules can be broken and should be to find your own style. One of my favorite shoots was of an old 69 Grand Marquis. The paint was faded, had a few minor rust holes, and the windows were filthy! He tried cleaning them, but pretty sure he made things worse. This actually helped tell the story of his car. It was never suppose to be nice, or never suppose to be fancy. Hell, it was never suppose to be on the road. He bought it as a parts car to rob the engine from, but ended up having too much fun driving it. So those dirty windows helped tell the story.


Of course you will take standard shots of all angles. You definitely want to get all the 3/4 angle shots from all four sides. Then the straight on shot of the front, rear, and side. Those are your establishing shots. That gives you the full picture and lets the viewer see the car in its entirety. Gives you context for whats to come. Just like if you are looking for a house, you want to see the outside pictures first so you know what you're looking at. Then you want to see the rooms to understand what this particular home is all about. Same for car photography. Viewers want to see the car so they have an idea of what they are going to be looking at and when we dive into the details is when the cars purpose is told.


Detail shots are where you get to be creative and start telling the story. These are the things that either are important to the car, or the owner's. Talk to the owner and find out what their favorite things are, or what they are most proud of. Find the things that most people dont pay any attention to on a normal basis. The rubber left on the quarter panel from drag racing, or just shenanigans in general. The faded paint from sitting outside its entire life. The big brakes on the front, or the scuff marks on the front bumper from killing cones on the autocross track. So many different details that all combined together show the cars personality. This is where the purpose comes into play. You have to remember you are shooting these cars for the owners and not your instagram. These are the things that keep them looking at their pictures over and over. When I hear that they cant stop looking at their pictures, then I know I did my job.


So next time you go out to shoot a car, whether its a paid client, or your buddy's beater, remember why you're taking pictures of it in the first place. If its only for the Facebook, then by all means just take whatever looks good, but if you want to be a story teller then dive into the details. It's when you create a whole set of photos that makes you feel like you understand the owner and why they love their car, that you feel like you did a job well done.

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Grand Rapids, MN | 8thmilephotography@gmail.com | 931-209-6122

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