Monday, October 1, 2007

Four hot tips for taking cool car photos


By Jorge Sosa

So you love classic cars, but there's one small problem: you're not Jay Leno.

You can't afford to just go out and buy every cool set of wheels that catches your fancy. No problem. Just remember to bring your camera to your local car shows and soon you'll have a nice collection of the classics.

Here's how to capture those beauties in the best light.

Tip #1: The three-quarter view

You can't go wrong when you photograph cars from the front or rear three-quarter view. Basically, this means going to one corner of the car and framing your shot so the vehicle fills your frame. This captures a lot of detail, and with a wider-angle lens, really emphasizes those nicely sculpted lights and grilles.

Figure A shows how you can add a unique perspective by crouching down at one of the corners.


Sweet 'n low: crouching down to the ground helps show off this Oldsmobile's sculpted details. (click for larger image)

In Figure B, you'll see how shooting a little bit higher off the ground gives your subject a less "caricatured" perspective.


Position your camera a bit higher off the ground for a less forced perspective. (click for larger image)

Figure C shows the three-quarter view works when you shoot from eye level, also. This is a great way to capture flowing bodywork, tail fins and fenders.


From eye-level, the three-quarter angle helps capture this Buick's flowing fenders. (click for larger image)

Tip #2: It's in the details

One of the great things about classic cars is the way their designers poured so much attention into artistic flourishes.

The stunning cars of yesteryear were not designed by committees and wind tunnels. Let's face it, there's nothing aerodynamic or efficient about a grille designed like a Roman temple. But, as Figure D shows, it still looks pretty wicked on a Rolls-Royce.


Check the reflections. They can add new dimension to your chrome close-ups. (click for larger image)

Of course, when photographing a vast expanse of mirror-like chome, it pays to heed what you're picking up in the reflections. The building fagade's reflection harmonizes with the monumental feel of the Rolls much more nicely than, say, some guy walking by chugging a beer.

Figures E and F show how a slick-looking wheel or just a shiny badge can stand alone as a compelling visual statement


The wheels on this street rod deserve extra attention. Get up nice and close to show them off. (click for larger image) FIGURE F

Gleaming nameplates and badges can be works of art in themselves. (click for larger image)

Tip #3: Tilt! Tilt! Tilt!

This is a somewhat controversial technique. I've met a couple of shutterbugs who prefer to keep their horizon lines nice and level.