As part of my retrospective look at the photographic themes I have shot as a process I am doing to try to figure out in my head what I like shooting these days I last week posted part one of this pair of posts about cars;  here.

Part Two is about stationary cars or cars on display;

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Having been an owner of a few classic cars in my time I have spent many a Sunday afternoon walking about fields looking at shiny cars. I was never big on the whole polishing and detailing thing (I’d rather drive) but I do appreciate that a polished car makes a nice photograph. I will focus here on mostly  classic cars but these thoughts apply equally to modern cars.


Equipment-wise there are no real requirements though a wider angle lens is often appropriate. Things won’t be moving much so you can make the most of what you have.

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Different shot options.

The environment of the event will dictate what you can and can’t achieve here but here are some thoughts on different angles and shots to think about.

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The whole car

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I have a preference to get my car shots without people in my frame, I want to isolate the car from anything around. It is fair to assume that there will be a lot of people about many of whom will also want to get there photograph so patience is needed and sometimes it just might not be possible.

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Find your angle and start framing, at this point let people wander in and out as they need to get what they want from the car and try not to bring attention to yourself. I find that when people see you have your camera to your eye they try to freeze and/or try to get out of your shot, which when you are not ready can put pressure on you to take a shot or frustrate them when you take a long time. Also they don’t know what is in your frame so they may be standing there thinking they are letting you get your shot when they are just where you don’t want them. I try to keep an eye out and encourage those who are hesitant to just go on and look etc.

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My preferred angle for the cars I shoot is low and to one side so that the front and all of one side is in frame. I might even go right down onto the floor to give the car a dramatic overpowering feel.

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A quick note about bonnets (or hoods in the US); they can be annoying. Most classic car owners have a thing about showing off the clean and sometimes shiny inside of their engine bar and have the bonnet up to expose it. That’s great if you want to see the engine (and shoot it), which personally I’m not that interested in, but it ruins the overall lines of the car and thus makes for a less attractive photo (in my opinion). As such cars with bonnets up don’t get wide shots and if I am interested I will focus on other areas…

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Like the interior


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Sometimes a pretty car has a pretty or interesting interior and it can be nice to capture this. Light is important here as inside a car will often be a mix of bright light and deep shadow.

Identify what is cool about the interior (the chrome, the wheel and controls, the colour…) and get the best angle. Often this will be through the open drivers door window but not always.

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The back

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The rear of classic and interesting cars are often overlooked so it is a good idea to check them out. Many classics particularly in America had very bold and crazy tail details so well worth seeing whets there (especially if the bonnet is up).

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For some classic car’s specific details are iconic and can make great shots. This is where depth of field can help in pulling that detail out and isolating it from the rest of the car.

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Try not going straight on and get sideways angle for a nice drop off in focus with the rest of the car; showing that is is part of a car rather than a detached emblem or something.

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Other angles and ideas

I try to look around for the angles and shots that most might not; particularly when there are a lot of people around a vehicle. Try walking around to another side where no one is standing and see what you see. Sleek curves in great bokeh make for interesting abstracts.


Check out the chrome; highly polished chrome is effectively a mirror, see what the reflections are like (maybe an opportunity for a distorted self portrait?). Shooting the reflection of one car in the hubcap of another can sometimes work well (especially if it is an iconic shape).


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The bigger picture

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If this is an organised event there are likely a lot of vehicles all lined up so don’t forget about the wider shots. A group of similar cars in a straight line can make great images as can general view of the event. The people can be interesting too and often people can be in costume. A few candid (or ‘street’ style) photos might work well.

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Cars are often about the colour (sorry sticking with my proper English spelling here my American friends) and a large polished coloured surface can make for interesting coloured reflections.

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But also don’t forget about the black and white. Black and white shots of old cars often work particularly well, especially if you can avoid modern intrusions into the frame; some colours work better than others when rendered in monochrome.


Okay so those are my thoughts on shooting cars.  Apologies if some of those images have been posted before, I tried to find images that I have not shared previously but sometimes the right shot to illustrate the point is needed.