How to Photograph Cars
Photographing cars is a lot like driving them, in that almost everyone does it but few do it well. Some fault lies with the gear. Attempting a nighttime picture with a cell-phone camera, for instance, is like drag-racing a Honda Fit—you can do it, but the results won't be pretty. Conversely, walking around a car show with a top-of-the-line Canon EOS 5D Mark III around your neck no more makes you a pro shooter than owning a 2013 SRT Viper qualifies you to race at Sebring. But with some basic techniques, anyone can create artful images using any camera. Over the next few pages, staff photographer Patrick Hoey explains how he achieves some of the most common types of images featured in Automobile Magazine. We've also reached out to a few of our regular contributing photographers, who share some of their own secrets.
Editor's note: You see great car photography from us in each issue of Automobile Magazine. Now we want to see your best shots as part of the Automobile Magazine photo contest. Winners will receive a gift card to B&H Photo and exposure on Automobile's platforms. To submit your entry, visit viewbug.com/contests/automobile-photo-contest. See official rules at the end of this article.
The Rig Shot
The 2013 SRT Viper in this shot looks like it's going fast, no? Actually, the Viper is coasting at 5 mph with the engine off. The slow pace ensures a stable, sharp shot. The sense of speed comes from the long exposure—four seconds. We got this angle by mounting the camera to a rig—an aluminum pole that attaches to the roof of the car with suction cups. Then it's off to the computer, where we use Photoshop to remove the pole.
Using a rig is only one of the ways to capture a car moving. Photographers will also lean out the back of another car moving the same speed as the subject (or subjects, as was the case our recent cover story on the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ). This is commonly called "car-to-car." Again, the key is to maintain a speed slow enough to snap a sharp picture, although the cars will generally be going faster than in a rig shot. The last method—a staple of racing photography—is the panning shot, wherein a stationary photographer will follow a moving car with the camera. Here you'll again want a slower shutter speed so the background appears blurred.
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, $3499; 16-35mm ultra-wide-angle lens, $1699, canon.com
Accessories: Canon RS-80N3 remote trigger, $70, canon.com; custom-built car-mounted camera rig, $600 (est. )
Editing software: Adobe Photoshop CC, $20 per month with full-year commitment, adobe.com
Professional tip: Never call a weather day - a dark cloudy sky offers a fantastic backdrop. -- A.J. Mueller
The Dramatic Details
Sometimes, it's the little things that make a car special—the Spirit of Ecstasy ornament on a Rolls Royce, the shift gate on an Audi R8, or the 2013 SRT Viper's Stryker badge. Take your time framing the shot, and experiment with different angles. Don't be afraid to get up close and personal with your subject (just don't scratch the paint). As with all kinds of photography, pay attention to the light. Harsh sun or an unfortunate shadow will ruin the picture. For the same reason, note what's in the background—that killer shot of your shifter won't look as slick if there's a Big Gulp in the cupholder. A camera lens with adjustments for depth of focus (aperture) will allow you to focus sharply on a single detail while blurring out the background. That said, what really matters here is composition and creativity—our staff photographer shot the Viper details with an Apple iPhone camera.
Professional tip # 2: People. Try and include them in your automobile photographs, both friends and strangers. Have your camera handy and, if possible, sit down and wait a few minutes and the image will come to you -- a gaggle of tourists, a street vendor. Just press the shutter at that precious moment. -- Martyn Goddard
The Romantic Sunset
Photographers call the thirty minutes following sunrise and preceding sunset "the golden hour." That's when the sun paints the sky—and, in this case, our 2013 SRT Viper—with beautiful colors and a warm, soft light. Capturing that light and your car together can be tricky. Show up early to carefully arrange your car and camera. You want the lens facing away from sun, otherwise the car will be visible only as a dark silhouette against the sky. As with the detail shots, you'll want to experiment with different poses and angles. Don't settle for the dull eye-level shot. Cars look more dramatic when you crouch down to their level and catch them at a low angle (the front-three-quarter shot shown above is a magazine staple). Use a tripod or find a steady surface so you can shoot a long exposure. It should go without saying, but make sure you've read through the camera's manual before hand so that you know how to work the various settings when the golden hour strikes.
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 with 12-50mm zoom lens, $1300, getolympus.com
Accessories: Manfrotto 293 carbon-fiber tripod with quick-release ball head, $280, bhphotovideo.com
Editing software: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, $150, adobe.com
Professional tip: Keep the gear to a minimum, as carrying heavy and bulky cameras takes the fun out of travelling. Compact cameras today have the capacity to produce stunning images and have many functions to assist technically. Don't be intimidated by the camera—experiment and use all the custom functions rather than relying on the boring auto mode. —Martyn Goddard
Official Rules for the Automobile Magazine Photography Contest 2013
1. INTRODUCTION: Source Interlink Magazines, LLC (owner and publisher of Automobile Magazine), ("Sponsor") is offering the Photography Contest ("Contest") as described in these official rules. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.
2. ELIGIBILITY: The Contest is open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are at least 18 years of age at the time of entry. Employees of the Sponsor and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliated companies, dealers and agents, and the foregoing employees' household or immediate family members (defined as parent, spouse, child, sibling or grandparent) are NOT eligible to enter the Contest.
3. TIMING: Entry Period begins at 12:01:01 a.m. Pacific Standard Time ("PST") on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 and ends at 11:59:59 p.m. PST on Friday, November 1, 2013.
4. HOW TO ENTER: Limit one entry per person. Entry methods: Find your best original image of or relating to a car. You can upload your photo by going to viewbug.com/contests/automobile-photo-contest. Photo should be no more than 5MB and in one of the following formats: .jpeg, .tiff, .gif, or .png. At the start of your entry, there will be a short questionnaire to fill out the following: your full name, address, telephone number, email, short bio, and a photo caption. More than one (1) entry from any person, or email address, will void all entries from that person or email address. Photograph and all the major elements within it must be an original creation of the author.
5. ENTRY/PHOTO REQUIREMENTS: Entry and associated content must be truthful in all respects, original, unpublished, cannot have been submitted in any other competition, and must not infringe or violate any third-party rights, including but not limited to the rights of copyright, trademark and publicity. Entry may be disqualified by Sponsor in its sole discretion if any entry or associated content: (i) disparages Sponsor or its business partners, (ii) causes or may cause reputational harm to Sponsor or its business partners, (iii) infringes or violates any law or regulation, or any third party rights (including but not limited to the rights of copyright, trademark, privacy and publicity), and (iv) contains nudity, sexually explicit content, violence, hate, gore or other offensive material. Sponsor shall retain discretion as to whether an entry and associated content are appropriate for the Contest.
6. JUDGING: There will be a total of two (2) winners. On November 10, 2013, the eligible final entries received will be judged and two (2) winners will be determined by selected judges chosen by Sponsor ("Judge(s)"). Prize will be awarded based on the following criteria in relation to the Contest theme: persuasiveness of entry. The decisions of the Sponsor and/or Judge(s) on all matters related to the Contest shall be final and binding in all respects.
7. NOTIFICATION: Starting on or about November 20, 2013 the potential winners will be notified (the "Notification") in order of merit by email. Within seven (7) days following the actual send date, of the Notification, the potential winners must correctly complete, execute and return the following documents as directed: An Affidavit, Waiver, Release and Indemnity Agreement, including where lawful a Publicity Release. Please note that additional documents may be required at the discretion of Sponsor. Failure to comply with the requirements of this paragraph (or the return of any prize or prize notification as non-deliverable) may result in disqualification and in the forfeiture of any right to a prize, in which case such prize will be awarded to the entrant with the next highest score in accordance with the herein described judging criteria. If the potential winner cannot be contacted within seven (7) days after the first attempt to contact such potential winner, an alternate entrant will be selected in his or her place from all eligible entries received.
8. PRIZES: Two (2) winners will receive the following prizes: a $300 gift certificate to B&H Photo, plus exposure on Automobile Magazine's media platforms ($315.00 retail value). Total ARV of all prizes $730.00. Contest prizes are nontransferable, must be accepted as awarded and subject to the conditions herein will be awarded. No substitution may be made, except by Sponsor in the event that a prize or part thereof cannot be awarded for any reason; in such event, Sponsor will in its sole discretion award a substitute prize or part thereof of equal or greater value. Each winner is solely responsible for the following in relation to a Contest prize awarded to him/her: a) any and all applicable taxes (including but not limited to the following taxes: federal, state, local taxes and sales tax); and b) any and all applicable fees and expenses that are not specifically set forth herein as included with a Contest prize and are related to the acceptance, award, enjoyment, installation and use of a Contest prize. Visual prize depictions may not accurately represent an awarded prize.
9. ENTRANT VERIFICATION: In the event of a dispute regarding which individual submitted any entry, such entry will be deemed submitted by the natural person whose name is on the applicable official entry form, email or essay page.
10. RELEASE: By participating in the Contest and/or accepting a prize, a participant/winner agrees to defend, release and hold harmless the Sponsor (and where applicable a supplier and/or manufacturer of a service or product included with a Contest prize) and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, divisions, advertising and promotion agencies, and the foregoing companies' officers, directors, shareholders, members, managers, employees, representatives, agents and all others associated with the development and execution of the Contest (collectively the "Releasees") from and against any actions, claims and/or liability for injury, loss or damage of any kind (including any for the violation or infringement of any proprietary or personal right of any individual or entity, and any personal injury, death and/or property damage) resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from participation in the Contest, and/or the use, enjoyment, acceptance, installation or possession of a Contest prize. By participating in the Contest and/or accepting a Contest prize, a participant/winner consents to and gives the Sponsor and its representatives, licensees, assignees, parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, divisions, advertising and promotion agencies (collectively the "Licensees"): a) The right to photograph/video a winner (including an awarded Contest prize and throughout a Contest prize activity); and b) The right in perpetuity to use, reuse, publish and display a participant's/winner's name, address, entry information (plus associated content), statements, quotes, opinions, picture, portrait, likeness, voice, video, photograph(s), biographical information, prize information, and winner-submitted photograph(s)/video/text/blog(s) (in whole or in part, as may be adapted, edited or modified, as solely determined by Licensees) for advertising, trade, commercial, publicity and promotional purposes in any media now known or hereafter discovered, worldwide, and on the World Wide Web, without review, notification or approval, all without limitation or additional consideration, unless prohibited by law. Participants acknowledge that all entries and associated content, including all related intellectual property rights, become the property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned and may be used or edited by Sponsor without additional compensation in any and all media, without the further right of approval of entrant, except where prohibited.
11. CONDITIONS: Participants agree that by participating in the Contest they release the Releasees from any liability in connection with: a) Entries that are ineligible as a result of being lost, late, illegible, damaged, incomplete, altered, stolen, postage due or misdirected; b) Any typographical or other human or technical errors in the offer or administration of the Contest, including but not limited to errors in advertising, these official rules, the selection and announcement of a winner(s), or the distribution/awarding of a Contest prize(s); and c) Any omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay, misdirection, damage, line failure, injury, faulty machinery or other mechanical error, technical malfunctions or traffic congestion on the Internet/telephone network, or at any website, or any combination thereof. Entries made by proxy or electronic means such as script, bot, macro, or any other similar software or program are void. Sponsor reserves the right to modify these rules for clarification purposes without materially affecting the terms and conditions of the Contest. If in the Sponsor or Judge(s) opinion, there is any suspected evidence of tampering with any portion of the Contest, or if technical difficulties compromise the integrity of the Contest, the Sponsor reserves the right to modify, or terminate the Contest in a manner deemed appropriate by the Sponsor, at the Sponsor's discretion. Failure to enforce any term of these official rules shall not constitute a waiver of that provision.
13. LAWS: Subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited or restricted.
14. WINNERS' LIST: A list of prizewinners will be available by sending a stamped self-addressed envelope after July 1, 2014 to Automobile Magazine Photography Contest 2013 - c/o Source Interlink Magazines, LLC, 831 South Douglas Street, El Segundo, CA 90245 Attn: Legal.
16. SPONSOR: Source Interlink Magazines, LLC (owner and publisher of Automobile Magazine), 831 South Douglas Street, El Segundo, CA 90245.