Post & Photo by Joe Farace – Follow Joe on Twitter

The weather is starting to get warmer and you know what that means? Car shows! The only thing more fun than driving cars is photographing them. Cars make great subjects and often gather together in car shows making possible to photograph lots of them at the same time. To make interesting photographs at a car show, you gotta love cars. A passion for your subject is always a plus and enables you to look beyond the surface of a car to see its essence, its soul.

Tip #1: Before taking pictures try to talk to the owner. You don’t need to be an expert; just be curious and polite. Most owners can talk for hours about their cars because there never was a restoration project that didn’t have some interesting twists and turns.

Tip #2: Do not make photographs with the hoods—or bonnets if they’re British—raised. Many owners like to display the cleanliness or sparkling chrome underneath, but that’s not the best way to photography a vehicle because it breaks up the car’s lines. Since he or she is probably nearby, ask the owner if they would close the hood so you can make a photograph. In exchange, offer to give them a print or send them a file for their facebook page.

Tip #3: It’s a good idea to remove show placards such as the identification cards placed on the dash or under the windshield wiper. Ask the owner before touching any part of his or her car! It’s best to have them do it, so ask politely.

Tip #4: Be sure to make images of parts of cars. Don’t be frustrated by the lack of space and crowded conditions found at shows. Use that to your advantage by finding small details, such as the delicate nature of a Bugatti’s grille or the sensuous lines of a street rod’s fender and capture them in sharp focus.

Tip #5: Get close to the car. Begin by working in close and gradually back off until extraneous non-car details or people start to appear in the frame. Make sure your zoom lens allows close focusing. I once purchased a wide-angle zoom lens only to discover it didn’t focus close enough to do me any good.

Tip #6: Explore unconventional views of the car. Tilt the camera to provide a dynamic image. The crowds at most car shows—although they are some of the most polite people you will find anywhere—make it almost impossible to use a tripod so I seldom bring one.

Tips #7: Dress for success. Dress comfortably and wear the kind of clothing you won’t be afraid to get dirty when trying to get an interesting camera angle. For outdoor shows, be sure to wear a hat to keep the sun off your head and be sure to wear sunscreen (see above photo.)

Tip #8: Take advantage of the best light get to the show early and stay late. As cars began to leave, space opens up allowing you to photograph entire cars as well as some of the environment.

Tip #9: When photographing cars late in the day, ask the owner to turn on the parking lights to add a subtle glow to the side marker, taillights, and turn signals.

Tip #10: Next to your camera and a good wide-angle zoom lens, the most important thing to bring to a car show is lots of memory cards or film. You never know when you’ll get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to photograph a rare or exotic automobile.

Joe is the author of “Creative Digital Monochrome Effects ( published by Lark Books.


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  1. […] was cruising the web and ran across a good post by Joe Farace over on about photographing at car shows. Yes the season is here – the Lead Sleds are out and the […]

  2. […] Whether you’re deciding to sell it, show it, or just show it off a little bit, a car is one of those possessions that tends to make it into photographs.  Although the portrait of oneself standing next to (or worse, on the hood of) their car has become a tired and laughable cliché, there are ways of taking pictures of your ride that don’t cause automatic grins of the wrong kind.  This means that taking pictures of the vehicle is inevitable, and it can be an important part of one’s image.  It’s worth it, then, to take some time getting to learn a thing or two about photographing a car. […]

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