I’ve been shooting a lot of cars lately and it’s funny how quickly you can get lazy and make rookie mistakes. This list is full of things I think are important because at one time or another I’ve done them wrong. That’s how you learn. You try and you make mistakes. You reset and refine and eventually get it right.
1. BACKGROUND BACKGROUND BACKGROUND – I think the most important thing for a great car shoot is a great location with a background that is clean and devoid of distractions. And speaking of distractions I have one cardinal rule. NEVER shoot a car on a parking lot with stripes. The stripes almost always become distracting. Look for something that matches the car, but keep it clean and simple. This is NOT the place to get fancy.
2. Shoot a clean car. It goes without saying that in a best-case scenario you will have the car professionally detailed before the shoot. If you can’t arrange or afford a detail then at least get a professional inside and outside wash. This makes life in post a whole bunch easier.
3. Bring a wide-angle lens, a cable release, a SUPER wide angle lens, a tripod, a circular polarizer and a portrait-length lens with a close focusing distance and you’ll have all the gear you need to make great shots outdoors. If you need artificial lights I prefer LED constant lights. I can work with a three-light setup that fits in one case and comes together in 10 minutes.
4. When you shoot the interior, have the steering wheel level and all the gauges lit. Also shut all the air vents and accessory covers to keep lines clean and simple.
5. When you shoot exteriors, position the car so the wheel is about one quarter turned in to the camera and roll the car so the car logo on the tire is right – side up and centered.
6. Shoot with enough depth of field to get the whole car in the field of focus. Then experiment with soft, creamy, wide-open bokeh for detail shots.
7. Shoot HDR, even when you don’t think that you need to. Having the data just in case is better than not having it and no longer having access to the car.
8. If you’re shooting a full-length beauty shot of the car make sure you don’t cut off any part of the vehicle.
9. If you don’t get anything else right at least get the front three-quarter view shot. This is the most important angle for the car. If you miss this one it’s a big deal.
10. Get down low and use that wide angle lens. Shooting up on the car makes it look impressive and powerful. It also gives a new perspective.
11. Don’t over-use specialty lenses like fisheye or tilt-shift lenses. They are good for one shot in a series and that’s it.
12. Try tilting the camera for more dramatic effect. Try tilting all directions for the largest selection.