The OFFICIAL Automotive Photography TIPS & TECHNIQUES | Resource Guide
Originally posted by Shinobi and I added several more tips:
1. Light Management Part I: First thing you should know is that there are optimal light conditions you should strive for when taking a photo (outside of a studio that is). The best light is early in the morning or late in the evening. Its generally referred to as "magic light". Colors are better, contrast is not as intense and shadows are softer as opposed to the light at high noon. Here is an excellent example of this:
Good Light: Warm colors, with smooth soft shadows
Bad Light: Light way too intense and colors are washed out
2. Light Management Part II: Another ideal condition to take photos is an overcast day, where the light is naturally soft, is not coming from any one direction and there is little to no shadow.
Good Light: This is my car BTW. Very little editing required, because the light was very good to begin with.
3. Light Management Part III: As much as possible...have the light BEHIND you. You want the colors of your car to come out so you need the light on the car, not against it. If you take a photo with the light in front of you, you'll have to use a flash. Otherwise, you'll get shadows instead.
Good Angle: Here the blue color seems normal
Bad Angle 1: At a different angle, the same color is now lighter and washed out
Bad Angle 2: The blue is muted because you're taking a picture of the car's shadow instead
Do not just park the car and walk around it to take photos. At some point, you will be facing the light and taking a picture of the car's shadow.
WORK WITH THE LIGHT, NOT AGAINST IT.
Another example, a picture of my old E39 M5:
4. Depth of Field. There are two main factors that enable you to control the depth of field in a photograph - the focal length of a lens and the aperture (measured in f-stops/f-numbers). The longer the focal length and the wider the aperture (lower f-numbers), the less depth of field (shallow DOF) you'll end up with. Wide aperture makes the background to blur and drawing the attention to the subject.
Here's an example:
5. Shutter Speed. Use slower shutter speed if you want to capture movement or if you're shooting in a low light environment.
I use a 1/5 second shutter speed for this picture:
6. Composition. A photo with the perfect lighting can look like crap with bad composition. Photography is art, so alot of it is imaginative and subjective, but some key things to remember are:
- Balance. If you have an element on one side, try to duplicate that or complement it on the other side. Here is a good example of that. The car is a little off centered, but you get the idea. The lighting here is excellent:
- Background. Make the effort to find a nice background for your photo.
Its very difficult to manage a background after the fact (unless you're a PS wizard), so its better to find a good location.
Avoid taking photos in common areas like your garage or driveway. Go out and look.
Keep it tidy. Do your best to avoid distracting elements in a shot. If you can't help it, they can be photoshopped out later.
For example, I photoshopped the light pole above the car and the one on the left and ended up with a cleaner picture:
Also, an ideal background should have some colors that contrast the color of the car.
The green grass in this pic is a perfect contrast to a black car.
Here's another example of my M3:
- Rule of Thirds. By far the most widely used approach to composition is where the frame is divided into nine equally sized boxes using two vertical and two horizontal lines. The strongest four points in the frame are where the intersections of the lines occur, and any subject placed at these points will always have a strong visual appeal.
Here are some examples:
- Angles. As far as what angles of the car are good to take, you should browse through various car pics you can find. If you find an angle that appeals to you, then try to copy it. You can also use various lens types to achieve different effects.
7. Post-Processing. It's easy to take a photo and then manipulate it with Photoshop. Image editing with Photoshop is a whole other thing. Here are just couple basic tips:
- Use Photoshop to edit out distracting elements. That would include things in the background like trash cans, light poles, etc. Also, if you are taking pics on a parking lot, you can remove the parking lines. Edit out things on your car too, like paint chips and scuffs.
- Crop for perfect composition (reframe). To crop more subtly (when shooting), use your zoom lens to move in a little closer to the subject, removing distracting matter from peripheral areas of the photo.
- Use a noise-reduction program (third-party filter) like NoiseNinja to get much smoother surfaces or after shooting with high ISO (ISO 800 or more).
- Use Smart Sharpen filter for better result sharpening the subject. This should be the last step on image post-processing.
- Adjust Contrast or Levels for deeper dark colors and Saturation to bring out bright ones.
- And the most important: DO NOT put too much contrast on a picture.
Remember to AVOID blown-out highlights (whites) and loss of details (blacks).
For example, there's too much contrast in this picture, you can not see the details on the tires at all and also blown highlights - only whites appear on the sky:
Loss of details in blacks:
Whereas, you can clearly see the details of the tires in this pic without losing contrast:
Please feel free to add more tips & techniques with examples.
I will probably add couple more later that I didn't cover like moving shot and low light photography.
Mods, maybe this thread can be put as a "sticky" on the top?
Great info...thanks for adding to this.
Great info. Sticky please!
wow this was really useful :)....
awesome thread, thanks a lot
any tips on using the histogram?
haha, do you think you can point me in the right direction with my camera (sony dsc-h1) too have photos that are similar to those?
One more that's been mentioned a few times: STEP BACK AND ZOOM IN when taking a picture. It creates depth of field and also finds a more balanced angle of the car. (sometimes an unbalanced angle is what I'm looking for, but most of the time it's not...)
Examples of stepping back and zooming in:
Examples of staying up close fully zoomed out:
As you can probably see, in the last two the car looks a bit more awkward and stuff, while in the first two the angles are all-inclusive and seem a bit more visually appealing (to me anyway)... :)
Good info because I'm in the market for a Digital SLR.
Wow, that's some damned good advice :thumbsup:...oh, wait :eeps: :) .
Hey, ///ACS-3...can you edit your "Rule of Thirds" pics so they have the gridlines on them? I think that would help. Thanks for getting this stickied here and for including your tips and awesome examples :bow: .
this is an awesome thread! :)
great writeup :excited: My photography skills are rather lacking.
Very nice writeup. Thanks
WOW! great thread, its amazing how these small simple things we neglect can make a big difference. Theres a friend of mine who is an amateur and really wants to improve his photography skills. ill tell him to read through this thread.
one more question, to get those really good quality photos, does one have to get an SLR Camera (like for adjusting arpeture and shutter speed) or can all that be done with a simple canon/sony digital camera?
i cant tell the difference between the before and after shot on #6 backround
is it just me????
Picture is too dark (underexposed):
Picture is not too dark and not too bright (correctly exposed) - "good" histogram:
Picture is too bright (overexposed):
Here are the pics with the gridlines for "Rule of Thirds" :)
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