Opinion Piece: Shooting Stuff (Street Commodores Editorial Columns)

17 Aug

This is the twelfth in a regular series of editorial pieces we’ll be posting here on the blog, originally written by Hosking Industries’ Ben Hosking for Street Commodores magazine and other magazines he’s completed opinion pieces for. This column appeared in issue 178 of Street Commodores:

Shooting Stuff (Written October 25, 2010)

Adding a new feature to my professional cap, one car at a time and some tips for you guys playing at home.

So I started shooting feature cars recently. I’d been providing many of our regular shooters with detailed information and feedback on shooting cars for print for years beforehand; however I’d never gotten behind the lens myself to complete a full photoshoot for the magazine.

Sure, I’d shot more technical features and car shows, cruises and events than I care to remember and I’d been taking photos for my own artistic entertainment since I moved to Sydney in 1999. However, actually getting behind the lens to shoot cars myself proved a pretty big step for me emotionally. I was actually pretty nervous before completing my first shoot.

As a result, I found myself reading back over my old shooting guides that I’d written for other Street Commodores photographers and seeking out as much new information on photographing cars as I could find. It got me to thinking about the number of times I’d provided similar information to readers who’d written in asking about shooting cars more professionally.

While we could fill a few issues of the magazine with information on shooting vehicles for print and profit, I thought I’d just provide you with some simple things to remember and consider before pointing your camera in the direction of your Commodore. They should help anyone grab a better image of their car without needing a huge amount of gear you won’t already have in your house.

 

Equipment:

Yes, most professional shooters carry a lot of gear with them and usually own the latest and greatest in digital SLR camera technology and the highest quality lenses. While it’s easy to spend more than $10,000 on camera, lens and flash gear, you don’t necessarily need to spend anything if you already own a camera. Instead, simply follow these simple steps and your car shots will immediately improve.

If you own a DSLR, make sure you learn how to use all its settings and learn how to shoot on manual. Your images will quickly improve as you come to understand the relationship of all the settings and how they affect a photo.

 

Lighting:

The direction of light hitting your subject (your car) is critical to the quality of the shot you take. Unless you have some strong flashes in your camera bag, always shoot your car on the sunny side. If you shoot on the shadow side of the vehicle on a sunny day, you’ll often be looking at little more than a black blob.

As a general rule, you’re better off shooting dark-coloured cars when the light is softer; like very early in the morning or at dusk. This is because a camera is unable to expose both a dark object and a bright background properly in the one image. You may need the support of a tripod when shooting in low-light situations.

Bright colours look better when the sun is stronger and you’ll also be able to get a more properly exposed image. Again, just watch the direction of the light – not only on your subject, but also on things in the background like buildings or other cars.

Once you’ve got the hang of using the available light to your advantage, you can try experimenting with ways to fill dark spots in your image with light by using things like reflectors. A reflector simply bounces the available light onto your subject and can consist of little more than a silver windscreen sun visor or white sheet.

 

Location:

Where you shoot your car can have a huge impact on the final image. You can get pretty picky about this if you want the location to reflect the style of car you’re shooting; however in simpler terms, you primarily want a location that doesn’t distract from the car too much. This is particularly true in terms of things poking into or seemingly out of the car like light poles, garbage bins and other ugly visual distractions. Sometimes a location can also provide ugly reflections down the side of your car.

If you’re shooting a dark car in bright daylight, you can often overcome the differences in exposure by placing the car in the soft open shade found on the shady side of a large building or under a large awning.

 

Angles:

There are a few choice angles that magazines always seem to aim for. Main opening shots in magazines are usually the ‘front three quarter’ which usually display an equal amount of the front and one side of the car. How much elevation you have in your shot is up to you, but I’d recommend you try different heights and different zoom lengths so you can see the differences both make to your final shot.

Rear shots are often the same as outlined above, but with the car rotated 180˚. Another shot we like to see is the ‘side profile’ which is normally taken with a long lens directly from the side for a natural perspective. Finally, the other two main static shots we’ll normally use are full-front and full-rear shots taken in much the same manner as the side profile; showing only the front or the back from headlight/tail light elevation.

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