Taking pictures at car shows Part 1

I have had the idea to write a series of posts about taking pictures at car shows bouncing around in my head for a while, and today seemed like a good idea to start getting them out of my head and out here.

First off, I am not a photographer.  I am a car guy who discovered that he likes taking pictures of cars.  And since I am not big time into photography, this post won’t be full of all sorts of technical jargon, since I don’t know enough about the subject to do more than just repeat what I have read else were.

When I first started taking pictures at car shows, I was shy about it.  That is probably because I am overall an introverted person and not very outgoing.  But as I kept at it, I realized that many people like having pictures taken of their cars.  In fact, I have had people tell me that they were looking on Google for cars like theirs to find ideas, and found pictures I had taken of their car.  They thought it was fun to find their car, and I thought it was fun to have people appreciate the pictures I take.

And some times it is fun to talk to the owner of the car, since there is always some story behind it.  And some times that story will lead you to something you didn’t notice about the car before that may lead to a great picture.

When I first started, I took pictures like this:

/taking pictures at car shows

What is wrong with this picture?

What we have here is a Grand Prix trying to eat a Smart Car, with a canopy and some people coming out of the back, while it tries to hide in the shadow of a Fiero.

OK, so not really, but it is really not a very good picture and definitely doesn’t do the car justice.  The main mistakes I made where not paying attention to what besides the car is in the picture, and I took it from a boring standing up angle.

The biggest two tips I can give are to pay attention to what is in the picture besides the car, and get creative with the angles you take the picture at.

I don’t know about the car shows you go to, but the ones I have been at make it difficult to get the whole car in the picture, and not get other cars in as well.  Now that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to be conscious of when you take the picture.

There are times where I take a picture with something in the background that I don’t want just to see how the rest of the picture will turn out. Like this:

Taking pictures at car shows

My what a nice garbage can you have.

My, that is a nice garbage can you have there.  Yes, I knew it was there, but I wanted to see how the picture would turn out, and it is a shame the can was there.  Sure, I could have moved it, but there would still be the light pole right behind that sprouting out of the fender, so I didn’t bother.

But if you get creative with the angles you take a picture at, you can get some interesting shots even though the background around the car is all cluttered with people, other cars or what ever.  Something like this:

Taking pictures at car shows

This is one of my favorite picture, and I took it by holding the camera up over my head and using the flip out LCD screen to make sure I was getting the picture I wanted.  This got the awesome curves of the Charger in the picture, showed the smooth black paint, and draws your attention away from the fact that the hood is open on the car.

That is another thing.  Sure, it is nice to show off the engine on a car, and it is nice to see under the hood, but it really makes it difficult to get a picture that shows the flowing lines of the car.

That is the other part of why I have started getting more creative on how I take the pictures. But some times, the owner will be around, and will either offer to shut the hood, or you can ask them.

And don’t forget about the light.  A lot of car shows happen on weekends during the middle of the day, often in the middle of a parking lot.  It is great for seeing lots of shining paint and sparkling chrome, but it makes taking pictures difficult.  Between the shadows, both from the car you are taking a picture of and the ones next to it, and the light bouncing off the cars, it can be difficult to get a good shot.

Of course, if possible you can go to the show earlier in the day when the light isn’t as harsh, plus you usually have fewer people to deal with.  Or if you ignore all that, you end up with a picture like this:

Taking pictures at car shows

I have seen the light, and it isn’t helping

Ignore the boring angle and the tree growing out of the back, and you can see why light can be your enemy instead of your friend.  Yes, it is a cool car, but it isn’t a cool picture.  The light is behind the car, so half of what I am trying to take a picture of is in the shadows and it just looks dark.

I knew this topic would probably span multiple posts, but I didn’t realize just how long this post already was.  Since I have listed the first things I learned about car photography, I will break and pick this topic up again.  And yes, all the pictures I posted today were taken by me, so I have learned many of these things the hard way.

And that is the best way to learn.  Just go out and take pictures.  I am sure just about all of you, if not all of you out there have a digital camera, even if it is just the one in your cell phone.  And you can take some pretty good pictures with a cell phone.  And even if your cell phone, or what ever digital camera you have, doesn’t take unbelievably awesome pictures, the framing of the picture, the background and the lighting are all still there.  And with digital, there is no film cost, so just go nuts and have fun.  And see what works, what doesn’t, and when you get an awesome picture figure out why it worked so you can replicate it in the future.


Taking pictures at car shows Part 1 — 2 Comments

  1. Yes, getting the “flowing lines” is important. Garbage cans are not crowd pleasers.I always try to have a square line on at least one side of the picture, to “frame” the picture, and to “level things out.”

    • I have tried having things at more of an angle, since when I see pictures others have taken like that, it looks good, but some some reason I am not able to make it work out. Gives me a goal though.

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