SCOTT WRIGHT | MELBOURNE PHOTO GUY

The Oyster | Scott Wright

Photography, cars, travel, sport and everything else that keeps me questioning the world

Struggling to get the perfect car photo? 5 tips to improve your car photography

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Ever parked your car somewhere during sunset or somewhere interesting that you thought "I’ll whip out my phone and grab a snap’ to be left disappointed by the outcome? *raises hand with shame*. No fear, today we look at how to improve your car photography instantly with 5 key tips, we'll look at Stephen Lee's British Racing Green NA8C Mazda MX-5 to explain!

Stephen will be the first to admit he is a 'novice photographer' only picking up his Canon 70D mid last year, he is honestly as green as you get (see what I did there?), but the images he is pumping out are brilliant! Simply by sticking to some key photographic rules...

1. Time of Day and Weather

Even if you're shooting on your trusty iPhone, the time of day really plays a pivotal role in how your photos turn out. The best times are just after sunset or just before sunrise, where the light is very soft and warm tones will show through in your images. 

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If you're not the kind of person who loves getting up literally at the crack of dawn or prefers to be drinking and basking in the sunset, there is an alternative. Overcast days.

Days with heavy cloud cover provide a natural diffuser for light, reducing the harshness and strong reflections on your car's bodywork. The saying 'mirror finish' when describing the paintwork of a car rings true in photography as well. Your car is basically a portable mirror and on sunny days, light reflects off the different angles on the sunny side and dark shadows on the shady side. Stephen has managed to tackle sunny days however I'm sure he'd prefer it to be on a overcast day. 

Bright, sunny days cause the car to act like a mirror with harsh highlights and dark shadows!

Bright, sunny days cause the car to act like a mirror with harsh highlights and dark shadows!

2. Composition

Funnily enough, even people not even remotely interested in photography subconsciously judge and critique imagery. They're not doing it on purpose, it's how the brain perceives imagery. Fortunately there are a couple of ways you can please the judgy, brainy bastard by following a few composition steps when photographing cars. This is one tip out of many, many more which I'll discuss at a later date.

Position your car facing into the photo.

Pointing your car into the shot is naturally pleasing to the eye. If you've ever wondered why you've felt a little funny about a shot of a car, it may be because it is facing to the edge of the photo! Below Stephen has experimented with both angles and although both photos are great, he's got low and incorporated the background, the car looks more in proportion and aggressive in the second shot. Let me know your thoughts below!

Stephen's MX-5 pointing out of the shot. Although a great shot, there is still improvement to be had. If the car was angled in, it would really amplify this shot.

Stephen's MX-5 pointing out of the shot. Although a great shot, there is still improvement to be had. If the car was angled in, it would really amplify this shot.

That's better. The car looks in proportion and more 'natural' on this angle. I still think the first image setting is better however the car should face in like this.

That's better. The car looks in proportion and more 'natural' on this angle. I still think the first image setting is better however the car should face in like this.

3. Setting

Want to know one of the easiest ways to make your car look great? Park it in a unique, cool setting. Whether it's next to an abandoned warehouse, on top of a mountain, in front of the coast line or under a bridge, the background makes a huge difference.

We've all seen photos of cars in driveways, car parks and in traffic but none a really memorable purely due to the mundane and potentially distracting setting. Most of you will know some great areas around you or on your commute from work that would make for great car photography.

When you decide to stop by these areas and park your car, have a think about the top 2 tips we've just been through. Is it overcast or close to sunset? If taking the classic half turned wheel shot, point it toward the camera. Make the most of the setting, take wide angled shots of the car and setting to provide context and scale to the viewer. 

Also, when shooting in unique settings, it's best not to have a cluttered background with other cars, people or written signs, so that the image is exclusively about your car in the setting.

Great setting with the coastline in the background, car pointing into the photo but super sunny day making Stephen to work harder for a nice shot.

Great setting with the coastline in the background, car pointing into the photo but super sunny day making Stephen to work harder for a nice shot.

4. Gear

Although utilising the tips above in your car photography will dramatically improve it having the right gear makes it 10 x more special. Technology and cameras in smartphones is amazing these days pushing the camera manufacturers to push their tech even harder, meaning if you don't have much budget a used DSLR can be picked up for a few hundred dollars!

A DSLR or advanced mirrorless/compact camera gives you the flexibility to set the camera in manual and adjust exposure, aperture and ISO to suit your setting. I purchase all of my gear second hand from reputable vendors/sellers to minimise the amount of production and also much cheaper prices.

Also, look to purchase a tripod, it can be cheap as well, the ability to steady your camera allows you to take amazing night shots and utilise lower ISOs and shutter speeds to get the great quality required.

Shooting my MX-5 at a recent meet. Strategically parked away from other cars to reduce background clutter!

Shooting my MX-5 at a recent meet. Strategically parked away from other cars to reduce background clutter!

5. Get creative

The above tips give you a couple rules to shoot by however they're not gospel. Get creative with your shooting, the best shots are the ones left of field and not what was expected. Zoom in and shoot great features of the car, shoot from up high, shoot the interior, shoot the car moving (if possible) or shoot it in the reflection of a puddle or window!

The best thing about digital photography is the chance to experiment with essentially endless storage and the ability to delete. So get out there, find a great spot and shoot your car!

The interior of Stephen's amazing Mazda MX-5. So tastifully modified and with the addition of the quilted leather and gloves it almost looks like an MG!

The interior of Stephen's amazing Mazda MX-5. So tastifully modified and with the addition of the quilted leather and gloves it almost looks like an MG!

If you'd like to know more about Stephen's car and why he got into MX-5s and photographing it check out the interview here.

Also, make sure you jump across to his Instagram page to check out more great shots of his car and follow the build!

Make the world your oyster!