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How to photograph your car and make it look flawless

2017-03-30 06:00

Photography is much like a science of its own and much more so when the subject of the experiment is your vehicle. Taking snapshots of your car can go from being a boring pastime to a sale with just the click of a shutter, making your picture-taking an important tool in your arsenal. We have some basic tips to help guide you along your way to photographic success while making your vehicle look like the top of its class.

Use a proper camera

Unfortunately, your smartphone just isn’t going to cut it for this exercise. What you want is a good camera – a DSLR would be optimal but a mirrorless camera will also do – which will give you the greatest pictures through a wide range of conditions.

                                             Taken with a smartphone

                                                  Taken with a DSLR camera


Shoot at the right time of day

This is one of the most common, and the most simple, mistakes that people make when photographing their vehicles. The best time to shoot would be a few minutes before sunset or just after sunrise, providing the perfect soft light to compliment your car’s paint job and lines.

Follow the rule of thirds

While some photographers believe the Rule of Thirds was designed for beginners, it is a composition rule that can make or break a great shot, so use it wisely. Picture your photograph being divided into nine equal parts, with two vertical and two horizontal lines functioning to show you where your subject should be placed. The most important element of your photograph (in this case your car) should be placed at the intersections where the lines meet, creating the perfect balance for your photo.



Location, location, location

Location is everything when shooting cars and should be one of your top considerations when deciding where to photograph your vehicle. Your location of choice should be free from any background distractions or clutter and should enhance the fact that the car is the most important item in the frame. Your location should either complement or contrast your vehicle, grabbing attention and placing it firmly on the vehicle itself.


Fill the frame

This should be obvious but, unfortunately, many people do get it wrong. Always remember to fill the frame with the vehicle, choosing the right focal length at which your car will look its utmost best.

Focal length matters

Just like people, cars have photographic personalities and how you photograph them will determine whether this is shown off or hidden. Wide angles exaggerate a car’s features, making it look tough and brutish. Wide focal lengths work better for bigger vehicles, showing off their size and power. Normal to longer focal lengths give a flatter, more elegant look to vehicles, showing off prominent features. Narrow angles tend to work better with smaller cars.

Polarize it

Most cars are shiny and the glare on windows will hide the interior away most of the time. While this may be counteracted by choosing an indoor location to photograph your vehicle in, it may also be combatted through the use of a polarizing filter to help avoid unwanted reflections in your pictures. While such filters do not come cheap, they may be useful should you wish to take your love for cars further than just your own.

                                                         Unpolarized image


                                             Image with glare reduced

Get away from eye level

While some people might consider themselves to be the optimum height, normal eye-level photographs tend to miss key features of a car, leading to dull and often boring pictures. Kneel down or stand on something to make yourself stand shorter or taller, giving your photographs an interesting vantage point.


Kneeling down in front of the car will give it an aggressive appearance, while setting the camera on the ground will make the vehicle appear larger. Get close and specific to show off certain features of the vehicle, while holding the camera above your head will capture your car from multiple angles.

Seize the night

To step your photography up a level, try shooting at night. You’ll need a steady tripod and long shutter speed but the result will show off your car in the best light. The use of a flash can also enhance your vehicle’s features, brightening shadowy areas while bringing out details such as lines and bodywork. This may seem like a daunting task, but with a bit of practice the results will be magnificent. 

Try new things

Remember that digital photos are free, and as such you should shoot as much as you want and experiment in order to find out what works best for you. Do your research, find what is pleasing to your eye, and make it better. Make your own rules and be the ruler of your photographic world!

Now that you’ve mastered automotive photography, why not head over to AutoTrader to get more photo ideas while taking advantage of one of their deals in the process? AutoTrader South Africa has been the leading media market space for the past 24 years for buying and selling vehicles. Whether you are looking to buy a brand new car or are on the market for a pre-loved model, AutoTrader has over 65 000 cars to choose from and is sure to suit your tastes and needs. Find your perfect car on AutoTrader.

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