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Mr Watton

Tips on taking a better photo of your MINI

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When bad photos happen to good vehicles

I dont know much about taking photos, but i always try my best with what ever equipment (or iphone) i have to hand. Heres a few things ive found off another site that you ll may found useful :)

In no way am I a professional photographer so don't flood me with specific questions or bad photos. ;)

Lighting for detail
The perfect time to shoot a vehicle to show off its interior and overall surface qualities is midday on a partly cloudy or slightly overcast or hazy day. This is when the sun is at its highest which logically means the light will have the best angle into the interior. It is also the best kind of light - indirect. Indirect light is diffused (meaning the rays are scattered rather than in a straight line). Diffused light bounces and evens out a subject...

Direct bright sunlight is not good because its too bright and causes hard shadows. Most cameras (especially digital ones) dont handle those hard dark shadows really well. Shooting a vehicle in a shadow area (i.e. next to the house when the sun is on the other side) is also bad for obvious reasons. The shadow is dark!! The general rule in photography is more light the better. Just remember that the type of light (direct versus indirect) also makes a big difference.

Showin` off the finish
The old "photo at sunrise/sunset" shot of a new vehicle. Its the unwritten rule of automobile marketing. Well, who can argue? Even an '86 Escort looks great in it! (No offence to those Escort owners here). This is for good reason. The best time of day to show off the lines of the vehicle and that glass-like paint finish is the first or last 1-1.5 hours of direct sun daylight when the sun is low on the horizon...you get that warm yellowish light and long dark shadows which provide nice contrast for the reflections in the paint.

Remember the vehicle's immediate environment will be reflected in the finish, so a busy, highly detailed environment (like trees, buildings, etc) will end up complicating the reflections. Try to find a background or area around the car in that is low in detail or visual clutter. The ideal place is of course a green field, like a park or something with lots of distance between you and the nearest tree, building etc. The lower objects are the horizon (meaning the farther away you are from things like buildings, trees, etc) the better. If you live in an area with lots of hills you can also achieve this by finding a higher elevation to shoot on.

If you cant find someplace like this, find a plain, bright neutral coloured background like the wall of a brick building. Remember you want your sweet ride to stand out as the subject of the photo, so the simpler the background the better. For vehicles that are colourful keep the background as neutral (meaning not colourful) as possible...For those of you more with more neutral coloured vehicles (Cosmos, Arctic, Alpine) a solid coloured, more vivid hue like red, green, yellow etc will provide a nice contrast. Of course, you can experiment with this to see what you like the best. Just remember that your red car will look different when surrounded by a yellow or green background.

Move it!!!!
Don't just park the vehicle and snap photos as you walk around it. Unless it is a perfectly overcast day (which is not good either) one side of the vehicle will be in shadow! Not good. Find the background you like, pick the best vantage point to shoot from, shoot, re position the vehicle, shoot again...You get the idea.Think about what angles you want to shoot from too and if you are really anal about it, put a shot list together (front, rear, profiles, 3/4 fronts and rears, etc). I know, it takes a little extra effort, but once you see the results you'll be glad you put the extra effort in. Oh, and if you are shooting at sunset, remember to work quickly...the last hour of daylight goes REALLY fast and believe it or not 10 minutes can make a huge difference between a great shot and something that looks too dark.

Avoid using the flash if possible.
We've seen lots of pics on this forum shot with a flash and we all know its about the most unflattering way to show off your sweet ride  Generally, most auto-exposure cameras meter the light of a subject in several areas, then average the light reading to decide if the light level is too low. If it is, the flash will kick in. Remember this, if the background of the picture is MUCH darker than the car than when the camera takes the average light level it will think its too dark and use the flash. This means dont shoot your vehicle against a dark background if you can help it. For those of you shooting black vehicles, well you are gonna have a hard time regardless. The only way to ensure the flash doesn't kick in is either:


Spot metering, fill cards, tripods and other advanced Stuff
For those of you who wanna experiment, most digital and SLR cameras have a little cross-hair in the middle of the viewfinder. While most cameras use average light metering, you may be able to set the camera to look at ONLY the brightness of what is in the centre of that little cross-hair. This is usually called SPOT metering. While pointing the spot at a darker or shadow area of the vehicle, pressing halfway down on the shutter button will perimeter the exposure. Without pressing all the way down or releasing the button, you then move the viewfinder to compose the shot accordingly, then PRESS ALL THE WAY DOWN. This way the camera will adjust the exposure to use that DARKER area as the average light, meaning it will expose longer to let in more light. Make sure you have disabled your flash with this approach. Confused yet?

For close ups of areas that are hard to photograph because they are too dark, or interior areas, you can try using a fill card. A fill card is nothing more than a LARGE WHITE board. Most are made out of cardboard or foam core, a graphic mounting material. Anything reflective like tin foil works too. Position the card just out of the composition and angle it until you see the reflected light hit the subject area that's dark. You can hold it yourself, or bring an assistant to hold it who also loves your car 

And finally, if you really want to be able to play with exposure for light and depth of field, get a tripod. Sometimes, in order to have a long enough exposure to get the shadow areas in your photo, the camera will want to set the shutter speed to something slower than even the steadiest hand can hold without causing image blurring. A tripod lets you manually adjust the shutter speed and/or aperture (also called f stop which is the little iris like thingy inside the lens that lets light in). What is depth of field? Well, simply put its the distance interval the camera lens can see in focus. You can play with that if you want to blur the background out rather than have it be nice and sharp.

Well that's it I guess. Hope this helps those who just want to get some good shots for the auto trader advert, and always take in landscape mode :D


Have more tips you want to share with everyone...let us know...

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Following on from the photography tips, my good friend and my wedding photographer Mac Byrne has a 12 click challenge. Follow the link below, sign up, and get a challenge every week for the next 12 weeks. The challenge starts from Monday 6th Jan 2020.

I’m up for it, even with an iPhone 7+ 😃



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