How to take better photos of your car

Want to show off your pride and joy? Here’s how.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 'Gullwing'
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 'Gullwing'

Thanks to smartphones, everyone has a camera in their pocket. We all take photos constantly, whether that’s interesting scenery, pets or family moments.

And with cars typically being our biggest purchase after a house, many of us will take photos of our pride and joy to share on social media.

So if you’re looking to show your car off in the best light, here are some tips that will help you get the best look, whether you’re using your phone or a ‘proper’ camera.

Shoot the car at an angle

Mazda 2 Hybrid

This is the most basic way to make a car photo look good. You want to shoot what is known as a ‘front three-quarter’ or a ‘rear three-quarter’. The idea is that you can show the front or rear end along with some of the profile, therefore seeing as much of the car as possible.

You should also turn the steering wheel so the closest front wheel is angled towards the camera, showing off the alloy wheel design. You can also experiment with the angle you shoot at, so you show more or less of the side of the car.

Think about the scenery

Bentley Continental GT

It has been said that a good photo of a car would still be a good photo, even without the car. Essentially, you should find an interesting backdrop, such as pretty countryside or a cool urban setting, and place the car within it.

You should also make sure you separate the car from the background so that the viewer’s eye isn’t distracted. For example, don’t park directly against a building or a hedge, leave a little distance.

Buy a polariser

Mercedes-AMG EQE

This trick is essential if you want to take professional photos of cars. It applies mainly to proper cameras but it is possible to find them for mobile phone lenses too.

All of that glass and metal means cars are big mirrors that reflect everything around them. A polariser can change the angle of the light coming into the lens, which helps to eliminate reflections. It means you get richer paint colours and dark, clearer windows.

Lighting is key

Bentley Continental GT

As with all photography, lighting is important – but it’s perhaps even more important to consider when shooting cars.

Being so reflective, shooting at midday when it’s sunny will mean you get sun spots on the bodywork, ruining your shot. To avoid this, shoot just after sunrise or just before sunset when the light is softer.

Once you get better, you can start to use the light to get creative. For example, bright light can create harsh shadows, emphasising details within a car. Or you can underexpose your shot to create a moody scene.

Get a tripod and experiment with night photography

(Darren Cassey/PA)

This is another tip that’s easier with a proper camera, but you can play around with phone cameras if they have a ‘pro’ mode that lets you manually adjust settings.

We’ll assume you don’t have an external flash here, so your best bet is to head into the city – or anywhere that has a lot of artificial light. Then, park your car within the scene, place your camera on the tripod, and play around with your settings.

Keep your ISO at the minimum so there’s no graininess, and then set your aperture quite high to keep everything sharp. Then adjust your shutter speed and find a setting that looks good. If you can set a short timer, for example two seconds, this will help avoid losing any sharpness from the camera/phone shaking as you press the shutter.

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