7 Steps For Professional-Looking Car Photos With Just A Smartphone (Editing Tips Included!)

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Disclaimer: For safety precautions, please do not attempt this on public roads where traffic is busy.

With the advent of smartphones, the ability to take high-definition photos is now available anytime and anywhere with just one click! It is almost impossible not to whip out our phones and snap a picture of something that catches our eye, especially when it comes to gorgeous cars. 

Whether it’s your own vehicle that you want to show off, or a fancy car at an auto show, these tips can help you take your photographs to the next level.

STEP ONE: CHOOSE AN AESTHETICALLY PLEASING LOCATION

Pick a location that compliments your car. The surroundings should not overwhelm, and you should let the environment lead you to the best shot. Make sure the background suits the car and the theme you are trying to convey. Avoid unsightly things in the background that will distract the eye. Power lines, other cars, bright trash bins can all pull away from your subject. Instead, using opposite monotone backdrops will bring out the character of the car in any shot. 

STEP TWO: FIND THE BEST LIGHTING FOR YOUR CAR

The “golden hour” is the period of daytime shortly after sunrise or before sunset, during which sunlight is redder and softer. For many photographers, this is the best time to experiment with warmer tones for stunning, dreamy-like pictures. Conversely, direct sunlight gives chrome vehicles a sharp distinct appearance. You can play around with direct lighting using a portable light attachment, which creates a more dramatic flair with some well-positioned side light.

The colour of your car will determine which time of the day is best, and what lighting to use. Matte finish cars tend to do better in direct, harsh lighting situations due to the lack of reflections. Traditional finishes will respond better in softer, even lighting. For practice, you can observe the cars you see and how different colours appear in different stages throughout the day.

STEP THREE: SET UP YOUR PHONE

Taking high-definition photos is a big drain on any battery, so always make sure you have a power bank (or two) on standby. Check your phone settings to see that you are shooting on the highest resolution. Should you want to sneak in some high-quality selfies, why not invest in a tripod-stand/selfie-stick

STEP FOUR: PREP YOUR CAR

Just like any other subject of a photoshoot, it would be great if your car was preened and ready to go. Whether you go through a drive-through car wash, or a DIY deep clean, your car should be instagram-worthy shining. Do remember to keep any personal belongings that might be distracting in the boot. 

STEP FIVE: FOLLOW THE RULE OF THIRDS IN PHOTOGRAPHY COMPOSITION

Composition involves seeing how picture is arranged to come together. Taking into consideration elements such as patterns, texture, lines, curves, contrast, color, depth, background and shapes.

As with taking portraits, it looks unprofessional when you only take ¾ of the car. Try walking further away from your car to capture the whole scene for context. In this case, more is better than less. You can always crop a photo during editing. Control your depth of field by trying out methods like de-focusing the background- a technique called bokeh, where it highlights the car.

STEP SIX: SHOOT AT A WIDE ANGLE

Angles are very important. Therefore, take the time to play around with different angles to understand which angles gives the car an imposing and dramatic look, while creating a softer touch with just a slight change. A powerful 4×4 wheel drive will look great when shot from low down, as it emphasizes on the wheels and ride height; while a shot from the front left gives a wider, sweeping view of the car. 

Sunsets, scenic overlooks, unique neon lights can all look amazing if taken as reflections against a car. However, unless it is your artistic intention, make sure you do not obscure the design contours and lines of the car since that is usually what people want to show off the most. A different perspective can give you a photo with more interest.

Pro Angle #1: Shoot from a low angle, almost looking up at the car, to give the car an imposing and dramatic look.

Pro Angle #2: Shooting towards the front corner of the car. Known as the three-quarter view, not only will this angle feature a wide surface of the car in a single frame, the front grille, hood and side panel of the car will also be visible. This angle also has the added benefit of hiding your reflection.

Pro Angle #3: Avoid shooting side-on to the car as it turns the car’s large side panel into a big mirror that is most likely to reflect you.

STEP SEVEN: EDIT YOUR PHOTOS USING MOBILE APPS

Lightroom, Snapseed and VSCO are the most commonly used photo-editing apps for both Android and iOs. With these apps, you can easily enhance certain features that you were not able to create during the shoot. 

Lightroom has interactive tutorials where users are given access to step-by-step lessons curated by fellow photographers as to how they can create visually striking changes to their images. Whereas Snapseed allows users to remove certain objects from the background with their “Healing” tool, while VSCO offers an extensive range of preset filters to choose from.

However, keep in mind that the car remains as the primary focus. Avoid using filters that obscure the shape, or changes the colour of the car. A vignette tool will help focus attention on the car by creating a slightly dark cast around the borders of the photo.

While it’s possible to go on a solo shoot photos by yourself, having a second driver opens up a huge amount of possibilities for more dynamic shots. So, grab a family member or friend along and plan a car photo taking trip as your next activity!

If you have any other tips to share with us, leave them in the comments section below.

Image Source: Shutterstock | This article was edited by En Li Tan and Jane Lee.

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