Automotive photography – which also includes motorcycles and other vehicles – is a unique genre with unique challenges. Cars, by their nature, are very reflective. You’re not actually shooting the car, you’re shooting everything around it – the location, the specular highlights from the light source…everything. It will all show up on that beautiful sheet metal. There are two popular ways to control those variables. Which divides automotive photographers into two camps.
Some shooters prefer to create composites. They’ll take many different exposures with many different lighting setups.
Often times the car and the location are not shot together at the same time and place. After all the pieces have been collected, the image is assembled in post. And there’s nothing wrong with that approach if that’s what you’re looking for. But it’s not my approach.
I like to think of myself as a naturalist. I don’t believe the story should be about how we’re going to “fix it in post.”
It should be the story the automotive photographer is telling through the lens. So I go out and find the right location at the perfect time of day. I simplify the elements. I build the set and the lighting all in one place. Because the more I can accomplish in camera, the more real and authentic the final image will feel.
Automotive Photography requires me to
Be a lighting master.
As I stated earlier, cars reflect everything. But the car industry doesn’t usually like to see reflections in their sheet metal. They like to see sheet metal. It takes nothing short of the perfect lighting setup to accomplish that in camera.
Be a planner.
There are few other photography disciplines where outside elements come into play. So it’s up to the automotive photographer to manage them and still end up with a beautiful image that doesn’t have to be manipulated and assembled in post.
It’s called magic hour. And it lives up to its name. It’s the time of day when cars tend to look their best. So when it hits, automotive photographers have to be ready with their game faces on. Because once that light goes away, it’s not coming back.