how to take good car photos man with camera in car

If you’re proud of your car and want to show it off, there’s no easier way to do so than to snap a great image of it.

However, you probably already know that taking great car pics is harder than it might seem. Excellent photography itself is deceptively complicated, and photographing cars is no different.

Luckily, if you want to know how to take good car photos, you’ve come to the right place.

silver truck with drone LED light painting above

Tips For Taking the Best Car Photos

There are a variety of tips that can upgrade your car photography game, whether you plan to post your pictures to social media, car forums, or another outlet.

These range from simple to complex, and for the best result, you should mix and match these tips until you get an image you love.

Lighting

In all types of photography, lighting is among the most critical aspects of getting a good shot. The most common mistake amateur car photographers make is heading out in the middle of the day when the lighting is harsh, even during the daytime you do not want to completely rely on the sun for light which is why the LumeCube Panel Go is a perfect accessory. Continuous light that is lightweight, portable, and editable can bring your detail shots of a car to the next level. 

Although this varies by exact location, typically the best time to take car pictures is an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. This is known as the golden hour and will bathe your image in soft, flattering, and frankly beautiful light. Combining continuous light and the best angles of the rising or setting sun can help allow for more depth in the car photos, especially of vehicles with special paint.

Try a Bokeh Effect

One of the coolest ways to end up with a shot that emphasizes your car is to use a bokeh technique. Essentially, an image with a bokeh effect has a blurred, soft background image and a sharp, in-focus subject.

An easy way to do this is to set your aperture as wide as possible. Alternatively, you can use manual focus to zero in on your car. If you’re shooting on something like an iPhone, you can experiment with using Portrait Mode, which automatically applies a bokeh effect to your images.

Reflections

Cars are generally coated in highly reflective paint that looks great as you are zipping along a highway. However, the reflectivity of your vehicle is likely to pose a challenge when you’re trying to snap an image of it. You can capture yourself or some unwanted piece of the background in the car’s reflection.

It’s a good idea to have open space behind you when snapping an image. If that’s not possible, try changing your perspective by shooting from a low angle.

Try Driving Shots

One of the best car photography tips is to snap an image of your vehicle while it's driving. Of course, this isn’t the easiest thing to do — you’ll need another car to take the picture from and someone else to drive both your car and the one you’re taking the image from.

Once you have those elements, find a low-traffic roadway, match the speed of the two vehicles, and ensure the photography car is slightly ahead of the subject car. Ensure that you safely strap in before snapping your images.

Take Note of the Color of the Car

While many cars are reflective, you can experiment depending on the exact type of paint and the color of the vehicle. Some auto finishes don’t reflect the sun as much, for example.

You can also experiment with different colors in different lighting conditions and against different backgrounds. Keep the color in mind if you want to know how to take good car photos.

man in wetsuit taking photo of blue van on the beach

Foreground and Background

Along with lighting, one of the other essential conditions to control is your background and foreground. You’ll want a clean background that will enhance your car’s beauty without detracting from it.

It’s a good idea to scout car photoshoot locations before you plan to take images, but spontaneous shoots can be great as well. You can also try placing people or objects in the foreground of your shot in front of your car. Yes, that could mean posing with a car.

What Is Your Vision

It’s easy to feel uninspired when snapping images since cool car photo shoots typically take some pre-planning. The best tip here is to run with whatever vision you might have at the moment.

Think of a fantastic shot idea while driving? Write it down and pursue it later. Even if the idea seems ridiculous or complicated to get at first, you might end up with the most creative picture of your car possible.

Use the Element of Surprise

Speaking of getting creative, car pictures that are impactful and memorable will often have some surprising elements. It could be something in the shot or potentially just the composition of the image.

In other words, do a few Google searches for standard car images. Then, try to think of something that would be the polar opposite of those cookie-cutter shots. Try different angles, backgrounds, and situations.

Avoid Shooting at Eye Level

One of the easiest ways to make your car shots look more interesting is to avoid shooting them at eye level. Instead, either get higher than the car’s level or try to snap an image from below it.

Wear some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty while lying on the ground. Get a ladder or step-stool for higher images and experiment by taking shots at different heights.

Experiment With Not Shooting the Whole Car

Another one of the more exciting car picture ideas is to try not to include your whole vehicle in the shot. It may sound counterintuitive, but you could end up with some great images.

Try just snapping an image of the rear of your vehicle, or perhaps a photo of the front bumper from the angle. You could end up highlighting some great aspects of your car this way.

Photo Editing Apps

When it comes to photo editing apps for car photography, you have various options on the market, from smartphone apps to full-fledged photo editing suites.

You should choose the photo editing app that suits your needs and your budget. Those just starting at car photography may want to try out a free app, like Snapseed on iOS or Pixlr on a web browser.

If you have some money to spend, Photoshop and Lightroom are the gold standards for photo editing. You can get both for your computer for about $10 a month.

How to Take Pics Inside a Car

If you want to take pics of the inside of a car, there are some special considerations to keep in mind. Keep in mind the little details, whether it’s a leather steering wheel cover or a similar after-market modification like these leather Toyota Tacoma seat covers.

Detail shots are vital for capturing interiors. Get close and shoot elements like the steering wheel, entertainment system, seats, and more. For most interior photos, choose a slower shutter speed since the inside of a car is likely to be darker.

Consider raising the ISO, too. Just make sure you keep your camera hand steady since you probably won’t be able to use a tripod.

Best Camera and Lenses for Car Photography

As any photographer will tell you, the best camera is the one that you have with you. Because of that, you may want to try out taking images of your car with your smartphone. If you have a newer model, there’s a good chance that it has a solid — and perhaps surprisingly good — camera built right in.

A DSLR camera is still a standard if you want to pursue car photography more seriously. Some car photographers recommend getting a 24mm to 70mm focal length lens since the sweet spot for automotive photography is generally either 35mm or 50mm.

Car Photography Settings

You should generally use a low ISO setting — perhaps around ISO 100 — and a quick shutter speed for stationary car pictures. Try setting the camera to a wide aperture size, such as f/5 or lower, to get that bokeh effect. You can go with a narrow aperture size (f/8 or higher) for images without bokeh.

Images of specific car details, such as the hood or rims, should be shot with a wide aperture setting. If you’re trying to shoot a moving car, be sure to set the shutter speed to a speedy setting — 1/125 or faster.

Select auto white balance if possible. If you shoot in a RAW format, you can always tweak specific settings like white balance in your image editor.

Car Photo Shoot Ideas

Taking the tips we learned before, we can come up with some quick car photo shoot ideas.

  • Instead of an angled image, try something creative like a straight-on shot.
  • Show off your car interacting with nature. If you have a four-wheel drive, shoot the car when it’s on a hill or rock.
  • Take a portrait image of yourself or another person with part of the car in the background.
  • Try shooting your car against a sunset or background to silhouette it.

Really, the sky's the limit for car picture ideas. Try to be creative, or look online for inspiration.

Car Photoshoot Locations

As mentioned, some of the best places for car photoshoots are locations with beautiful but minimal backgrounds and clear foregrounds.

A few good options include the beach, parking lots in a field, on top of a hill, or in front of a plain brick wall or garage. Of course, the best option is to try out as many locations as possible.

How to Take Night Photos of Cars

A night shot is a cool way to take a picture of your car. It sounds counterintuitive, but you’ll want to aim for a place with little to no lighting.

Set your ISO to 100, the shutter speed to 30 seconds, and the aperture to f/9. Use a tripod. You may also want to consider our LED lighting for photography–we offer a range of options for every budget.

Tips for Shooting Moving Vehicles

As we’ve covered, you should find two other drivers and concentrate on taking the image. Match the speeds of the two cars and set your camera to a continuous shooting mode with a shutter speed of around 1/100.

Car Photographers for Inspiration

Whether you want inspiration or just some incredible images to add to your feed, it’s a good idea to follow some excellent car photographers.

Some of the best car photographers out there include Peter Aylward,  Amy Shore, Rémi Dargegen, Laurent Nivalle, Alex Penfold, and  Luke Gilbertson.

Learning How to Take Cool Car Pictures is Hard, But Worth It

Learning how to take good car photos isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it is certainly worth it. The last tip, of course, is to just go out and do it. You won’t get better if you don’t try at it consistently.

black car with neon lights