How to Photograph Cars like a Pro


Photographing cars can often be more challenging than you anticipate. The lighting could cause reflections, the car may not be clean, or the location you thought would work doesn't end up matching the brief theme. Whether you are on location shooting a lifestyle campaign with models, or required to get a specific shot list of the car itself- you want to be prepared. In this article, we're sharing our top tips on how to shoot awesome car content!

At Shutterstock Custom, contributors work with automotive clients on a variety of assignments, from hero shots of the car itself to lifestyle campaigns involving the car with models. Knowing the basics of how to shoot awesome car content is a great place to start before your next assignment.

The car photography go-to kit

In reality, the only two pieces of gear you need is your camera and a car. However, we suggest using a relatively wide-angle lens (such as a 24mm) to help capture the entire car and its environment. If you’re shooting the interior components of a car, using a macro lens such as a 100mm is a great way to get the details you need.

Our go-to lens for car photography? A 24-70mm zoom lens such as this one from Canon. This lens is a Shutterstock Custom favorite, as it gives you the optional wide angle and zoom capabilities to capture every detail. Stuck between using prime or zoom lenses? Check out this article to learn the benefits of both types of lenses.


Use a tripod

A tripod is a fantastic tool for car photography, as it will help secure your camera so that you can take long exposures- great for hero shots. Shooting at a higher aperture such as f/8 or f/11 will allow you to capture all the details of the car, and keep your entire frame sharp and in-focus. 

Shoot at the right time of day

Most car shoots take place outdoors, so make sure you're shooting at the right time of the day. Overcast days are great for car photography, as it keeps the light relatively flat, minimizing reflections caused by harsh sunlight. Another tip? Shoot at golden hour! Golden hour happens before and during sunrise in the morning, and just before sunset in the evening. Read this piece for tips on how you can shoot great content at golden hour.


Keep it clean

Picking up a test car from a client to shoot? Make sure it’s clean! If the dealership hasn’t kept it clean, take it for a quick car wash. This will save you a ton of potential post-production work, and keep your clients happy. No one wants to promote a dirty car. We suggest carrying an extra rag and a car spray to wipe off any marks when you get to your location. 

Capture all the angles

Many Shutterstock Custom assignments require very specific angles when photographing cars, so make sure you get them all. Move around your entire car, and capture every angle before you start your shoot. This ensures that you don’t miss anything, as you’ll have at least one photograph of every angle of the car.

Here is an outline on various angles you can work with on location: 

Getting low: By placing your camera at a lower level and looking up at the car, you create a really dramatic, high-impact scene.

At the front: This angle is great for showing the majority of the car in one frame, but it has one key benefit. It hides your reflection! This is key for car photography, so make sure you're watching out for your reflection throughout your shoot.

Side-on: On the note of reflection, photographing the car from the side often turns the side panel into a reflective mirror. Play with the angle of your camera to avoid this, and worst case- make sure you remember to photoshop yourself out in post-production.

Don't forget the interior

Some clients will specify to shoot images that include the interior, so make sure that you're prepared to do so. If there isn’t enough light for you to shoot great images in the interior, bring a secondary light source to enhance the interior. 

Consider your location

When it comes to photography, location is everything. What’s behind, around, and in front of the car can make or break the composition. Position the car to hide any billboards or other forms of advertising, or be prepared to remove them in post-production. Vary your location so your shots aren’t boring- change it up!

Practice makes perfect. The more types of cars you shoot, in the more varied environments- the more you’ll learn about car photography. If you’re interested in shooting more car assignments with Shutterstock Custom, ensure you have car photography in your portfolio and submit your profile for review to have the category added. And if you have any great car photography tips to share, comment them below! 

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