I shoot a lot of cars, and I’ve used a lot of different cameras to do it. The one question I often hear from people who want to shoot their car is: “What camera should I buy?” Sales guys at camera stores love people like that.
But here’s the first rule: It’s not the camera; it’s the person who takes the picture. Whether it’s an iPhone or top-of-the-line Nikon, the camera has no idea what you’re pointing it at. So stop taking pictures and start making pictures.
Shooting any car is like staring at a blank canvas. The goal should be to capture only what you want in the image; that shouldn’t include your garbage cans. So choose a location. An old factory? A barn? In the driveway? This is your canvas, so grab the camera and go.
Once you’ve arrived at your spot, look around. Park your car where it feels right. Walk around your car without the camera. Stand on your toes, lie on the ground, climb a tree if you want. As you do this you’ll have those moments where you just sort of giggle and say, “My car is so cool.” That’s where you put the camera. Mark that spot with a stone and keep looking for those other sweet spots. Let the car tell you where to put the camera.
Once you’ve marked your positions, get your camera and stand at your first mark. I recommend a tripod, because it allows you to study your frame. Take a look through the lens — what do you see? Is there something funny sticking out from behind the car? Is your reflection in the paint? Do you want to turn the wheels slightly? Now look at the light and what it is doing to your car. Is the sun behind it? In front of it? Is that giant tree you parked under throwing funny shadows all over the car? Now’s the time to make those adjustments.
Your camera is a recording device that is only going to record what it sees. Do you like what it’s seeing? From one spot, maybe you need to wait for the sun to get lower in the sky. Shoot the other angles first, or just move the car a few feet this way or that. Don’t overthink it.
Once you’ve made all those little changes, take the picture. Then stand back and bathe in the glory of your beautiful image. The crowd is cheering. You have a new screensaver, Facebook will be filled with your pictures, friends will be calling you to shoot their cars. And as you drive your rolling masterpiece home, give her a pat on the dash and say, “Where should we shoot next weekend?”