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Top tips for automotive industry photographers

During my time at Red Marlin I’ve taken a lot of photographs of cars, and I still have some learning left to do! There are however some very simple tips and tricks that I’ve learnt on the job which can make the difference between meeting a brief and wishing you’d done more while you had the chance.

Here’s just a handful of tips for tackling photography assignments in the automotive industry.

1. Prep your kit
If you’re on a photography assignment, a comprehensive kit will give you many more tools and options. Shoot in manual and carry a range of lenses so that you can take control of your depth of field, exposure and shutter speed to get the shots you want. And don’t forget to pack spare (charged) batteries and spare memory cards!

2. Think about the end product you need
The first thing I do when given an assignment is to visualise what the client wants as an end product. It’s tempting to turn up and start shooting whatever catches your eye, but a plan of what you need is essential when you have limited access to the event or cars you’ll be covering.

3. Know the automotive press style
As enjoyable as it is to get creative and experiment with different angles when photographing cars, the automotive press have a standard photo style to follow: front three quarter angle, front, rear, side, rear three quarter angle. Sometimes artistic shot won’t fulfil the brief.

4. Don’t take pictures in a car park
Sometimes when focusing on your camera settings, the light, the time constraints etc, it’s possible to not notice something glaringly obvious lurking  in the background of your shot. Bins, onlookers, road markings, signs or general detritus are common offenders.

5. Go the extra mile and experiment
Good photographers lie on the floor, run around, look for vantage points, stand in the middle of lakes, get up in the middle of the night, travel long distances, and got to all sort of other lengths to get the best shot they can. Observe your surroundings, experiment and don’t be afraid to get dirty.

6. Don’t miss a moment
If you’re working at an event with all sorts of activity, there will be golden photo opportunities all around. Always have your camera ready, as Sod’s Law often comes into play! Some photographers choose to carry multiple cameras each with a different lens so that they don’t lose time on a lens change.

7. Capture the emotion of the day
As stunning and important as the cars are on an assignment, at public events such as shows or auctions there’s an excellent opportunity to capture the excitement of the day by photographing the people in attendance. Focus on people who look happy and engaged to capture the emotion of the day.

8. To photograph or not to photograph – celebrities
Automotive events can attract car fans of all kinds and even celebrities. This can be a bit of a mine-field for the photographers on the ground. While some celebrities don’t mind being photographed, others don’t want the attention. My advice is to ask the event organiser or the celebrity’s representative if it is acceptable or not.

Get these right and you could have the satisfaction of seeing your photographs in print!

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