How To Take Brilliant Pictures of Your Car

By Max Vanderwyst

Shadows and cars driving by in the background are distracting

Every month customers send us numerous photos of their classic Chevrolets for use in our catalog or monthly newsletter. Many of these cars and trucks have had an immense amount of time and care put into them but often the photos we receive don’t do justice to the beautiful work contained in them. When customers bring their cars into our showroom we are always anxious to take pictures that capture the passion that goes into restoring or maintaining a classic car. In this article we would like to teach you a few basic tricks to make your car photos turn out great every time.

Before you start taking photos of your car there are a few things you should do. First, Wash your car and don’t forget the the white wall tires! It’s easy to do and is guaranteed to make your car look better. Now think about what you want to use as a background. It should be something simple without many distractions. At the Filling Station we will often use the front of our building or get up high enough so that the road is mostly all you see. If you want the sky in the picture consider purchasing and using a circular polarizer, it will give you that rich dark blue color you often see in professional photographs. Wherever you choose to take your pictures make sure that there aren’t distractions in the background like cars driving by or people standing around, these things only draw attention away from the focus which should be your car.

Walk around the car until you find a side that is facing the sun and has no shadows on it

Now that you are ready to shoot some pictures remember that the lighting has a huge effect on the quality of your photo. The most important thing you can do is watch out for shadows. Cameras have a limited dynamic range which is the range of shades that they can display from black to white. If you expose your shot for the lightest parts of the photo the shadows will be nearly black and if you expose for the darkest parts of the photo the highlights will be blown out. The trick is to face the part of the car being photographed toward the sun and make sure there are no shadows being cast on your car.

Quality of light is also something to consider. Avoid taking pictures when the sun is directly over head because they tend to turn out flat because of the lack of shadows that create definition. Generally the best lighting will be found 1 hour before sunset or sunrise which is known to photographers as the golden hour. During this time the light is warmer in color and at an extreme angle which creates interesting shadows.

Photo taken at eye level looks nice but could be better

(Bonus tip: Use the side of your car to reflect the sunset for some really stunning photographs.)

The most important aspect of any photo is composition. Think about your positioning. The meat-and-potato shots for a car are the “front three-quarter” and “rear three-quarter.” Avoid the temptation to just take the picture from eye level, these types of shots tend to be visually uninteresting. Try shooting up from a low angle, which will exaggerate the proportions a bit, and make your car seem more impressive. Another trick is to use a step ladder and shoot down on the car, giving a sort of bird’s eye view. Look through the viewfinder when you compose your shot to make sure that you are not cutting off any parts of the car.

(Advanced tip: Use a small aperture (larger number) to get the starburst effect on highlights)

Photo of the same truck taken while kneeling

Whether you use a Digital camera or 35mm the principals of photography are the same and these tricks will make your pictures better. Still, the best thing you can do though is practice and Digital cameras are great for this because you can take as many pictures as you like and find out what’s working or not instantly. Now get out there and take some pictures then send us the results! We love seeing your amazing cars and always feature as many customer cars and trucks in our catalog and on our Facebook page as we can. Send your pictures to or post them directly on our Facebook page.