How to Photograph Vintage Cars Inside a Garage

Here’s something mouth-watering for all of you folks who love photographing automobiles: Joe McNally inside the garage of the Domenick European Car Repair Company with his Nikon D810. This is a family owned business that specializes in restoring vintage beauties. Here’s how McNally arranged, lit, and shot the images:

As you can imagine, a garage isn’t the most happening place to make images. It’s a completely different thing to photograph automobiles at an auto show where they are all lined up neatly with ample room and light to work with. But one of the busiest garages in the USA isn’t going to have too much room. McNally has to be both resourceful to walk out with good images.

garage photography tips

McNally uses a Nikon D810 with a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. A mix of SB-910s and SB-900s are strategically placed to balance the ambient light inside the garage. All of the speedlights are arranged on TTL setup and triggered using a flash on the camera. The advantage to working with smaller lights is that they can be easily placed in the nooks and corners of a place like a busy garage. The other advantage is that some models have a built-in slave mode which is very sensitive. If you place them right and they can sense even a little burst of light, they’re going to fire.

When you light a scene like this, it’s not just about using an overbearing amount of light but about subtly balancing the act to ensure that you have the right amount of accent lighting—splashes of light to bring out the character of the cars and the general feel of the place.

McNally’s approach is to make a series of available light exposures to bring the right mood into the scene. At the same time, he ensures that the ambient light complements his artificial lights.

In this shot, McNaly mounted a tri-flash and metered the ambient exposure so that it appeared brighter than the flash. This can be done by dragging the shutter speed so that more of the ambient light is captured.

garage themed photo session

For the next shot, McNally stripped out some of the foreground lights and rearranged them to shoot a few frames in the 50s pin-up style.

lighting tips for garage shoot

how to photograph at a garage

This technique can really bring out your subjects when you’re forced to conduct a shoot in a dark, cramped space.

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One Comment

  1. R. Tack says:

    “…Photograph Vintage Cars”

    Wrong title; should be:

    “How to Photograph Inside A Dimly Lit Garage Using Vintage Cars For A Backdrop.”

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