How to Take Great Photos at a Car Show

In this video Chelsea and Tony Northrup head out to the Ocean Beach Car Show. While enjoying an afternoon out, taking pictures of stunning automobiles, they share some interesting insights on how to take eye-catching photos of classic cars:

If you are an automobile freak it is easy to lose focus in the midst such beauties. This is where you need to pull yourself together and pay attention. For those who are newbies or basically trying their hand at photographing such events for the first time, here are some invaluable pointers:

Focus on the details

photographing a car show


Many times when photographing cars, you try to get the whole car in the frame. That’s not always necessary. Simply focus on the smaller details instead to eliminate distractions and highlight the cars’ craftmanship.

Wear darker clothes

Cars are reflective and that means you have a great chance of photobombing your own compositions! The solution is to wear darker clothes.

Use reflections to your advantage

capturing reflections

Use reflections to your advantage.

Reflections are not always undesirable. With a little bit of planning and creativity, you can make reflections your point of focus.

Do a bit of Photoshopping

photoshopping your images

This original image (left) taken by Chelsea Northrup was edited to remove distractions in the background.

Car shows are often crowded and in less-than-scenic locales. Sometimes makes your images a bit too cluttered. You can’t possible ask everyone to leave so that you can avoid distracting backgrounds and or people walking in to the frame, but what you can do is put your photo editing skills to work when you get home.

Choose the right lens

Car photography does not require special lenses. You can shoot with your standard kit lens, really. That said, other lenses allow you to capture different perspectives. For example, a fish-eye lens can convert straight lines into curved ones. If you do use a fish-eye lens, you’ll need to get as close as possible to your subjects or else they tend to look as if they are very far away.

Pay attention to lighting

hdr photography

Car shows are great opportunities for using HDR.

Some photographers prefer softer lighting, going with their need to avoid glares and reflections. Tony, on the other hand, prefers hard lighting, with the sun is out and beaming straight down. Interestingly, he does not use the one tool you would expect him to—the polarizing filter. Such bright conditions are also perfect for bracketing your shots for HDR.

Compose carefully

At a car show, you will have very limited opportunities to photograph a single car in its entirety, because of the obvious distractions. Instead, think of specific aspects of the cars that you like and take pictures of those. Tony also suggests using the Dutch Tilt technique to give a little bit of a sense of motion to your images.

Capture symmetry

Automobiles are powerful tools in their own right, but, when you can capture symmetry in them you make them appear more powerful. One way to capture symmetry is by stooping low and capturing a low angle keeping the car dead in the center of the frame.

Are you a car show enthusiast? Share your tips for photographing cars in the comments below!

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