Worth a Thousand Words

Car photography is useful for many reasons, yet it is not hard to excel at it. Check out some simple tips that can get you amazing car photos even with amateur equipment

2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (source: Stellantis)

Photography can be alluring to everyone. Some people are obsessed with getting a good selfie, whether alone or with others. Others are just fascinated by clicking plants, animals, or the urban environment. And there are people who visit the most exotic destinations for photos. Whatever your interest may be, we are sure that you appreciate photos at least only as a consumer. That is why we have written this article.

Here, we are going to discuss car photography focusing on amateurs like you and I. It can be useful to us if we are trying to sell a car, and pleasant if we make a hobby of it. While there are hundreds of high-tech devices you can use to take perfect pictures, we know that they are not always necessary. We can do a lot using common equipment, especially with those purposes, so this is going to be our point of view here.

2021 Mitsubishi Outlander (source: WheelsAge)

What is car photography?

At a first glance, that answer can be as broad as you want. We can take car photos from the outside or the inside, for example. Having the vehicle still or in movement. Click the whole car or only a specific part at a time. Take a field photo or use a studio, and so on. Not to mention that photo edition opens many other variables. The beauty of that is to understand them all and identify which set is appropriate for each use.

Now, the fact that we are going to narrow our scope to amateur photography makes things much easier. In fact, we can divide it into two main purposes. One is art in all its glory: it is about finding the ideal car and the ideal environment to suit your ideas and put your inspiration to practice. The other is much more rational: used car photography. In other words, some car photos to display at an online ad, for example.

2023 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (source: Mercedes-Benz)

Creative car photography

The first thing to know is that this activity is artistic; there is no right or wrong. Since it is entirely based on what you want to express, our primary advice is to start by that. Once you clearly understand and envision your object, it is only a matter of finding ways towards it. You may want to capture off-road driving, luxury at its finest, historical car models in detail, examples of a specific style feature… the sky is the limit here.

Making your car easier to sell

In this case, you have clear goals. Ad photos must be attractive, so people will actually become interested in your car, but also clear. After all, there are many sellers out there who use a plethora of shady resources to mask their car’s problems. We believe that it is always better to stay honest, especially considering that money is involved. Therefore, we are going to help you take clear photos that will draw no complaints.

Let’s start with the basics

We know that taking car photos may be daunting at first. After all, we subconsciously use press photos as reference, but they use all types of infrastructure. The best way to get started is by remembering that it is still photography, after all. Framing, leading lines, symmetry, rule of thirds, and many others are still valid resources. You can start with those guidelines, then gradually leave them as you develop your own style.

On the other end of the process, keep in mind that editing software can be very useful… if you know what you are doing. In short, heavy changes are only acceptable in artistic work. In car ads, the deeper you alter the photo, the more suspicious it will look. It is interesting to edit car photos only to correct small issues like low lighting or to make the background blurry. Then again, this is often a case where less is more.

What background to choose?

Studios are suitable for professional photography for many reasons. When it comes to real locations, busy ones are only adequate in an artistic context. In general, neutral backgrounds are better because they do not distract attention from the car. In fact, showing too much information at once may be uncomfortable enough to make us look away from the photo. Blank walls or the seller’s driveway are typical for car ads.

You should also mind the reflection of items. Modern car paint is usually highly reflective, especially when the car has just been washed. Backgrounds like forests have too many items, like rocks and tree branches. Having all that reflected on the paint makes the image convoluted and, again, hard to visualize. The good part is that, in most cases, taking the photo at a different angle is enough to reduce reflection problems.

What time to take car photos?

We know that one can take amazing photos at all times of the day. However, each one requires a different set of precautions. At daytime, direct sunlight is your worst enemy: it may cause glare, too much shadow, or washed-up colors. At night, the available lighting may be enough especially if your camera offers many resources. But if you need to create artificial lighting, be careful not to create the same problem above.

Car photographers recommend the “golden hours”: one after sunrise and one before sunset. Natural light will be soft and indirect, so it should be easy to create a desirable effect. Ad photos require clear light, but you will have to avoid excesses. For example, toying with angles is an easy way to deal with long shadows under harsh light. On the other hand, you can park close to buildings and trees to block some of that.

What about car photography poses?

First of all, we are not going to cover moving photos here. They require many specific conditions at once, such as choosing a smooth road, having other people drive the support car and the object car, and doing the work to coordinate the action. It is just beyond the scope of amateur photography. Having that said, the best way to start is by the basics. Typical angles, like front and rear three-quarters, go a long way.

Just like people, cars appear better in some angles than others. You can start with those angles, then play with the camera’s position while taking many shots. It is also good to focus on any distinctive character of the car, like any badges, the car’s wheels, or the radiator grille. Over time, you will notice how to highlight positive design features while minimizing the relevance of the negative ones on the photos you take.

2023 Porsche 911 Dakar (source: Porsche)

Can I make money with car photos?

Of course! However, if you have never worked in the creative field, I must warn you: it is hostile. There are countless people doing the same as you, many clients have unreasonable requests… and only a handful of them agree to pay fair fees. If you want to try and make money with car photography, the initial step is to build a portfolio. In other words, to do some work merely for the purpose of showing what you can do.

You can also sell your car photos as stock images on websites like Adobe Stock or Shutterstock. Each one has its own rules regarding payment and exclusivity rights, so make sure to read everything carefully. You can also try your chances on freelancing networks such as Fiverr especially once you have acquired some experience in the field. Sadly, the only way you can accelerate that step is by charging low rates at first.

2024 Mazda CX-90 (source: Mazda)
2024 Mazda CX-90 (source: Mazda)

We hope that this article has been helpful to you. Our intention was to show that car photography is not something that only professionals do. It pays off to invest in equipment, of course, but it is also true that you can get some great pictures using nothing but your phone camera and some skills. That attitude may help you sell your car quickly and/or even get you started in a new hobby. When are you going to start?


Check out items to get started in car photography!

Author Profile

Danillo Almeida has explored his passion for cars in two distinct ways. The first one is his graduation course in Mechanical Engineering, which will hopefully lead to a job position in the field. The other one is expressing his knowledge and opinions on the matter through writing. Almeida has already contributed to blogs, stores, and websites in general writing automotive content in many formats.

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