The need for excellent car photographs, which help your dealership rank higher in consumer preference, is real! A buyer’s decision can be influenced by visuals and media, especially in the online domain. Along with that, the struggle of capturing professional and eye-catchy car photographs is also real. Well, that’s why dealerships and automotive retailers are often looking to hire the best car photographer to click their inventory.
Want to become a famous car photographer and shoot brilliant pictures? You’ve come to the right place! This blog covers everything and then some.
Who is a Car Photographer?
A car photographer specializes in capturing images of automobiles for use in promotional and marketing materials. They are usually employed by car manufacturers and retailers to shoot appealing pictures of vehicles that can be used for different purposes – marketing, promotions, sales, etc. Automotive photographers are needed at different venues, including racing events, new vehicle launches, magazine shoots, etc. Their job is to capture a car’s various features to bring its beauty out and make it more appealing to everyone.
A Guide to Being a Professional Automotive Photographer
If you want to be a professional car photographer, you must learn how to take good photos that capture the design and ergonomics of the vehicle. The best way to do this is by taking lots of photographs and gaining experience. The latter makes a ton of difference! Classic car photographers, for example, usually have a much larger fee than others, as shooting vintage and classic vehicles isn’t a simple art.
Here are some things that you should keep in mind:
1. Cultivate the right photography skills
While a textbook may teach you the theoretical aspects, learning things practically makes the most impact. Know the right ways to hold the camera, focus on the car in sight, have multiple lighting preferences, etc., through practice.
2. Know the car well
You cannot capture something that you do not know very well. A thorough understanding of the car’s design will help you capture the features that matter the most.
3. Keeping the focus on the subject
Improper photography techniques may shift the attention from the subject to its surroundings. The viewers’ eyes should not wander away from the product, so you need to ensure that your photoshoots are conducted so. Always review the images after they’re shot and reshoot whenever necessary.
Tips for Car Photographers to Level Up
The road to becoming an expert always starts with the basics. Here are some of the best car photography tips that famous automotive photographers have used in the past:
1. Know your camera
It’s essential to know your camera and different types of car camera settings. If you don’t know all the features that are available on your camera or how to use them effectively, then you’ll be at a disadvantage when shooting in certain situations. For example, if you don’t know how to change from auto-focus mode to manual focus mode on your camera, then you’ll miss out on beautiful blur/bokeh effects.
2. The importance of lighting
Lighting is a crucial part of any car photography shoot. Get good lighting equipment if you’re shooting in a studio or at night. If you’re shooting outdoors during the day, choose a time when the light isn’t too harsh – either morning or evening – and play around with angles to get beautiful shots.
3. Make sure your car is clean
This may sound obvious, but many automotive photographers don’t think about it when they take their pictures and end up with a lot of dust and dirt on the vehicle! This will spoil your entire photoshoot because the end result will require additional editing to remove the dirt and clean the car in post-production.
4. Use a tripod
A tripod is one of the most important pieces of equipment for car photography. You don’t want to miss any opportunities because of shaky hands or a camera that does not work correctly. If you don’t have a tripod, then invest in one as soon as possible.
5. Practice makes perfect
Once you have your equipment together, make sure that you practice taking pictures of cars or anything else for that matter! You’ll want to experience different angles and lighting conditions before moving on to larger projects like photoshoots with other cars or people. Try taking pictures outside where there are more natural light sources available.
6. Get a good-quality SD Card
For modern cameras, an SD card is crucial. It stores plenty of pictures and makes data transfer easy; pop the SD card out of the camera and plug it into your laptop! Always pick a good-quality one, because you’ll use it hundreds (even thousands) of times, and a poor-quality card could give way before you’re done using it.
How to Always Shoot Fantastic Car Photos
The best automotive photographers in the world have a lot of tricks that help them out. Here are some tips on how to always shoot fantastic car photos:
1. Pick a theme for your photoshoots
Clicking random images won’t do you much good. Before beginning, pick a theme for your photoshoot, based on the aspects of the car you wish to highlight. Then, try out different angles and frames, and the results should be much, much better.
2. Always shoot in RAW format
Let’s understand this in the simplest way possible. When you are shooting an image, you have an option of either shooting it in JPG format or RAW (among others). When you are using a smartphone to click pictures, they are directly shot in the JPG format, which is fairly compressed. However, when you click pictures in the RAW format using a professional camera, you get the best possible quality, although the size is way too large.
It should be noted that the RAW images are only for you as a photographer. Your clients will almost always need the pictures in JPG format.
3. Get the perfect lighting
We cannot emphasize this enough; the perfect shots always have the perfect lighting. For an outdoor shoot, the best time would be mornings and evenings, when the light isn’t too harsh. For an indoor or nighttime shoot, you need to use lights and diffusers to keep the subject lit properly.
4. Always shoot in manual mode with a tripod
Autofocus and auto-adjust are great when you are trying to save up some time. However, the best photography is not done in a hurry. We recommend you set your camera up manually, depending on the shoot. This gives you more control over the process, but it also requires a lot of practice to perfect. A tripod is great for professional shoots, as it stabilizes the shot compared to hand-held photoshoots.
Key Elements of a Car that Photographers Should Focus on
While you are shooting a car image, it is essential to keep track of both the exterior as well as the interior shots. Here’s what you should focus on when shooting the exterior of a vehicle:
- The complete car: Capture the entirety of the vehicle in a picture so that viewers can get a better idea of its design. Click it from different angles for the complete picture.
- Individual design elements: Every vehicle has its own unique design elements, be it the front grille, headlights, taillights, wheels, etc. You need to shoot those individually to highlight the beauty.
For the interior shots, here are the elements to focus on:
- Seats: Your customers will spend most of their time inside the vehicle, so you must show the seats off. Capture a few zoomed-in shots, showcasing the texture of the material (if the material is premium), along with a regular cabin shot.
- View from the back seat: One of the most excellent shots to click would be the one where the photographer is sitting in the middle of the back seat and capturing the view ahead. Here, you are capturing the cabin in a complete manner, including the steering wheel, dashboard, etc. It also gives you a feel of the space on offer.
- All equipment and features: Buyers are always interested in checking out all the features available in the car – the infotainment system, climate control, etc. It’s best to be strategic about it – shoot the most details in the least number of pictures, without compromising on the quality.
Features of a Good Car Photoshoot
Every good photoshoot has some important features, which can help make the vehicle look more appealing and/or trustworthy. Here are the most important features you should keep in mind:
1. Focus on what makes the car special
Usually, car manufacturers build each model with a focus on an aspect – technology, affordability, efficiency, etc. You should choose the theme of your photoshoot appropriately.
2. Multiple angles for exterior shots
To give your audience the best feel for your cars, you should capture their exterior in high-resolution images from multiple angles. Thus, people would get the most accurate feel for the design of the vehicle in which they’re interested.
3. Multiple interior shots
Just like the exterior, you need multiple shots of the interior of an automobile. During interior car photography, don’t just capture the cabin in a generic manner but focus on the details. Start with the seats, then move on to the different features available on the vehicle.
4. The correct background
Choosing the perfect background for your car photos is one of the most critical parts of a photoshoot. A cluttered, unappealing environment can diminish the car’s beauty; however, a beautiful backdrop could be distracting. You need a simple but good-looking background that doesn’t divert viewers’ attention away from the subject.
How Automotive Inventory Photographers should Organize Photos
Clicking pictures is only half the job, the other half is to keep those pictures organized. Here’s how car inventory photographers do that:
Step 1: By car dealership/marketplace
If you’re a professional photographer or planning to be one, you’ll likely work with plenty of Car Marketplaces and dealerships. It’s best to keep the work you do for each in separate folders, so there’s never any confusion.
Step 2: By car model
You would likely have to shoot photos of multiple car models, so it’s best to segregate and organize the photos by model names. This would make them much easier to find when you need them.
Step 3: By VIN or registration number
When working with a used car dealership or marketplace, you’ll have to shoot pictures of multiple cars of the same model. To avoid confusion, you should organize them as per their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or registration number to keep track.
Step 4: By quality/format
If you’re shooting RAW pictures and turning them into JPEGs or PNGs after processing, then you’ll have two different formats of pictures for each car. Don’t delete the RAW files until you’re sure you won’t need them ever again. It’s best to keep both formats under different folders.
Step 5. By exterior, interior and miscellaneous shots
Lastly, you should divide all your pictures into three categories – interior shots, exterior shots, and miscellaneous. The interior and exterior shots are self-explanatory. As for miscellaneous shots, they should consist of pictures that don’t fit into the other two categories neatly, like the wheels and tires, accessories, etc.
Note: You can either keep the images on your computer’s hard drive or upload them on a cloud platform like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. We suggest doing both. You can share the files with your clients on the cloud and keep them as backups on your hard drive.
How To Find Car Photography Clients
Here are the top tips to find car photography clients for your business.
Figure out your client
In car photography, this can be a dealership and businesses who want to get images for displaying their inventory online or those who want glamor shots of their vintage or racing cars. You want to know whether your clients are businesses, individuals, or entrepreneurs so you can market yourself and set your prices accordingly
Create a photography portfolio
Be present online to be found. People prefer seeing your work before they hire you, and that can be done with a car photography portfolio website or social media page. This will also serve as your first point of contact with the client. Keep the design of the website simple and have a contact page from where people can get in touch with you. Make sure to include some vintage car photography shots.
Get referrals from friends and family
Most photographers begin work through friend and family referrals. People tend to trust word-of-mouth recommendations more. Unless you have a Car Photography Studio or work for a company, your first clients are most likely going to be got through referrals
Start a referral program
Offering discounts for referrals helps you get new clients and also encourages previous clients to return for your services. The discount can be offered on prints, future sessions, etc. It is up to you to decide. Give the discount only when a session is booked by the referred client.
Build your network
Network with other professionals in your area. Promote your business and yourself to your clients, and your network can help you find local clients, work in collaboration or even give you referrals where they cannot be available.
Maintain your relationship with the clients. Make sure they are satisfied with the shoot; then, they are more likely to recommend you or employ your services again. Repeat customers can ensure the future of your business.
Attend trade shows
Work on your communication skills and visit car expos and shows to build your portfolio. Engage with the people and car owners here. Market yourself and your brand, and make sure if a person seems interested in your work, they have your contact information to get in touch with you later or book a session right away.
Ask for feedback
Even if it seems difficult, ask for feedback. Negative feedback will help you improve, and positive feedback can be used as customer testimonials to build client trust. You can also request your clients to share the images you provide on their social media platforms for greater reach.
We hope this blog has helped you understand everything required to become a professional car photographer. Right from getting the correct equipment to capturing the shots in the perfect lighting, you should drill all the points discussed here into your heart!
Spyne helps dealerships in photographing their new and used vehicles, also known as inventory photography. It is a photo, video, and 360 degree view solution for auto dealers, helping them drastically reduce labor costs and move more inventory. For car dealer photographer near you, download Spyne on your smartphone.