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Photographing Car Shows

October 28, 2009
Photographing cars at shows

Kae Davis moves in for a detail shot of a Pantera

Photographing cars at car shows can be fun and challenging. Photographers of all ages and sizes attend car shows to practice and hone their skills. Most of the great car show photographs taken by non-professional photogs are taken with some of the simplest point-and-shoot cameras without any special equipment or even tripods.

Here are some simple tips to get better results you can share with family and friends. It is always fun to be able to brag about the cars you saw, and share the memories of the event through your photographs. There are three main factors in creating great photographs: patience, light and perspective


Take your time to frame your photo, taking an extra second or two is sometimes all it takes to avoid a fuzzy or slightly out of focus picture. Stand firmly in place and hold the camera steady. If you have a tendency to shake while taking pictures a monopod or tripod may help to stabilize your shot.

To eliminate many fuzzy shots hold the shutter button down half way to allow the camera to focus before taking the shot. 

Wait a moment for onlookers to leave the frame of your photo, or ask if they could step back for just a moment. 


Work in longer/lower light: in photography lighting is one of the most important factors to consider. Even though you need lots of light for photography, the best car photographs are taken when the sun is lower in the sky – morning, late afternoon or early evening. The high light of the midday sun (noon to two pm) causes harsh and distorting shadows and fades out or bleaches the colors of the image. The best images are captured with lots of evenly distributed low angle light.

Use a filler flash even when photographing in a lot of light to even out lighting and help to bring out some of the highlights of the image.

Obliquely reflected light can often help to bring out the features of the image. Obliquely reflected light is often sunlight reflected by a white or light structure, concrete pavement, glass windows or any light colored surface.

Avoid hot-spots in your photo. Large reflections from one part of the car (i.e. hood or glass) can ruin the entire shot. Sometimes shifting just an inch or two in any direction will give you the same shot without the unwanted hot-spot.

Make certain the sun is behind you. When shooting on a sunny or bright day, shooting toward the sun will cause lens flares, harsh shadows and uneven images. Even on overcast days, shooting toward the sun can cause many of the same issues.

Don’t shoot your own shadow. If at all possible frame the shot so that you are no longer casting a shadow in the frame. Sometimes taking a step or two back and using the zoom will get you out of the shot.

On the bright side, or the sunny side of the car your photograph will show more of the details. Consider the differences in what you can see on the shadowed side of a car versus the sunny side of the car when you are wearing sunglasses. Many of the details and subtle lines of the cars styling are lost in photos taken of the shaded side of a car, even when using a flash. If you are taking digital photos, shoot both sides sunny and shaded. You will see the better shots are generally the ones taken with on the brighter side.


First and foremost you should consider what you want to convey with each photograph: do you want to show an entire car, a particular feature of the car or would you like to convey the atmosphere of the car show?

Photographing cars takes three things: Patience, Light and Perspective.  Car shows offer a lot of opportunities to practice your photographic skills.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 3, 2009 6:38 am

    Awwww… you are making me famous. 😉 GREAT BLOG!

    Shared this post on Twitter @cafecars

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