How to Photograph Classic Cars

classic cars

Classic Cars Meetups

The number of cameras at meetups and shows suggests that a lot of people like to photograph classic cars. Most are guys, of course, but a few of the ladies show up with their gear, too.

Before you go to one, be aware that the crowds and background clutter nearly always foreclose options for shots of an entire car, and a three-quarter view is about the best you can expect to find. Fortunately, classic car photography is all about form, line, and color, and you don’t need to get the entire car in a shot to accomplish an artistic purpose. Let’s look at some things you can do to get pictures of classic cars that convey the beauty of design and form of these painted ladies.
classic cars

Take a Wide Lens

The depth of field available with wide lenses lets you get in close to capture details, yet keep all or nearly all of the image in acceptably sharp focus.

Short focal length lenses distort an image by making objects or areas that are close to the lens to appear much larger that things more distant. Using one for closeups shooting along a fender or from above in front or rear gives a sense of depth that you won’t get with longer focal length lenses.
classic cars

Find the Shade

Most people clean and polish their classic cars before displaying them, and that means that reflections can present problems. Finding or making shade or shooting on an overcast day can help a lot. A polarizer can help too, reducing specular reflection and deepening the saturation of colors. Look at what unwanted reflections did to this Studebaker (below). A shot like this leaves no choice but to crop.
classic cars
Here is a link to a post about polarizers. A polarizer will cut reflections from auto glass just as it cut reflections from the cell phone’s glass.


Find Unique Angles

classic cars

Shoot low, shoot from above, even if you can only do so by standing on tiptoe and holding your camera at arm’s length, zoom in on wheels, or shoot along the side of the car from a low angle.


classic car

Some classic cars are works in progress

Sometimes you’ll find classic cars, pickups, or trucks in various stages of restoration, and they can bear wonderful mixtures of paint and oxide. The owner of this pickup proudly expounded on the fine patina of his ride, and I’m convinced that he had his tongue in his cheek for only part of his monologue.
On my last visit to a classic car show I found a 1918 Mac truck with it’s original hard rubber tires. The only evidence of restoration so far was a couple of treated wood planks for the driver’s seat.
classic cars

Glitter is Only Skin Deep

Photographing street rods gets down to the basics of line and form, shadow and highlight. Look for opportunities to close in for details to augment your collection of full and three-quarter shots.
classic cars

Look Inside

We admire how these beauties look from the outside, but of course the driver gets a different view. Whether it’s an open convertible or a more utilitarian model, shoot the instruments, seating, and give your viewers a look down the hood.

classic cars

classic cars

A Classic Car to Call Your Own

Do you want your own classic car? Getting one that is ready to roll is the easy way, but if reclaiming your own piece of history appeals to you then be sure to take plenty of photographs along the way. The images might be just what you need for articles or an e-book you can sell to help offset the costs of restoring your classic car.

© 2011, TheDigitalPhotoCoach.com. All rights reserved.

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