The Challenges of Automotive Photography
In magazines, on billboards, as Instagram ads; automotive photography is everywhere. In fact, it’s one of the largest subsets of commercial photography. Ironically, it’s also one of the most difficult to master. Automotive photography presents a bevy of unique challenges for even the most seasoned advertising photographers.
As with all commercial photography, the first step in an automotive shoot is defining the concept. It’s important to understand the audience you’re trying to reach, and the message you’re trying to convey. Are you shooting a sleek new sports car that needs exude cool? An economical hybrid with an emphasis on the green factor? Or maybe it’s a family car that promises comfort and safety. An automotive photographer must be able to highlight the vehicle’s most essential features in a way that comes across clearly to consumers.
Using the right lighting for an automotive photoshoot is crucial. Most cars are highly reflective, which means the margin for error is miniscule. If you use the wrong lighting techniques, you could end up with a disastrous level of glare and a clear view of your light source reflecting off of the car’s surface. Using bigger light sources, like large softboxes, will help soften these reflections by dispersing them across the surface. On top of that, certain paint jobs will only pop if the lighting conditions are absolutely perfect. Silver cars are usually the easiest to light, and turn out looking the best. An automotive photographer needs both the technical skill and the artistic eye required to bring out a car’s color and luster, highlighting its aesthetic allure.
While a lot of advertising photography involves working with models, the focal point of an automotive shoot is always the vehicle itself. This provides a unique challenge: imbuing an inanimate object with character and personality. An automotive photographer must know how to use elements ranging from environment and background to shot composition to give their subject a life of its own, all while ensuring brand logos remain prominently displayed.
Cars are made to move. It’s their defining feature. Showing the vehicle doing exactly what it’s meant to do—driving—can be an extremely effective way to capture consumers’ attention. This is especially true for ad campaigns that revolve around themes like speed and freedom. A good automotive photographer knows how to use action shots, camera technology, and all manner of editing techniques to create images filled with motion.