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As a working professional photographer, I know that shooting cars is very fun...but also very challenging! Especially when you have over 100 that you need to shoot in one day! There are reflections and lens flare and and and....does it ever end?

Here is a good site where you can join the flickr family and learn more about photography.
Not car centered, just photography centered. This is a website based from a group on flickr called "The Portfolio:Pro Invitation". On the flickr site, you post images and critique others...while other people critique your imagery. I find that having my work critiqued...while critiquing others really helps enhance the quality of my work.

So...what are some tips and techniques you use to capture exceptional images for your clients?

Tags: better, phtography, professional, tips

Views: 343

Replies to This ADM Discussion

Hey...don't everyone answer at once!! LOLOL

When I am shooting simple shots for a dealership listing:

1. First make sure the car is CLEAN!!! There is no use shooting a dirty car. Also, if you are using higher quality photo gear, interior (especially dashboard) surfaces must be clean and dust free. Nothing makes me madder than when I spend all day shooting a nice car, and I have captured some nice interior detail shots only to find dust in the vents or on the shift boot when I sit down to edit my images.

2. Bend you knees! All vehicles have a "belt line" and that is usually where you want the main 8 exterior images coming from. I use a tripod. If you are using an EVF camera with a tilt/swivel display, shoot from waist level.

3. Use a circular polarizer. Attaching a "C-Poll" filter to the front of your lens, and knowing how to adjust it, can help get rid of minor reflections in the paint, darken the windows and add some blue to your sky. It’s quick, easy and effective.

4. Lear to have an "eye" for composition. I am always looking for the car's best angle. Or an angle that is unique and plays well to the background. I look for distractions in the background when I am composing the shot. I want to make sure that there is not a 30' tall parking lot light sticking out of the roof of the nice BMW I just shot.

5. Don't be lazy...move the car around so that you don't introduce shadows into the image. The key to good photography is mastery of light. Keep the light (sun, strobes, etc) behind you. If your shadow is showing up in the image, back away from the car and use a longer focal length.

6. Learn some quick easy post-processing techniques that help draw the customer’s eye to the car...and not the background. My policy is that the main display image (the one image that a customer will see in e-bay or AutoTrader along with all the others) needs to be VERY saturated with a dramatic blue sky. This gets the customers attention. Sometimes, I even add a 3 pixel yellow (R=255, G=240, B=0) frame around that lead image to help differentiate my car from the others. Then, the rest of my images will have a slightly desaturated background with a bit of background de-focus so that the car stands out. When I am taking detail shots, I will use a wide aperture so that I have attractive shallow depth of field, which draws focus to what I am trying to show off.

7. If you post images of cars online, and there are phone lines in the sky behind the car, you suck.

8. Check out car magazines to see what they are doing. My good friend, Morgan Segal (Car & Driver), does a great job capturing images for publication. I try to mimic some of what he produces, as that is what your customers are seeing long before then see your image.
This is a great post. I would just like to add a very basic(but crucial) one. Make sure the car is centered in the photo and the horizon line is straight. Sometimes when shooting a different angle on a car with awkward curves its easy to tilt the camera without knowing it so check the horizon and make sure that is level and the photo will look straight.
Here are some not so good examples of before and after post work:



These are obviously not good photos, but can you tell the differences?
Great question Matt.

First, let me ask you a question. Do you or have you personally ever sold cars at the dealership level (not hypothetical, but actually spent time as a car salesman)? Have you ever had to take the call from a buyer, over the phone, who may be miles away from your dealership? Can you answer yes to those questions?

If you can, then you probably already know the answer to your question. The answer (can a dealer sell more cars by spending a lot more time perfecting the photos in Photoshop for post production tweaking?) is a resounding yes. However, your assertion that post work takes a lot of time is not correct.

The corrected image you see above actually has some difficult fixes employed. The chrome strip on the bumper was tough. The reflection across the hood was tough. And they took me all of about 12-15 minutes to fix. Most fixes take me about 3 minutes. And I want to be clear...if you take good images to begin with; you have less work to accomplish later. Further, the images I edit are typically the lead image on a main search page...not all of the images of a particular vehicle.

And think about it. This stands to reason. Your image is generally what buyers make their initial judgment on. Does this image make me want to click on this listing and look at it. This is especially true on E-Bay.

The truth is, MOST people have no clue how to take a good picture of a car. Good equipment or not. And, more and more people are becoming more photo (capture and equipment) savvy with the advent and increased popularity of photo sharing sites.

The dealer group I work with now is way too large to handle our current photo needs in house (the ones that get distributed on our site and AutoTrader & etc., under it's current model). However, when we have a vehicle that is going to go on E-Bay, or some other form of auction site, then yes I will take those 45 images, and I will edit a few. In my experience at the store, group, and corporate level (yes, I am the guy who answers the phone and consummates the sale with someone 1200 miles away, site unseen), good photography and post work DRAMTICALLY increase the number of inquiries and gross profit. Why? Because the customer gets more involved. They like what they see. And I can't count how many times I have heard "man...this is great photography, and it really helped me decide I want THIS vehicle." It is an appeal and trust factor.

I took a look at your VinCamera. Interesting idea. Looks like a simple point and shoot, which has a sheath of rubber armor around it. The truth is, unless one knows how to operate some of the controls that a more advanced camera can provide, those advanced controls can be a waste...or even a detriment. I gather the camera you are offering is rather simple? In many cases, that can be an advantage! However, it is the eye of the photographer, and not the camera that is responsible for 98% of the end result. There are many very good cameras out there for $200-$300 that have the physical capability of capturing great images!

And I little bit of extra effort in post work can make a measurable difference in the end quality of the listing. And for those of us who make our living from iron going over the curb, every cost effective advantage can make a difference in the pocketbook!
As one who has used the VinCamera to photograph many thousands of cars I can tell you it is perfectly sufficient for the task. It can take wonderful photos if the person taking them knows what to do.
There is only one thing I would wish for and that is the ability to disable the automatic exposure and set exposure manually. Most other point and shoot cameras have auto exposure as well and it really causes me a lot of headache to use them because it often automatically sets the WRONG exposure level and then I have to try to fix it in photoshop.
But if saving money and simplifying the process is the main priority, then it certainly does that very well.
good example. I do this much in some special cases but there's no way I'm re-touching over 700 images a day. When I do post-work on a photo it's usually just adjusting brightness, white balance, histogram, etc. And if I take good photos to begin with It dramatically cuts down on the amount of re-touching needed.
I did notice that this photo is off-center though.
LOL....I sorta has this feeling that you would be the ONE to notice that!!! LOLOLOL

When I looked at the VIN Camera, I assumed that it would be one of those Auto Only type cameras....which, in truth, means that it is a compromise in every situation. But, for many people, that is the only realistic option up front.

I work at the dealership level, but I also own a company called jmark media. We are a salespoint imagery company and among other things, we too shoot dealership inventory. We provide two levels of photography for dealers...lot level and then something a bit more for e-bay and other types of media. We also shoot for car magazines and provide very high end imagery for builders of fine homes and the sale of high end items such ats jewelry, aircraft and yatchs. The fact that I work day to day in the dealership tells you how profitable my company is! LOL

As for the retouch issue, keep in mind that I am doing that primarily on the lead photo for one vehicle. So, in one day my COMPANY (not car dealership) will capture around 7,000 images company wide. But only around 100 of those images get any real post time. If you want to talk about post time, let me show you what goes into a fashion shoot!!
If you re-touched 100 images and spent 5 minutes on each that's well over 8hrs a day of work! Do you really do that every day?
"I" don't but I have employees that do. I do it personally if they are images that I captured.
I wonder if we can use some of the photos on Matts site to critique? Matt...would that be ok? (Communicating that in advance so there are no usage issues later! hahahaha)
Hahahaha...thanks Matt. Now lets all tear them up and blame Ted!! :-)

You know, after looking at the site you give for Frontier Motors, I have to say those are some of the better images I have seen for mass used car invetory in some time. Who ever took them, good job. Maybe we should each pick a car on THAT site and critique the images?
Yup! Frankly, any camera (for the most part) can take good pictures. The only rel limitation, as Ted addressed, is exposure latitude. But, in all fairness, most people would have no clue how to spot or optimize exposure issues until it is too late (as in they are looking at the images on their computer later in the day and realize that the sky is blown out, etc.)

What I REALLY like about that camera is what it brings to in house organization. Brilliant!


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