Saturday, August 23, 2008

A large part of keeping interest in a series of photos of a vehicle involves the shots of details, those close-up, but not macro, shots of such items as spindles, headlights, taillights, door handles and a host of other car parts. If you don't think a car, or motorcycle or pick-up, has any real detailing to show, you probably shouldn't be taking pictures of it.

Many of these shots need cropping in the camera; even then, more than half will need cropping in your post processing program. Other than that, your biggest challenge is keeping yourself and the camera out of the picture. The challenge varies with the part being shot: the emblem for a 440 engine, for instance, offers no problem, while the grill-headlight-fog light array of the 1934 Jaguar did. The need depends largely on the brightwork. If there's a lot, with some decent sized pieces, use a lens to get back far enough so any reflection of you and your gear is an unidentifiable speck. I shoot most detail with a Sigma 18-125mm lens, but not all. Often, a slight angle can be useful in removing your reflection from the surfaces. Note the shot of the '70 TA headlights. I was at an angle to that car when I shot that. There is no reflection. I was off at an angle, though slight, when I shot the '48 Buick Roadmaster's headlight and horn array, too.

Angle is all important. You have to become the camera's sensor to get a good shot here, at least in shape and size. As noted, cropping is often needed, but, as always, it's best to crop as little as possible. Pay attention to composition rules, but also try adding angles, as with the 440 emblem. As the other shots show, straight on can work well, too.

Note that the headlights are on in the shot of the Challenger. It was really too bright for car photography that day, but we tried, it worked, and this shot, I believe, helped. For headlights, you'll get the best appearance before the sun's all the way up, or when it's on its way down. A dim day can help, too.

As with all photography, practice is needed. Start looking at details, sorting them through your mind, deciding how they'd show up best. Then shoot. Look over the results and decide which you prefer, and why. Make a note or two at the beginning. Then, try to follow those notes and see what you get with different cars, in different light, at different angles. Enjoy.

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