Case Study: How I Photograph Cars

Jaguar XK-R

exposure: 1/400th sec at f/10 and ISO 200.

..at least this one. I made this photograph of a limited edition Jaguar with a Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN and showed it to my friend Steve who had borrowed the camera to make a few shots of it for his club’s newsletter. While looking at it, he said, “I just don’t see like that.” So I thought it might be fun to give you some idea of how I came to make this particular image.

A Colorado Springs Land Rover dealership celebrated the groundbreaking of its new Jaguar dealership and invited people to bring their cars to the site for an informal show. All kind of interesting cars showed up including a Sterling Moss limited edition XK-R Jaguar coupe. I was only planning on making some snapshots and only brought one lens a Canon EF 16-35mm zoom, which based on the 1.3 multiplication factor that this camera produces, might have been a better choice for an indoor show. The first image I made was just a “walk up to it and click” shot and shows the lines of the car and a few of the distinguishing characteristics (stripes/wheels) of the XK-R and a whole lot of stuff around it. I walked around back and made another similar uninspiring image of the XK-R’s back. Then I went back to the front and made a shot similar to the first one but from a lower angle; I didn’t like any of’em and walked away.

Later on after I was thinking about the XK-R, remembering that it was such a unique car (there’s less than a dozen in the world) it needed a shot that made a statement. Two things stood out for me: the red fender strips ala Corvette’s Grand Sport, and three-piece racing wheels atypical of the standard luxo Jag. With the camera in P mode, I racked the lens out to 16mm (effective 21mm) and started looking at the front left wheel because I liked the lighting on that side of the car.

I knew I had to shoot from a low angle with the camera pointing up to minimize background clutter, so I am either knelling down to get this low perspective. While composing this shot, I saw those two little powder-puff clouds in the background and damn near yelled “Eureka” when I clicked the shutter. I made only one exposure. I had been shooting all day and found that exposure compensation tended to be the standard stuff: underexpose black cars, overexpose white ones, but this silver car was as Goldilocks once said “just right.”

The image was originally shot as a horizontal and after15 Tips for Better Car Photos I opened it later in Photoshop, I preferred a vertical orientation better. And no I didn’t crop anything. I seldom do preferring to get what I like on the viewfinder and since the EOS 1D Mark IIN shows 100% of the shot, what I saw was what I got. There is little or no tweaking other than processing the RAW file using Adobe’s Camera RAW. Some people tell me that, “it doesn’t look a Jaguar,” but they are missing the traditional “growler” cap in the center of the wheel.

Joe Farace is the author of a new e-book called “15 Tips for Better Car Photos” that’s available from Flatbooks.com.

Author: Joe Farace

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