Professional Car Photography – 3/4 Front View

This first class from a series of tutorials where Karl shoots a Mercedes AMG GT sports car provides an introduction to how to photograph cars, showing you how to capture the ‘classic’ three-quarter angle.

Throughout this step-by-step shoot, Karl covers the necessary equipment, lighting and styling of the shot. You’ll get to see each stage of the shoot, including how Karl tests different focal lengths and angle of views to get the best composition, what lighting techniques he uses to minimise reflections, how he combines continuous light with flash, and how he achieves an elegant gradient lighting over the bodywork of the car.

This in-depth class will equip you with the knowledge you need to shoot professional car images as it covers important considerations, outlines common problems, and demonstrates how to overcome them.

Class objectives:

  • Learn how to photograph cars
  • How to choose the best angle of view for shooting
  • Lens choice comparisons and results
  • Lighting techniques for controlling gradients in reflective surfaces
  • How to combine continuous lighting and flash for car photography
  • How to use a polarising filter for car photography

Other related classes that you may be interested in are our ‘Classic car photography on location’, ‘Studio motorcycle photography’, and live motorcycle photography show.

If you have any questions about this class please post in the comment section below.


One of the first stages of this shoot was actually the most important — determining the composition. Once the composition was decided, there would be no going back.

Lens choice and angle of view were the two important considerations for this shoot. Both can have a big impact on the final image as they can change the apparent shape of the car as well as the feel of the shot.

Testing composition for car photography

Determining the best focal length and angle of view for the shot.

For this shoot, we tested a couple of different lens choices. In this case, a shorter focal length allowed for greater shooting space but didn’t reveal enough of the car while a longer focal length compressed the car too much and made it difficult to shoot at such a distance.

Lens comparison for car photography

A comparison of the 100mm and 150mm lens for car photography.

The angle of view was a second consideration. Higher angles showed more of the bonnet, but less of the body, while lower angles created a more imposing feel, but didn’t really work for the shot.

These might seem like minor considerations, but it’s worth taking the time to determine these because once you start work on the lighting they can’t be changed (unless you start again on the lighting too).

Three-quarter view photo of a Mercedes AMG GT sports car

The final three-quarter view of a Mercedes AMG GT sports car.

Comments

  1. Hi Karl. Awesome tutorial. Can you please include where we can get the items you normally use in your shoots. Things as trivial as those big white Boards, for a beginner, are sometimes impossible to find.
    It would be beyond informative if you could include that kind of information in the videos.

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Hector, thanks and sure. We do put equipment lists on all course pages but haven’t done so on live shows so we will try and find time to do that. The big white boards are ‘foamboard’ it’s very light weight and quite rigid. All good sign service companies or art suppliers should be able to get you those. We also use ‘polyboards’ in studios which are about 5cm thick 8ft x 4ft white polystyrene boards. Those used to be available from builders merchants as they were used for floor and wall insulation.

  2. Hi Karl, great video as always.

    I’m looking forward to watching the front view and side view videos, when will they be available?

  3. Great video. I now see the incentive to become a full-time professional photographer… you can skip the gym and hire two girls to do your 100 squats for you!

  4. Hi Karl, it’s your number one fanboy here, Doug Howell. I have a complaint; You have photographed two cars, (with the new suspended reflector panel), both of them German marquees.
    Me, as an Anglo file and American auto aficionado is asking, could you do a British car next time, or even an American automobile? While German cars are renowned the world over, they really don’t hold a candle to British and American cars, in my opinion. I mean, has there ever been a car that has more impact on design of automobiles than the Jaguar XKE?
    Wonderful and informative show!

    1. Hi Doug, good point – I’m hoping to get an Aston Martin in the studio in the future although I think Mercedes own a share of them! Jaguar Landrover are now a subsidiary of Indian Tata motors, although the new ‘Defender’ looks good and the guy next door has just got one so I might borrow it. There are some really nice looking American cars but unfortunately you don’t see many in the UK. A vintage Ford GT40 would be nice too.

  5. Excellent Job. You Never use White Gaff Tape to hold your white panel boards in place on the set. Too Sticky and too messy to clean up, or it slows you down in the process if you have to adjust? The black line that you took out of the Logo on the front Mercedes star in Post was from the bottom of the white Panel on wheels, I thought a White Gaff tape making a mini cyclorama might have cured that.

    1. Hi, yes white tape can help but it doesn’t often result in a perfect reflection in the car and as you say is messy to clean and can ruin your boards so if I feel it will be a relatively easy fix in post then I’m happy to leave it.

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