How to Take the Perfect Car Photo

How to Take the Perfect Car Photo

Car images, car photos, car photography, car pictures, sports car photos, automotive photography; whatever you want to call the images you have of your automobile, they are more important than you might think.

Smartphones Created A Boom In Photography

According to, over 1.4 trillion photos will be taken in 2020. This is mostly due to the fact that there are 3.5 billion smart phone users around the world, who therefore have a camera on them at all times. Of that number, a measurable percentage will be classified as car photos. Isn't technology amazing?

Of those car photos, how many of the ones that you take are worth printing? How many of them are worth sharing on social media? How many of them tell a story?

Automotive Photography That Tells A Story

No matter if you are talking about a classic car, a sports vehicle, a beat up truck or a daily driver, chances are your car can look incredible in its photographic form. You just have to take the time to tell that car's story.

For the most part the story can be broken into subject, composition, and lighting. The mistake most people make when photographing cars is that they skip over the composition and lighting portion of the story and just focus on the subject. They simply park somewhere and click a photo. It is not that easy. Every element in the photo helps tell the car's complete story.


Any car will do. For the purposes of article lets talk about the car you drive to the grocery store. Lets say that the time has come to sell this car and you need to post some images online. 

Walk around the car and really get to know your subject. Look for the defining lines that make up its design. The parts that make your car interesting. These are the lines that you would draw if tracing over a photo. The light will play with these beauty lines and define your subject matter.

Car images Closeup of a 1959 Cadillac Taillight


At this point, do not worry about camera settings or exposure. Just get the composition right. You can leave your camera on full auto and still get amazing photos if you pay attention to the placement of the car: the balance between background and foreground. Using the defining lines that you traced over in your mind, place your car in the frame. In most cases, those lines will be most apparent at low or high angles.

Balanced Photos

Now that you have found angles that you like, imagine your car like it is on a scale. Is something in the image tipping the photo to one side or another? If the answer is yes, either crop that thing out of the photo or reposition the subject matter to not include that element.

Car Images of Camaro with horizontal line dividing the image

Drawing a line through an image works quite well to see if you have balance. You'll do this in your head, but we've drawn the line in pink for illustrative purposes. In this case, the highlight of the car cuts right through the middle of the image. Both sides of the line have equal amounts of visual weight, which allows the viewer to focus on the subject.


It is important to show separation between your focal point and the background. In this case, the steering wheel is in focus while the rest of the interior is slightly blurry. By creating this focus we are able to give the image a good depth of field while still providing context.

car images closeup of a steering wheel


The key to finding great background locations is to think of your image like it is a movie set. You want the background to give context but not take away from the story. The background is only there to help push the narrative: an abandoned building, a parking lot full of shipping containers, a warehouse with oversized garage doors all work.

car photos mini cooper MC40 JCW


Usually the best time to capture your car's form are the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. These are the times when the angle of the sun is low. By taking advantage of these hours you will decrease the number of hot spots on your image.

car photography three hot rods at Bonneville Salt Flats

Car Images Connect Us To Our Past

Car images, car photos, car photography, car pictures, sports car photos, automotive photography; whatever you want to call the images you have of your automobile, they are more important than you might think. They remind us of where we have been, support stories we tell, and help us remember who we are. The next time that you snap of a photo of a car, take an extra minute of care. Really look at what makes that car special. Study the design and take a photo that tells that car's story.

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