Skip to main content

I picked up my first camera in March 2021. It was a Sony A6000 which came highly recommended. After securing a job photographing cars and motorbikes shortly after, I now also recommend this budget friendly workhorse of a mirrorless camera. 

Before I explain my personal approach to any Automotive Photography projects, let’s talk kit. If you are just starting out and haven’t already got a camera, check out the reviews for and works from the Sony A6000. You will not be disappointed. 

“A camera body is simply a data capturing tool” 

The above is one of my all time favourite photography quotes. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Leica. All have their pros and cons. You will prefer one over the other. At the end of the day, each camera will only capture what you put in front of it. 

My favourite lenses for Automotive Photography

When I say “each camera will only capture what you put in front of it”. The first thing the camera sees is the lens. Prior to investing in a camera, do some further research into lenses and find out what kind of look you aim to achieve. 

Wider lenses such as a 24mm or even a 35mm will give the final image a more aggressive look. Longer lenses starting from 50mm and upwards may contribute to a more catalog/brochure or even cinematic feel to the final image. 

My absolute favourite photography lens of all time, including for Automotive Photography, is the Sigma 56mm f1.4. It is attached to my camera right now, I used it to shoot a track day at Brands Hatch this week. 

Over 95% of the car and motorbike photos I capture are done so using this lens. I’m not saying other lenses cannot take better photos. But you would really struggle to find anything this good for less than £500. 

Buy the Sigma 56mm f1.4 on Amazon today

Automotive Photography Step 1: Setting The Scene

When capturing photos or videos for cars and motorbikes, location is key. With this, feel free to be as creative as possible. However, try to avoid things that do not contribute towards whatsoever. 

For example, photographing a Porsche 911 GT3RS in an Asda car park with the superstore logo in the background. This doesn’t quite have the wow factor compared to an empty indoor car park with the long tubes lights up above. 

Settings don’t have to be what you may consider suitable for that particular vehicle. You are unlikely to see a super-bike riding across sand dunes, but this may make for an awesome picture. 

Think about which local landmarks you can utilise and incorporate into your work. I find cathedrals, bridges, local woodland and historic buildings to be a few of my go to spots for capturing vehicles. 

car photography tutorial porsche 911 gt4 rs

Here are some of the reasons why you should set the scene at somewhere recognisable:

  • It encourages people familiar with that location to view your work
  • Busy places can spark conversation with passers by, this can lead to future work or followers online
  • For places that are typically out of bounds to vehicles, by obtaining permission to shoot there you can get some really cool and unique imagery

This past month as part of a campaign photoshoot with Harley-Davidson in Newmarket. We combined motorcycles and western styled horses at the British Racing School. 

The collaborative project took planning from the team at LIND Motorcycles and British Racing School in Newmarket to create the imagery below. 

horse and motorcycle photoshoot ideas
wild west motorbike photoshoot ideas
cowboy motorcycle photoshoot

Automotive Photography Step 2: Take The Shot

Before you take the shot, be mindful of angles. The angles to keep in mind are that from which you hold and point the camera at your subject. Also the angle from which the light source is coming from. 

For most of my photos I try to ensure my subject is positioned between myself and the light source. The subject doesn’t have to be directly between me and the source of light. In my head I draw an imaginary horizontal line across from each side whatever it is I’m photographing. 

Then I make sure that I am positioned on one side of this line and the light source is on the other. See the diagrams below for a couple of examples that you can try. 

photography natural lighting solutions

Shooting from the opposite side of your subject to the light source tends to make the image look more cinematic or arty. Feel free to move your subject, rotate your subject and also reposition yourself to see what angle works best. 

Once you know how to take the photo from on a horizontal plane, you can then work out whether you should take the photo level with the subject, looking up at it from low down or even looking down from high up. 

Camera Settings 

Almost every day I see people commenting on professional quality photos in Facebook groups asking for the settings. Although I’m more than happy to share what settings my photos are taken with. I always explain that the same settings will unlikely produce the same results. 

One of the most beautiful things about photography is that you’re capturing a moment in time. That moment in time has very specific lighting. From brightness to temperature and more.

Without these aligning as they did when you captured one photo, it’s highly unlikely that the same settings will produce the same results. 

Keeping your ISO as low as natively possible is very important. Your ISO digitally increases the brightness of your image. Any form of digital alteration will reduce the image quality. The two analogue methods for adjusting exposure are through use of shutter speed and aperture. 

photographing motorbikes tutorial

Setting your aperture should come as a priority over shutter speed. However you may need to compromise one over the other in order to expose your image correctly. By setting a lower f-Stop, such as f2.2 or below you’re going to create a shallow depth of field, however this will let more light in. 

Choosing a higher f-Stop such as f5.6 or above will create a wider depth of field. More of your subject will be in focus but you will sacrifice the amount of light hitting your camera’s sensor.  

Only once you’ve chosen the ideal aperture and shutter speed for your photo, should you then choose to increase the ISO to expose it somewhat better. I can usually drop my shutter speed to 1/150 before movement becomes noticeable in my images. 

Some with steadier hands may be able to drop it even lower and still produce sharp imagery. Thus reducing the need to increase the camera’s ISO by much or even at all.

What part of the vehicle should I focus on? 

This is a great question. The answer really depends on whether you’re trying to capture a particular feature or the vehicle as a whole. 

If you’re trying to capture the vehicle as a whole, it’s definitely worth focussing on a logo somewhere. When photographing cars I make sure the emblem on the front or rear wheel is in focus. Of course this is decided by which way the car is facing. 

automotive photography tips and tricks

When the car is pointing away from me and I’m capturing the rear end, it’ll be the rear wheel logo which I aim my focus. If the car is pointed towards me, I flip the process and use the front wheel logo as the point of focus. 

For motorbikes you’ll find that almost all of them have a logo somewhere on the fuel tank. This is almost always my focal point when doing motorbike photography with a stationary machine. If the bike or car is moving, it tends to be more difficult to focus on a particular part of said vehicle. 

how to take photos of cars and motorbikes

Now that I’ve covered capturing a whole vehicle in one shot, what about focussing on particular parts, accessories or details? 

Personally I tend to use logos, text and anything with super sharp lines as my focal points when photographing any part of a vehicle. From capturing a steering wheel in a Porsche to a custom exhaust pipe on a motorcycle. 

Each of these items usually have a logo somewhere on them, and that’s where I like to focus. If a part of the vehicle you’re capturing doesn’t have a logo or any text or symbols printed onto it, try and find a sharp edge which will likely appear as the main point of your image.

Below are some examples of how I typically photograph various parts of a car:

Below are some examples of how I typically photograph various parts of a motorcycle:

The above examples aren’t my only approach to these. As mentioned earlier in the article it really depends on lighting, the background and more. In the moment I try to make a conscious decision as to whether the angle of approach does the image justice or not. 

How to frame your automotive photography

Framing is equally as important as getting the in-camera settings right and of course your subject/background combination. If an image isn’t framed well, it can distort the viewer into feeling something different than intended. 

It is well worth watching some YouTube videos that go through how to frame a scene when shooting video. This will definitely inspire you to take a different and maybe more creative approach to your work. Or encourage you to capture image that is more accurate to reality. 

Whether taking photos or videos of a whole vehicle or just parts, double check if anything on the edges of the frame could be brought in or pushed out. Some items that you aren’t focussing on could distract from the main point of the image. 

By bringing these all the way into the picture or pushing in closer to remove them entirely, you may end up improving your end result in less than a couple of seconds.  

If you are photographing the whole vehicle, you can do the same with external elements which will either contribute to your work or distract from it. For example, is there a lamppost either side of your subject? 

If so, push in a bit of change the angle slightly to remove it entirely. Or is there a really cool building in the background that would serve better being fully in the image? Feel free to move around a bit and adjust your shot to compensate for this. 

Always have the end result in mind when framing, focusing and capturing cars, motorbikes, lorries, helicopters etc. Whatever you are photographing, planning ahead can drastically improve the shot and the finished piece. 

automotive photography tutorial motorbike

Automotive Photography Step 3: The Edit

You’re back in the warm, SD card jam packed full of epic pics, cuppa tea at the ready and Lightroom booting up. Where do you go from here? 

Are you a purist who likes to keep the images as true to life as possible? Or more like me and try to add your own creative flare? 

Also do you like to keep everything in the image that you’ve taken? Or are you partial to a little bit of housekeeping to remove any distractions, blemishes or event a giant distraction for which there was no avoiding? 

Whatever your approach, there’s an endless world of options available within your chosen editing platform. Lightroom comes with tonnes of ready made presets which are an incredible starting point for finalising the creative process. 

editing car photos in adobe lightroom

I learned almost everything I know about colour, highlights, curves and more by deconstructing or reverse engineering presets within Adobe Lightroom. 

For this section I really cannot give you much of a guide on what to do as everybody’s post-processing process is different. It all depends on the result you’re aiming for and how you intend to achieve it. 

Please let me know in the comments if you would be interesting in any of my Adobe Lightroom Presets that I use for my Automotive Photography. If there is enough interest I’ll consider uploading some. 

Also feel free to link to your own portfolios as I would love to see the work you do. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and all the best with your future automotive projects. 

See similar articles in my blog:

Leave a Reply