Imagine your Mustang as the subject sitting in front of a beautiful background such as a scenic overlook, sunset, or by a waterfront. What about focusing on a new modification or part on your car that you’d like to showcase to your social media followers? Regardless of the setting or subject, it can be very difficult to recreate what your eyes are seeing through the lens of a camera.
Keep in mind that there are plenty of other guides out there that go into grave detail in the realm of automotive photography when it comes to taking the perfect photo. This article is not one of them. With this guide, however, you’ll be able to gather few tips and tricks on how to effectively shoot a decent photo of your Mustang.
That’s the other thing -- you don’t necessarily need a high-dollar DSLR camera to produce great Mustang photos. With the increasing capabilities of built-in cameras in today’s cell phones, photography is becoming a new hobby for a lot of Mustang enthusiasts. Granted, even though a DSLR is ideal, today’s phones have upwards of 16 megapixels right out of the box and counting - not too shabby for something you may only be posting on Instagram or Facebook!
Type Of Camera
Nikon DSLR Camera
Although a decent digital SLR camera is preferred when it comes to “shooting” your car, it’s not always required. This is especially the case when you only plan to upload these photos on social media accounts. Due to the fact these photos are always compressed down to a smaller file size, grain and noise are almost inevitable. That’s why in some cases a cameraphone is almost just as good!
Obviously, you have the most customization options when it comes to using a DSLR over a cell phone camera, but there are many cell phone cameras out there that have the ability to shoot stunning photos. With all of that in mind, you really have to work with what tools you have at hand. If that is a cell phone, then you can focus more on the focal point and setting or location. However, if you have a DSLR, you really can take things a step further by shooting in RAW for maximum versatility in post-editing.
Setting & Location
CJ's Project 50/30
Aside from your equipment, location is essentially the most important aspect when it comes to taking great pictures of your Mustang. You’re not only highlighting your build in the photo, but you’re photographing everything else around the subject as well. Certain settings and backgrounds will make a subject pop, and others will make it blend in.
Now, sometimes these factors are out of your control. For example, if you’re taking a photo of a car at a car show. You obviously can’t always ask people in the background to move out of your shot, so you may have to take a couple photos to find the right shot you’re looking for.
On the other hand, you could have your car at a location where you can fully control the background and setting, such as an abandoned warehouse or scenic overlook. With that kind of customization, moving yourself to an ideal place is important to get the perfect shot -- focal point.
Focal Point & Composition
Bill's GT - Rule of Thirds
When it comes to automotive photography, another major factor to making your photo stand apart from the rest is the focal point, or at what point your camera is taking the picture. In many photographer’s opinions, the worst thing you can do is take a photo of your car right at eye level. This is the angle that anyone would see your car and almost seems as if it’s “nothing new.”
If you have any previous photography experience, you may have heard of the rule of thirds. This “rule” is part of the composition that makes up a photo that will stand out from the rest. Keep in mind that your subject is important, yes, but you don’t want your Mustang taking up the entire photo. Kind of like it’s always easier to cut more pipe off than adding more on when it comes to exhaust, the same rule applies here. Be sure to shoot wide and any excess you’d like to crop later is always an easy fix.
The engineers and designers at Ford spent countless hours, days, weeks and years developing your Mustang to look as good as it does. This means when you’re going for that killer shot, dare to move around a bit. Get low for a menacing look, get high for a unique viewpoint that may be new to others, or even get close to focus on a particular detail of the car!
A Low Focal Point:
A High Focal Point:
Another factor that plays into Mustang photography is lighting. This not only goes for what level of light but also goes for what type. Are you taking a picture in direct sunlight? At sunset? Under fluorescent lighting at night? Low light, night shots? All light types and light levels require different behavior from the photographer. In almost all cases a soft, natural light is ideal for automotive photography. You’ll get this during the day if it’s cloudy, or right at sunrise or sunset, otherwise known as the “golden hour.”
Direct or hard light can be difficult to shoot with. This is due to the fact cars are shiny and will reflect light accordingly. If you’re dealing with something like direct sunlight, you may need to adjust your position to rid of a glare that would shine off your car taking away from the subject of the photo.
I ran into a hard light situation when I was down at Mustang Week taking a shot of my car in front of House of Blues. It was late morning and clear skies, so the sun was high in the sky and glaring pretty badly off the car. I adjusted my position (focal point) to use the glare to my advantage in adding some flair to the photo. Keep in mind, if glare is too excessive, picking up a polarizer lens filter will help quite a bit.
The best part about photography is that it’s an art. You have the ability to try different angles, lighting, effects, and more to really give your photos a special twist that makes them unique to you. The opportunities are endless!
So, next time you’re stepping back to take a picture of your latest set of wheels & tires, cold air intake, exhaust tips or big brake kit on your Mustang, be sure to keep this guide in mind! And remember, nobody gets it right the first time. As with any other skill, practice makes perfect!