Taking pictures of cars at night combines a few things that the average photographer does not like. Nighttime shots, which are plagued by poor lighting conditions that make it hard to get enough light in the shot. Cars, which tend to have reflective glass as windows, which further complicate picture-taking. Finally, there’s the chance that they need to shoot the car as it moves, bringing even more challenges.
However, as proven by nighttime shots of cars moving in the dark, this isn’t impossible. Not every shot is going to be complete garbage just because of the conflux of bad conditions. Here are seven of the most overlooked secrets to taking great photos of cars in the dark of night.
The Trouble with Reflections
Reflections will always be an issue when taking photos of a car, even at night. Anything that reflects off the windows, whether it’s trees behind the photographer or the crew, can distract from the design lines that should be the focus. One way to avoid this is to have an open space for the shoot itself, rather than in an enclosed area or one with a lot of other clutter.
If you can’t avoid yourself being reflected in the shot, put the camera on a tripod, set the timer, and walk away. If you do this right and align the shot perfectly on the tripod, you won’t get a reflection at all.
Get In A Moving Vehicle
If you need to take driving shots, there are a few methods to employ. The best technique here is to take the shot from another moving vehicle. This removes the annoying tendency of photos of moving cars to reduce the vehicle itself to nothing but a colored blur. By being on the move yourself, you can better keep up with the subject.
If you do this, be sure to tweak your camera settings. A shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second will help you capture all the details without turning the motion itself into a blur. The result is a beautiful action shot of a car driving at night.
On a driving shot, you also need to turn Drive Mode on. Set it on a two-second delay, eliminating the slight shaking that comes with you taking shots from inside a moving vehicle.
Get The Best Gear Available
Get the very best equipment. A nighttime photo shoot of a car is a serious challenge, and there are few scenarios more daunting for most photographers. For this, you want cameras that are high-end, along with attendant accessories. This means light sources, a variety of lenses for specific functions, reflectors, and more.
A good external light source can help “paint” the image. It can add a bit more lighting if things are just that dark. A Soonwell LED light panel can be useful for this function.
You want a DSLR, rather than a point-and-shoot model. Going full manual lets you control every detail of the shot before you press the button, so you can manipulate as many of the variables as possible. You will need to spend money on the gear, though you don’t necessarily have to spend thousands of dollars. Find good deals and don’t go off the deep end right away.
You also want a steady tripod. This will help with those times when you need longer exposures to compensate for the lack of light. Go for a branded one, rather than a generic. The generic ones may be cheap, but they tend to wobble at the slightest breeze.
If you need to take photos of a car at night, wait until the sun is completely down. You don’t want it setting over the horizon. You want it dark, with the moon and stars out. Sunset conditions or the lighting just after it can produce an amount of light that is difficult to work with.
Use Manual Mode
Manual mode is the key. Switch the camera to that and start tinkering. Turn on live view mode, because it helps in getting the right exposure. Set the aperture to the sharpest it can go when you have the car in focus. The focal length will vary based on how far away you are when you’re taking the shot because we want as much light as possible getting into the lens.
Lower the ISO setting to 100, which is as low as it can go on most cameras. This makes the lens less sensitive, reducing the amount of noise that gets into the final image. Less noise makes for a clearer image and a better outcome overall, reducing blurriness and grainy elements on the outcome.
Experiment with The Exposure
When taking pictures, wait for the exposure is over. You want to let the camera do its work, rather than just pointing and shooting. Take a moment to tamper with the exposure, increasing or decreasing it as needed. Do this until you get the right level for your purposes.
Tackle Multiple Angles
Be sure to experiment with angles as you take shots. You never know when going to a different angle might give you a little additional light or paint the car a little better. Don’t be afraid to walk around the car, play around with the moving parts, and see if you bring out a highlight you didn’t realize was there.
Taking shots of a car at night is not easy. There are a lot of things to keep in mind, which make taking good pictures a challenge. With the secrets here, you can work towards better photos. It might take more preparation than usual, but the results are going to be worth it.