Photography is sometimes about the gear. Photography is sometimes about the rules. Photography is always about the eye and the perspective.
Cars – those versatile metal boxes that take us from point A to point B, but can also be a great tool, assistant, filter, location or background in your photography.
Let’s take a look at some images and examples of how you too can utilize your vehicle or a vehicle in your next photo session.
Probably the most obvious choice for a shot, would be to shoot the vehicle at a stand still. You can prop someone or something next to it, you can use any flat surface as a tripod or lean your reflector for an impromptu reflector holder.
To challenge myself creatively, a few years ago my friend Aaron and I created a “Where’s Aaron (Where’s Waldo) Photography Challenge. Check it out here (there are four challenge photographs).
If you’re a fan of long exposures and like to play with your Shutter Speed (especially at night), you can get some great trail lights from the cars in motion. Keep decreasing your shutter speed for a desired effect. On the contrary, increase the speed to freeze motion.
I got lucky with the following shot, where a single car stood still at a red light, while others raced past it, creating light trails in this “Daejeon at Night” image.
Another possibility for utilizing a car/truck/bus in your photographs is to get in and shoot from the inside. You may need a wide angle lens, or just stand outside and stick your head through the window to give you some shooting room. Of course, older Classic Cars or newer fancy cars would be of preference for unique lines or textured materials.
The inside of cars are notoriously dark places and one thing that I would have done differently about this image of my sister in law would be to add an external flash light in order to light up their faces better. We live and we learn.
You can see that the couple is framed by the truck’s window outline, you can utilize this rule with car’s mirrors, doors or even truck beds. Framing is a popular technique, which can be also achieved with branches, arches, door frames and even hands and fingers.
The windows of cars can also be great reflective surfaces for some unique photography. This is where your creative eye and perspective will definitely have to come into play. Walk around, shoot from a higher perspective, get on the ground, in other words – play!
You can view amazing samples of reflective abstract photography, from a guy who does it best- Peter Clark.
Another way to utilize a vehicle is your creative photography is to shoot through it. You’d have to be inside the car/truck/bus for this technique and ideally your window would be clean on both sides. If it is rainy or snowy – even better! Oh yea, and most passerbys don’t even know you’re taking a photo = candid shots!
If your vehicle is moving, use a faster shutter speed 1/250sec or higher. Keep the lens parallel to the window to avoid glare. Be careful, the movement might cause you to hit your gear against the window if you’re not careful.
The following images were taken from the inside of a moving vehicle on a rainy day in Bali, Indonesia.
I particularly enjoy the image above of a Balinese woman, who is dressed up in an embroidered blouse. The raindrops on a window created a filter, through which I took this image. The fact that I was hidden inside a car, helped me create this photograph of her undisturbed and doing what she loves.
So there you have it – multiple ways of utilizing vehicles in your next photography shot – frame, shoot through, put your subject inside, outside or reflect it in the car itself.
I hope you found these tips helpful. If so, please share and help spread the love for photography and creative expression.