What Does a Vehicle Photographer Focus on?

germantown real estate professional in driver's seat arm hanging out window of tesla white suv for promotion photoshoot by luxury vehicle photographer danielle jacqueline near memphis tennessee

Hiring someone to photograph automobiles and different modes of transportation isn’t as popular as it once was. Smart phones and other devices make it easier to capture and publish what we like to share. But there are some cases where a vehicle photographer can be a load of help. So I decided to share my thoughts on this and talk a bit about the way a professional handles their business.

For the most part, car photography is not that complicated. In fact, it’s nothing like capturing siblings or large groups of people. However, there are a number of things that can improve the final portrait. So before I get into some tips, here are some of the ways I break down the service for my clients here in Memphis, TN.

Types of Vehicle Photography

When people call me to take pictures of a car, truck or toy – they tend to fall under one of two categories: They’re either looking to make a profit or generate attention. In other words, they need a vehicle photographer to help them create a visual or make their vision look good. Let’s break down the difference between the two.

1. Diverse and Creative Car Photography.

Creative direction comes in handy when someone is looking to show off their (new) ride, design a unique presentation or capture the capabilities of their automobile. Although creativity takes more time and energy (discovery sessions and planning), it’s a lot more fun!

We’re essentially using a theme to mesh a vehicle’s style and versatility with a driver’s personality – in order to establish an identity. Creative car photography can be as simple as a minivan with candy apple paint next to a mom wearing matching lipstick and purse; or a pilot in uniform with aviators while driving his sports car down a landing strip. 

2. Standard, Professional Car Photography.

Someone that’s looking to promote a vehicle or its features usually goes for more of a professional look. In most cases there isn’t much creativity involved. This is because the client is normally looking for an image they can use in multiple formats. In other words, they need professional car photography that can be copied and pasted into a designed template (display ad, description or video segment).

Sometimes, those managing the automobile have a certain style in mind. This could be anywhere from “cute” to “sleek” or “rugged”. This is where an experienced vehicle photographer comes into play. They’re able to use different camera angles, lenses, lighting and other settings to match the desired look and feel of the picture. The van below would still look good on a white background.

lower angle with lens flair sunlight glisten midsouth professional image of plumbing and drain cleaning van capture during morning near curb outside business by automobile photographer danielle jacqueline near memphis tn

Vehicle Design, Style and Interior Features.

The way a photographer goes about capturing the interior of a vehicle is solely based on the purpose of the shoot. Most inside car photography is designed and positioned to highlight textures, edges and the finer details of the automobile. But recognizable angles can also provide valuable insight.

For example, using a fish-eyed lens to photograph a child’s perspective from the back seat is totally different than pictures of vehicle features. Overhead views, gorgeous dashboards and personal touches may improve appeal – but relatable imagery is a lot more captivating.

Vehicles Automobile Photographers Capture.

Over the years, I’ve photographed my fair share of cars and trucks. I enjoy it but I’m not exactly an expert vehicle photographer. For many, capturing automobiles is their life’s work – and their passion usually falls under one of these 4 categories:

1. Model T, Antique Car Photography.

Car shows, museums, auctions and other automobile events usually have a big need for quality photographers. Classic and antique car photography is extremely popular in America. The engineering and design of older vehicles is so much different than today’s. When you see a Model T up close, it’s hard not to take a picture.  

2. On and Off-Road Racing Images.

There are so many different ways to manage race car photography. In fact, on and off-road doesn’t just refer to driving surface. Awesome race day photos are definitely rewarding, but capturing the vehicle off-the-track is just as important. The garage, a private drive, trailer, pit row, showroom and winner’s circle all provide unique opportunities. Photographers are also sought after for public appearances and photo ops with sponsors.

3. Luxury Vehicles or Private Collections.

The rich boys like to show off their toys. From musicians and athletes to entrepreneurs and prominent business men (and women) – luxury vehicle photography is pretty popular. Nobody would know they had a private jet, Corvette collection or a garage full of red sports cars if they didn’t take some pictures!

At the same time, they aren’t the only paying customer. Influencers have been known to rent exotic vehicles and hire a photographer to capture them as if it were theirs! Appearing luxurious is kind of an emerging trend.

4. Photography for Custom Vehicle Builds.

People that have spent a lot of time building a vehicle definitely like to park it in front of a camera – and rightfully so! When I used to live in Arizona, there were plenty of shops full of lifted 4x4s, off road vehicles, lowriders and custom bikes. Many of the projects take years to complete while funds are saved. 

Although I’ve never been hired to photograph a custom build, I’ve used them as props during family and graduation sessions. It’d be hard for anyone to ignore their monster diesel, $40K golf cart or bus-turned-RV if a photoshoot presented itself.

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Other Reasons for Vehicle Photography.

If you want to be a vehicle photographer, simple point and shoot photos are not going to cut it. You just never know what a client may need or what their intent is.

If you’re hiring someone, you need to know what you can expect. Some people just won’t be able to capture what you need. Not every vehicle photographer in Memphis offers drone services. Saving money is easy when you have a plan.

So I thought I’d end the article with a few thoughts that can help you determine what you need. This will help you question the skillset of a vehicle photographer.

The Sale of Cars, Trucks and Automobiles.

As a photographer for car dealerships, the process is rather simple. Every vehicle on the lot is normally captured in the same spot and in the same ways (unless it’s on a platform or in the showroom). For the most part, picture quality and effects aren’t valued as much as speed and consistency.

In short, car dealership photography doesn’t pay well and there isn’t much creativity involved. As a result, it’s easy to become bored and difficult to take pride in your work. Working with car salesman doesn’t help and it only gets worse as a used car photographer.

Vehicle Photography Studio Sessions.

Since moving to Memphis, I’ve noticed that a lot of people like to take pictures of themselves with their cars while pumping gas. I could never figure out why gas station photography was a thing until I realized the bright lights were just like a studio! It’s like a miniature photo shoot – but with petroleum!

All jokes aside, this really reminded me of the impact lighting can make. For example, dark paint looks a lot better at night time or in a controlled setting. Blemishes aren’t as visible when shadows and light bulb reflections decorate the vehicle. This is why black car photography isn’t usually shot during the day. 

My point is, a seasoned pro is the best resource for high quality automobile pictures. Hiring creative people for direction is a lot different than handing someone a photo checklist. Enthusiasts looking for a next level experience will definitely appreciate the capabilities of car photography studios. Just remember, you get what you pay for!

General Automobile Photography

Unless you need aerial shots, a vehicle photographer with a standard DSLR camera will do. Sometimes, a go pro or a HQ iPhone is all you need. Take everything into consideration, seek out your options and be certain before dishing out a lot of cash!

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