Magazine Quality Photography of Your Magnum & Forgotten B-Body
Some good reasons to want to take the best photo of your Mopar might be:
1. To display an enlarged version on your wall
2. Smaller versions for your board avatar, sig, email sig, or Word stationary template
3. To send to magazines and see your ‘Pride & Joy’ displayed to the world
4. The MoparStyle & MagnumGT.com Calendars
I’ve seen some photos with some damn nice Mopars — indicating that we have the cars and have the cameras, and all that we’re lacking is the critical eye for that perfect photo. While I’m by no means a professional photographer — I have read a few books and taken a few classes on the subject — and taken a million photos. I’m going to offer a few tips on what I think helps make a great car photo.
Equipment: Forget film as it is dead. Even professional photographers shoot digital — Hell even your X-Rays now days are digital. With medium digital cameras now up to and above 14 megapixel — you have all of the resolution you need to capture what once took medium format film cameras. The best cameras come in SLR (Single Reflex Lens — meaning you see the prospective photo through the same lens as the photo is taken) and accept the high quality interchangeable lens of same type of 35mm cameras of years past. Nikon professional and Nikkor lens are the best — but Canon makes more than excellent set ups for far less. I currently shoot with a Canon D30 — that I bought five years ago. Back then the body had a retail price of $3495 and a street price of $2400. I bought mine (new with a warranty) on eBay Digital Cameras for $1995 — but it took about ten auctions before I won it at that price. You can now get a Canon 400D, with 18-55 lens, spare battery, and 8GB card shipped to your door for only $479. This is more that good enough for a set up to catch the kids growing, car shows, road trips, and family events.
Soon, I intend to upgrade my camera to a Canon 50D, which is a 15 MP body only for about $1100 — because I’m still too cheap to spring $9000 for a 21MP Canon Mark III Professional. The 50D is a good mid-level for amateur photographers.
Lens come in regular and professional series. The main difference is the polish on the lens and how much light (aperture) coming through the len’s diaphragm. I’ve never been able to cough up the 3 times as much for the professional lens — so I use the standards. Most of my lens are Canon — but Tamron and Sigma are fine.
Camera accessories: If you are to only have one lens — you will want a 18-55mm lens. It will take SLIGHT wide angles and SLIGHT telephotos. As you start building on the basic set up, the second lens you might want is a 70-300 telephoto, then maybe a 35-110 telephoto, and finally a wide angle. You’ll need a padded camera bag to keep everything safe. You will want an Ultra-Violet and a Circular polarizing filter to fit each of your lens, and a hood to fit each of your lens. Also an inexpensive portable tripod is helpful. When you want to take indoor family photos — you will find that the built-in flash for any camera doesn’t take good photos. The close distance to the lens causes red eye, the power is so low that only close things have light, and it leaves terrible shadows of people’s heads. As you get into photography more — you will want a better separate unit with more power, more distance from the lens, and the ability to bounce off the ceiling to back light some.
All of this sounds expensive — but the bottom line is that you can today start with the Canon Rebel 400D setup for $479, plus another $50 for a camera bag and a pair of filters. Then you put the lens, tripod, filters, hoods, and flash on your birthday and Christmas wish lists for years to come. While you might say — this is all very easy to talk about — but I’m broke, my answer is that you most likely buy less important things that will last no where near as long, for more money. If you have family — you need a decent camera.
Range finders: Now it isn’t impossible to get a good photo with a range finder camera — but it won’t be near as good of a photo — and you’ll have to be pretty lucky catching the detail to get a range-finder photo in a Calendar. However if you are going to buy a range finder — get a good one. A Canon SX110K has a 40X zoom and 9MP — and you can typically get the kit with a case and 8GB card, plus a reader for a little over $200. 9.0 to 9.9 MP I have a couple of these as throw down cameras in the truck and Challenger.
Clean Car: Make sure the car is completely cleaned and polished. Wheels and tire, under the hood (don’t take and share under hood photos if it is ugly in there), interior (nothing inside — no baby seats, fire extinguisher, McDonald’s bag, etc.). You want a showroom clean car to photograph. Turn the front wheels ever so slightly to where you see wheel — not tire tread. Turn it again when you move to the other side of the car. Interior photos with black interior is best taken in full shade with a time lapse on a tripod — as flash and sunlight turn black cloth/carpet into grey. Close the ashtray, make the steering wheel straight. Take the radar detector off the windshield.
Background & Foreground: Here’s the hard part. You have to look for the scenery well in advance of taking the photo. Look for “Locations” every time you drive somewhere. Don’t bother with parking lots, in front of your house, a cluttered car show, or in the garage. The foreground and background of these locations are cluttered and cheesy. Thumb through high quality car magazines for their best photos and study them. You will not see another car in the photo, nor will you see a tree growing out of the roof, a garbage can, or a dog licking its balls. Much goes into planning the perfect back ground and foreground. Things like curbs, road signs, single trees, power lines, and parking on grass (where the bottoms of tires often disappear) should be avoided.
Road shots (where you’re in the trunk of back of SUV – or in the passenger seat of another car (watch for shadow of the photographer’s car), unique industrial areas, fall scenes in parks, CLEAN snow scenes for darker cars, open areas with tree lines so far back that they’ll be out of the field of focus – are all great ideas. Mansions, old white churches (for colorful cars), places where pear, cherry, oleander, and crepe myrtle trees are in bloom. Plain color cars need very colorful backgrounds and dark cars need light (beach) backgrounds for the photo to have proper contrast balance. Amusement parks, air parks with old and small planes), secluded beaches, gravel pits – are all worth considering. Visit the site before you show up with the car – and take a couple of test shots of your driver to see how the surrounding look when a full size photo. Everyone likes to take shots while standing – but crouch down low and/or get a ladder and see how your photos change. Take a telephoto down from a close hill. Be creative. You’re gonna shoot a couple hundred photos — take chances at being different. If you have 8GB card and a fully charged battery – you can take 100s of photos. Do it. Walk around the car high, go around the car low – wait 30 minutes and do it again for different lighting. Do it again 30 minutes after that. If you spend 2 hours and shoot 200 photos for three great ones – you are ahead of the game. Unless it is a babe showing most of the merchandise – avoid people in the photo for the calendar photos. Have your assistant take a couple with you for the magazines.
Lighting: This is the most crucial area – and makes and breaks if a photo is worthy of being called excellent. Glare and shadows are the enemy. As such – the absolute time of day to take photos is going to be sundown. Know when sundown is going to be – and be there at least an hour early to set up. From about 30 minutes before sundown – takes a group of photos every five minutes until past the time you think the sun gave up on you. Glares on windshields are bad. Shadows showing direction under a car is bad (reduced with crouching for the photo). You want the sun at your back, but keep the silhouette of your shadow out of the photo. If the sun is in front of you – the camera reads the bright sun and over-corrects the side of the car to be way too dark.
It is best to have an assistant available to move the keep turning the car and re-positioning the front wheels – with you looking through the lens to position him/her to keep trees and buildings from growing out of the top of the car — or power lines in the photo. Shoot lots of photos as clouds will change lighting. The sun at your back right at Sundown will give a pinkish glow to the photo – often making for a very desirable photo.
I should have crouched lower for these
Photos at sundown with the car between the sun and camera will occasionally make for a nice sundown silhouette photo – especially if at a beach or lake. The Sun on the other side of the subject gave too much glare — even though I used flash to light the subject.
The same subject matter only backed up a little and no flash was even worse.
Had I waited longer I could have gotten a silhouette photo — but I was rushed to get the photos of the pink bike.
Shadows were very long!
More Advice on how to take the best photo: ·Study the best car photos of premium car magazines – and don’t be afraid to rip the page out and put in a folder for future reference. Figure out why that made a good photo. ·You can never take too many photos. ·Take photos at different view levels. Worm view, crouch view. Standing view, on a ladder or a hill looking down on the car. ·Go to a book store and look through the books to find one that instructs on taking good photos with the writing style you find interesting – and plop down the $15 to buy and read it. ·Take a class at your local Community College. ·Always be on the lookout for “a location” When driving keep your eyes open for somewhere that might be a great location to photograph you car – and then stop there, park your driver where you’d park your collector car, and walk around the car slowly – stopping to give a critical eye to what the camera will see in front of the car and in back of it. Find a shot unique. ·Don’t have the car take up less than ½ of the width or length of the photo – or more than ¾ of it. The reason is that the length to width ratio of what the camera produces is going to be different than the ratio for a photo frame, or the calendar. You have to give enough room for cropping out either the height or the width required. The photo is also about your car – so you don’t want it to be a little speck in the middle of the photo either. ·Sun at you back ·Don’t take in bright light ·Evening before sundown it when the sun is the least harsh. ·Have an assistant available to quickly position the car where you want it – and then quickly get out of the way. ·Take some photos stepped back and zoomed in – and close and wide angle. It changes the field of focus and makes for some choices.
Sending a photo to a magazine: ·Give them your name, address, phone number and email address – so they can contact you if need be. ·Tell them about the car in detail – they’ll trim out what they don’t want. ·Tell them you are a member of MoparStyle.com and your handle there. It helps when they plug us – and you will get the appreciation of the members. ·Relate an interesting story about the car. Like love to print stories that are unique. Found in barn where it was a chicken coop, brother traded you for it, belonged to you Grandpappy…. Sending a photo to me to be considered on a MoparStyle Calendar. ·I have to have it right out of the camera. ·Don’t try to Photoshop anything on the photo and resave. ·I have to have it at least 13″ X 10″ at 200 DPI – which is 6MP and higher. ·Don’t crop ·Don’t adjust the color – I’ll handle any cropping and adjustments. ·Email one photo at a time to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – in the Subject put “Calendar Car”, and give me your contact information. I put this email in a folder for when I start putting together calendars – so an immediate response from me won’t be forthcoming. ·If the photo is excellent – it will make it into a calendar, however, to produce top quality calendars of member’s cars – only the best photos can be used. I can’t compromise. ·ONLY SUBMIT CARS THAT ARE OR WERE YOURS – AND PHOTOS THAT YOU TOOK. I don’t want to get into any copyright hassles. If you send me a photo of a car – this is assumed.