Professional photographers typically try to capture the most interesting elements of a subject by highlighting the subject’s unique characteristics. The challenge to automotive photography is that the most interesting characteristic of a vehicle is often its movement. Here are some tips for photographing both stationary and moving vehicles.
There are two techniques for photographing an automobile that will depict the vehicle's motion. The first option is to begin with the background and work forward, which means one must first decide where to place the vehicle in a picture in relation to a background of interest. Once the background is properly framed, focussed and exposed for, then the photographer simply waits till the vehicle passes through the frame and into the precise position desired so that in the finished image a slight motion blur will highlight the vehicle's movement. Remember that if the photograph is being captured on an SLR, then one will need to anticipate the exact moment of placement because there will be a momentary blackout as the internal mirror moves to record the image.
The second method for photographing a moving vehicle is to track the vehicle while it is moving by keeping it in the frame’s centre. This will require a photographer to match the speed of the vehicle's movement to the speed of the photographer’s panning movement. This sounds much easier than it is. The key here is to begin tracking the vehicle before one intends to take the picture, and then take the picture at the halfway point of one's panning motion. It is extremely important to keep tracking the vehicle even after one has begun to press the shutter button. If the panning action is stopped to soon, part of the vehicle will be clear and part of the vehicle will be blurry.
When photographing a stationary vehicle, focus on key details of interest. Techniques to use are creative angles that draw the viewer's attention to those key details. Lighting is also very important to giving the vehicle more than just a flat depiction. Side lighting is always more dramatic, so consider using bounce flash techniques if possible.