How to Photograph Cars?

Updated October 6, 2023

Car Photography Tips

Photographing cars can seem pretty simple at first: just point and click from different angles. But there’s more to it than that, and once you realize the effort it takes, it can become difficult to know where to start. Whether you’ve just learned how to apply for a new CA driver’s license (for 18+), planning to sell your car or you just want to show it off a little on social media, here are some tips to showcase your car really on film (or the equivalent of film).

Get the Car Ready

The best way to start is to get the car ready for its close-up. Clean, buff, shine, wax: whatever you have to do, make sure it’s in picture-perfect condition. Unless you’re selling an SUV and you want to show how rugged it is, you’ll need to take this step. There is one major bonus to getting the car clean that has nothing to do with better photos: the car will be safer to drive while you have it. A dirty car is an exercise in the law of odds. Eventually that old soda can will make its way into the front seat after a while. You don’t want that thing under your gas pedal.

(Another way you can make yourself safer on the road is by taking a defensive driving class. Take the points off your license, and potentially save some money on your car insurance too by taking a traffic course to refresh your defensive driving skills.)

Beware Reflections

Once your car is already and set, you’ll need to take it to a place with as few objects around as possible. Reflections distract the viewer and blur the lines of the car, so the viewer won’t have any idea just how curvy the car really is.) Ideally, take it into the desert where there’s nothing but miles and miles of sand surrounding you, but you may not have a lot of pure-sand deserts around. Instead, look for a place that has some space available (like around a lake or other body of water), and then be ready to move the car to shoot from different angles if need be.

Timing Your Shots

Lighter colors look really good in sunshine as they’ll need all the lighting help they can get to stand out. Most professionals recommend taking photos right around dusk or in the early morning though for most cars. The soft light will capture the best parts of the car, and eliminate the many perils of over-exposure. Flaws won’t be highlighted, the car won’t appear to look washed out, and you’ll get more shots you’ll want to use in post-production.

Action Shots

Filming the car in action takes some skill, but it can also really help your photos get more than just a cursory glance. Either use your shutter button (at 125th of a second) or get to learn the burst button on your iPhone. There are also plenty of apps you can download for your smartphone to get better action shots. Regardless of whether you have a sporty car or a tough-as-nails truck, it does help to show your car in a few more positions than just Park.


Just like any new venture, you’ll want to experiment with different angles to get the best shots. It’s really all about snapping away until you have enough pictures to start to choose from. If you’re just starting out, you may have to take countless photos until you get 5 you really like. As you continue to practice though, you’ll need fewer and fewer tries to get the perfect shots you want.

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