How to photograph cars for Instagram. Top 6 tips to make your pictures stand out from the crowd

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On average 80 million photos are shared on Instagram every day and the social media channel is the fastest growing social network. So, how can car fans make sure their photos stand out from the ever-growing crowd? ŠKODA teamed up with British photographer Julian Calverley to share his tips for capturing the best car photos on your smartphone.

Caverley ventured out to the Welsh wilderness with the ŠKODA Octavia Scout to demonstrate how a smartphone camera can be used to create stunning automotive photography. The British photographer has shared his top tips to show how amateur photographers armed only with a smartphone and a social media account can transform their car snaps into professional-looking images.

1. Think like a pro

It doesn’t matter whether you’re holding a phone or a camera. Want to take pictures like a pro? Then you need to think and act like one. Be well equipped and ready to step outside your comfort zone. You might need to cross rivers, face bad weather, or spend days far from civilisation. I always take good footwear, waterproof bags for equipment, an extended battery pack to upgrade battery life, and an umbrella which allows me to shoot when it’s raining. And I don’t accept average locations.

2. See the bigger picture

The best images are those that work best as thumbnails or miniatures, especially when posting onto social media – it should catch the eye even when it’s very small. Don’t get lost in the details, break the whole scene down into simple forms. Look for dramatic locations that will draw focus and use the rule of thirds to position the car. The human eye is drawn to imagery that is divided into thirds, so this should be reflected in the main elements of a picture.

3. Start early and follow the sun

Capturing photos of your car at dawn or dusk provides a softer light that accentuates the shape and lines of the vehicle. The window of opportunity for this is small; using apps such as Sun Seeker and Lumos that tell you the exact times when the sun rises and sets in your location can be useful tools.

4. Perfect weather isn’t always perfect

Clear blue skies are stunning, but it is actually the worst weather for photographers due to glare. Clouds, rain, snow or hail all add drama to your image and can make your photo feel more atmospheric. Rain, mist and fog ironically can create a calm feel when seen through the lens of your smartphone and will help divert the focus fully on to your car.

5. Find the best angle

Firstly, don’t use zoom. Instead of standing in one spot and using the zoom function move around the car and see how the image works best at different angles. Just a subtle shift can completely change the visual weight and impact of the vehicle’s lines. Explore the distance between the camera and the car. Placing a car in a large dramatic landscape, for example, can add a sense of scale.

“The best images are those that work best as thumbnails or miniatures, especially when posting onto social media – it should catch the eye even when it’s very small.”

6. Cars have eyes too!

When taking a photo of a person, the best angle is usually at the height of their eyes. When it comes to cars, the headlights act as the eyes. The front wheels should be aimed straight or turned away from the camera to show the discs and add sportiness. Avoid using the main lights – subtle front sidelights or LED daylights will have a much better effect for your photo. However, the view from the back is always better with the lights on.

To edit the photo there are a host of great apps that you can use. Add the finishing touches by firstly adjusting the sharpness of the image and then add vignette to focus the attention on the car. Use a subtle film grain layer that also uses a colour grade (warm, cool etc.) to help soften and reduce the digital feel of the image. The final image adjustments usually include ambience and saturation.

Julian Calverley is a professional landscape and advertising photographer. He is the author of the book #IPHONEONLY, which he wrote after falling in love with the simplicity of smartphone photography. Follow him on Instagram.

Chris Price