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Tips On Taking Photographs Of Your Classic Car

When displaying your vehicle at a show, enthusiasts like yourself pay close attention to every detail down to the shine on the bolts to ensure that the car is perfect. The end quality of your display is dependent upon your attention to details. Whenever we take a photograph or create your art we do exactly the same. Starting with the right photographs is key.

Remember that you must start with a good photograph in order to obtain good final results. Before taking your pictures please keep in mind the following suggestions so you will get the best possible results.

  • Digital Cameras:
    1. Picture Quality- Set your camera to the BEST quality mode possible. Many camera have resolution settings similar to Normal, Better, Fine, and quality settings of Good, Better, Best. Select the Fine and Best mode. You can always reduce the resolution and quality later if needed, but you can not improve it. This becomes even more important when making larger pictures or posters.
    2. Zooming In and Close ups - At times you will have to zoom into your car, and if you do, you need to understand the implications. Many digital cameras have two types of zoom modes. The first is an optical zoom where it uses the camera lens and enlarges the image with optics. The second mode is a digital zoom where the camera manipulates the image digitally to enlarge it. When the digital zoom is used, in most cases it actually reduces the image resolution/quality. It is recommended to avoid using the digital zoom. A high quality optical lens is recommended.
  • When composing the picture, you are focusing on the vehicle, so zoom in or get close enough so the vehicle fills as much of the frame as possible. This will provide more resolution and details. When taking pictures of badges r emblems this is required in order to capture al of the intricate details.
  • No matter if you are using a standard film camera, or a digital camera you want to be sure that your camera ALWAYS uses the flash. The only possible exception to this would be for indoor photography where there are halogen or other obtrusive lighting that you may have to experiment with. Set your camera to "FORCE Flash" or "Fill Flash", not "AUTOMATIC Flash". Using the flash helps to illuminate the shadowing areas, as well as minimizing any glare. Force flash should be used for exterior shots, cockpit shots, and engine bay shots.
  • Use a standard 50mm lens, and avoid telephoto or wide-angle lenses. Exception is that a wide-angle lens can be used for cockpit and engine bay shots of needed.
  • Pick the right lighting:
    1. Given that we are focusing on color photography, proper lighting is essential. You want to have an even distribution of light and not glaring light or shadowing. Sun light that is at a low-angle such as at sun rise or sun set is the best. Sun light that is high in the sky such as that midday harsh sun must be avoided otherwise you will have glaring reflections, the top surfaces washed out, and the lower areas with excessive shadows. The goal is low angle, soft, evenly distributed light that illuminates your entire vehicle. Remember, keep the sun behind you!
    2. Days with overcast (filtered sunlight) can also provide a good lighting environment. Your flash will still be required, but this softer light will provide even lighting. Pearl white or other pearl and metallic paints will have an added benefit of providing an iridescent effect further enhancing the picture.
    3. If you have a light pastel colored car, such as yellow, or pink, you need to shoot early morning, late day or behind a building where the entire car is shadowed from the sun. These colors are more susceptible to becoming washed out on the top surfaces, and excessive color distortion on the lower areas.
  • Picking the location: The lighter the ground surface the better the lower area lighting will be and less shadowing. Parking the vehicle on a light concrete surface versus a dark asphalt surface will provide reflective light off of the ground to better illuminate the lower areas and minimize shadows. Unless your final print will be of your car in a field, do not take your pictures on a lawn. grassy field or gravel surface. The blades of grass will hide the bottom of the tires as well as produce unwanted reflections and irregular shadowing on the lower panels.
    1. Avoid parking under trees, signs or other things that will reflect on the top surfaces and facing side of the vehicle.
  • Positioning the vehicle:
    1. Park the vehicle away from anything that will cause a reflection on it. For example, the white parking lot stripes will be reflected on the sides. Any building signs or even trees will be reflected. Remember your car can be like a mirror and many things around will show up as a reflection.
    2. Position the vehicle for the best lighting. Remember that you want to always take the picture from the sun side and not the shadow side (sun behind you). This may require that you reposition the vehicle during a photo shoot for optimum lighting. Make sure that the areas that you are photographing (i.e. front/side, etc.) are position for best lighting.
    3. After you have positioned the vehicle, and before you start to take any pictures, examine the vehicle and carefully look for any shadows, including those cast from distant trees, any reflections or other things that are visible on the surface. Also be sure to look at the windows, and through the windows to make sure there is nothing showing that will be distracting. Remember that once the final picture printed, these flaws will stand out even more.
  • NOTE: So many of your vehicles shine like a mirror, so it is important to follow the guidelines presented here. . We can correct some of this from the picture, but often specific details such as emblems will be washed out and can not be restored. Pay attention to any reflections and shadowing that could make body panels look like a poor paint job or in need of body work.
  • Often there are small replica cars in our rear window or on display elsewhere in the car. If you have tinted windows often the replica will not be clear. We suggest that you take pictures both with the model showing, and with it removed.
  • Remove any window plaques, displays or show stickers or items hanging from your mirror that you do not want to be in the photograph. Remove the key chain as well since they can be distracting.
  • Unless you want the background where you are taking the photographs to be included in the final work, it is best to park the vehicle in front of a plain background such as a building or where there are no cars or other distractions in the background. If you do want the background to be included, it should not be distracting or too busy taking away from your vehicle. One example of this would be a telephone pole behind the car that looks like it is sticking out of the roof.
  • Keep your antenna lowered to the lowest level. Antennas sticking way up do not add anything to the picture and just add for what can be empty space above the car.
  • Take a series of photographs with all doors, hood, trunk are completely closed. This series should include the following shots (refer to the picture bar to the left):
    • Straight on from the front
    • Straight on from the back
    • Left front quarter to side panel shot (take one crouched down, as well as standing)
    • Right front quarter to side panel shot ( one crouched down, as well as standing)
    • Straight on left/right side
    • Rear quarter panel shot (take one crouched down, as well as standing)
    • Repeat the above positions with the parking lights, and/or headlights on
    • For a convertible, take pictures with the top up and down, and for some unique cars, such as those with retractable tops, you may also want to take pictures during different stages of the top going down.
    • Take some with the windows completely rolled down. This minimizes any reflections for the area, and also allows visibility into and through the car.
  • Most of your vehicles have areas that are special to you, such as an emblem, gas cap, dash board, steering wheel, or even a specific body part. Take multiple photographs of each of these areas with slightly different angles and we can incorporate them into the art work. Remember to be sure that your steering wheel is straight, and for that twist gas cap is also straight and zoom in to fill the frame.
  • Many of our themes pictures such as the magazine covers include engine pictures or dash pictures, so be sure to include these as well. If you would like multiple vehicles in the same picture ,be sure to take complementary pictures such as the two green mustangs.
  • Lastly, we want to emphasize that you must start with a good quality photograph, do not just look at the vehicle, but look around it to be sure that you or something around is not casting a shadow into the picture, and that your reflection is not visible in the car. If you are up close taking a picture of a badge or lettering, your reflection may be visible

Photo View Examples

chevorlet image  - Classic Car Pictures

Straight on from the font

camaro image - Classic Car Pictures

Top: Rear quarter/side panel. Bottom: Right front quarter/side panel

Chevy image  - Classic Car Pictures

Straight on left/right side

1967 mustang image - Classic Car Pictures

Gas Cap feature

2005 mustang image - Classic Car Pictures

Complementary angles

Chrysler newport image - Classic Car Pictures

Dash feature


NOTE that all images of the cars, logos, etc. used on these pages were provided by the customers. Because of trade mark restrictions, we DO NOT provide trademarked logos (or images) for use on your photographs. However, if you provide pictures of your emblems, badges or logos from your car or property that "you own" we will try to incorporate them. All emblems/badges/logos or other trade marked images used on this site have been provided by customers for their pictures exclusively.

Copyright 2005-2017 by Palmieri Concepts. All rights reserved. Protected under both U.S. Federal copyright law and international treaties. No part of this site, including text, images and computer code, may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means, electronic, graphic, digital or mechanical, including photocopying or information storage & retrieval systems, without the express prior written permission of Palmieri Concepts. The only area that may be reproduced are the publications that expressly state that they can be copied. They must be used in their entirety without any changes, and provide a reference to, and credit the author.

- Classic Car Pictures and Art by Palmieri Concepts -