I don’t know about you, but every time I have to take pictures of a car I get always a bit nervous… Where I am going to shoot it? Will I be able to find a good place? Let me show how I put to sleep the anxiety monster…

A good location

First of all, what’s the definition of a good location? The most important requirement is that the car must draw the attention of the viewer. In other words, who watch the picture must not be distracted by other intrusive elements in the field. For example:

  • A red SUV parked next to the Lamborghini you are shooting.
  • A trash bin full of crap in the field of view.
  • Casual road signals and promotional billboards.
  • Unrelate people stepping by the car.

I can continue, but I think you got the point. If you don’t care about what’s around and you see only the car, you’re not a photographer but just a car-spotter (one of the bad ones) or a bored salesman that needs a picture because his boss told him to prepare an online listing…
So a neutral location, without distractions will help. What else? The background can do much more than simply not distract the viewer. A great location makes the subject to stand out. You can relate it to the car, using conceptual links. Some quick one: modern car? Go to an industrial area, or put some modern building behind. Vintage car? Do the opposite and find some classical architecture. Offroad? I’m sure there’s a nice spot just out of the city that can work fine.

Step 1: Homeworks

Get the information you need to plan the shooting. Is the car driveable on public roads? How far you can move it? How much time do you have? Is the date flexible? And so on… get as much info you can.
It’s important doing these homeworks well in advance, in order to plan the shooting.

Step 2: Virtual scouting

You know what you can do with the car. Now go on Google Maps, get comfortable and start using Street View. You’ll find all the spots open to public in the area of your interest, and you could starting to imagine how to frame the pictures too. Nice, isn’t it? Make a list of candidate places, an exaustive one, not just one or two spots.

Step 3: the Real World

Now it’s time to fo in the real world. There are two ways here. The simple one, and the complete one. Let’s start with the simple one.
On the day of the shooting take some time to go through the candidate list, before the time of the appointment. Evaluate in person the spots, and then select the best three. That’s it, you can take the car and start doing your job. Fast and efficient. Cheap, too.
The complete one is doing the same thing, but on a dedicated session, some day before the choosen date. This allows you to evaluate your list more carefully, and to find out other places, maybe private ones. For those you will probably need to ask for permission: use the time before the shooting to get that, and you’ll have unique pictures.

Last but not least

Some final advice. If the job is big, go for the complete way. It’s always better. If possible, ask someone to drive you around the location scouting, or do it by walk, you’ll get a better understanding. And last but not least, when someone tells you “don’t worry about the location, I know some spots”, never skip the evaluation: it happened to me, the owner of a supercar thought that a parking lot with a yard in the background was a “cool place”. It wasn’t at all, it took me several hours of Photoshop to obtain something acceptable…forewarned is forearmed!

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