From the outside looking in, it might look like we just spray and pray at every cool looking car. But Speedhunting involves so much more than just firing away with a bazooka. The neat thing about it is that anyone can do it, so I wanted to let you in on a few tips and tricks that I have learned over the years photographing feature cars. I had my friend Arslan Golic shoot me, while I shot this Porsche 930 Turbo. It was Speedhunt-ception.
Before I fire off a single shot I always take some time to look at the subject from a variety of different angles and see what needs to be accentuated. I talk to the owner about what they like about the car and the areas that they are most proud of. Sometimes that’s what it takes to understand the passion associated with the car. I also look at the lines of the car and check the cleanliness.
Location, location, location. In my mind there is nothing more important than location. What’s behind and around the car will ultimately make the image, so it is very important for you to consider the background. Keep in mind that we at Speedhunters like to portray a realistic setting, so we never Photoshop cars into different locations. A general rule of thumb for me is to imagine the car is not there at all. If it wasn’t, would there still be a strong image? You also have to consider telephone poles and other distractions.
Generally speaking, my style has always been to shoot with natural light. It’s fun to explore different lighting situations and methods, but strobes take up space and weight when you’re traveling overseas, so packing a portable lighting set up is generally not an option for me. Some Speedhunting trips take us to three countries at a time, so we all generally carry the minimal amount of gear required.
I am all about moving fast, because taking less time per shot and per angle, means more variety. It also helps to be fast when I have five shoots to do in a single day!
Focus on one type of shot at a time. Start out with exterior, or interior or engine bay – but don’t jump between them. Finishing one area before you start on the next makes it much easier to keep a mental checklist on what you have shot and what you still need to shoot.
In order to be as efficient as possible with your time, minimize your lens-switching too.Asian squat
It’s easy to guess the height of your average photographer, because often they’ll tend to get lazy and shoot from standing eye level. I can’t stand that, so I utilize my Asian squat genes to my advantage.
You can go high or low, but is much easier to go the latter if you don’t have a step ladder handy. Be creative with your angles.
Sometimes it means having shooting at a Dutch (tilt) angle. Of course, our friend Linhbergh will give me five lashes for dishing out that kind of advice.
It doesn’t matter how much photo gear you have, because you are physically limited to how much you can carry. If anything, having more gear will slow you down.
I love shooting Porsches because I don’t have to spend much time on the engine bay.
People always ask me why I use prime lenses. Granted it’s the cool thing to do, but I actually feel like I have much more control over my images.The big guns
Generally speaking, fixed focal lenses have a lower f-stop, which allows you to control the look of the image more than you can using a zoom lens.
It would be much harder to get so much bokeh with a zoom lens at this focal length. So even if you had a 70-200mm with a 2x extender – effectively giving you 400mm on a full frame DSLR – shooting the same image wide open on a 400mm prime lens will not produce the same shot.
Professional equipment is always going to be expensive, but these days it’s actually more affordable than it’s ever been. A good lens will last a lifetime, and in fact, I still have the very first pro lens that I’ve ever bought, and I use it almost everyday.
One thing that you have to watch out for when you are using long focal lengths during the daytime, is shooting through heat waves.
A trick that I found is that grass does not retain as much heat, therefore your shots will be clearer if you shoot over foliage instead of black asphalt.
I don’t actually use my bazooka for range – I use it more to get the look I’m after. I zoom in and out of my subject by moving either closer or further away.
Shooting fixed focal length lenses also forces you to work on your composition.Inside and out
Shooting the interior of a car is always one of the trickiest aspects. Depending on what kind of light is available, it can be super-easy or your worst nightmare.
Luckily for me the light was very soft in Sweden and I did not have to do anything special to produce these evenly-exposed interiors. If you are shooting in harsh light the best thing to do is to find some shade, or maybe try and shoot the interior in a garage.
It’s a great idea to spend lots of time on the details of the car, because that’s where much of its personality can be found.
When shooting black interiors it is very easy to overexpose the shots because your camera thinks that you are shooting something that is very dark. Underexpose a bit and you will get great detail and accurate blacks.
It’s all in the details. That is how I found out that Krister – the owner of the 930 Turbo – was a big Resident Evil fan.
I usually like to save the car-to-car shots for last, because it’s usually the most time-consuming part. Again, due to having to travel super-light it is near impossible to bring a dedicated rig, so I am always forced to improvise.
Luckily for me Arslan brought out his EK9 Honda Civic, but unluckily there was a J’s Racing cross-bar support in the way. Every time I needed him to slow down or speed up I would have to scream over the road noise and the Civic’s raspy exhaust note.
It still worked out well and I only ended up with a few bruised ribs.
I am a firm believer in giving the owners some goodies after a successful shoot. It’s a good idea to build a relationship with everyone you encounter at car meets or track days. Who knows, they may build another feature-worthy car soon enough and want to give me an exclusive.
I hope you Speedhunters out there learned something. If any of you have any questions leave a comment, because I read every one of them. See you guys out there hunting speed soon!