Need advice taking car pictures

Calendyr

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Hello everyone,

I am new here and I hope to become a regular member.

I hope a car detailing service here in Montreal, Canada. I take a lot of pictures to do before/after comparisons for my website. This is my 4th year in business and I want to make some effort to improve my photography skills this year. I have an Olympus E-410 camera and 2 lens: One is a 14-42 mm and the other one is a 40-150 mm. Not sure if there are other info I should tell you about my camera if so please ask. As for my photography skills and knowledge I would rate myself as advanced beginner. I understand pretty much all the basic stuff like aperture, speed, ISO and all of that but I am not sure how to make them work for me.

So... I have a few questions to get started...

Right now, when I take pictures I use the 40-150 mm lens. I was told that using the 14-42 mm one would distort the proportions of the car, which is not ideal. My issue with that is that I have to get pretty far from the car to take pictures and that is not always easy or possible. What do you guys think?

Second, I am not sure how to make a car look good. If you want to see some of my pictures, please have a look at the gallery on my website: Photo and video gallery by Montreal Car Detailing
All the pictures are cropped out of 3K pictures and resized to 1024 width so match the website template.

So what could I do to improve my pictures? Any advice is welcome, camera settings, framing, etc. My major issue is light. I can't really control that and sometimes there are huge differences in light between my before and after pictures depending when I start and when I end the detail. Most exterior details take me between 4 to 10 hours, so if I start at say 9am and end at 7pm, the light characteristics are completely different.
 

jaomul

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I wouldn't worry about using your 14-42 as long as your at the longer end of this lens. Distortion will depend on how close you are, focal length used etc. If you use 35mm (just as an example) and stand a little from the car I am sure distortion wont be an issue.

I am no car photographer, but from looking at your photos I think if it is possible to do your photos either in shade or on a cloudy day, you will get much better balanced light without to many reflections or hot spots from the sun. If the shade is dark you could use a tripod and allow for a longer exposure so everything is bright enough. Try use lowest iso possible and probably an aperture of f8, maybe f11 and see how it goes. Also select the white balance that matches your conditions rather than auto so you get correct car colours. Hope some of this helps

(if the shots seem to bright or dark use your exposure compensation to brighten or darken as required)
 

Rick50

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I use a 16-35mm at 16 a lot. How you place the lens makes a difference in distortion. Some distortion looks good to me. Also, getting low (around the middle of the body) is good I think. Just try different angles from the normal walk up and shoot position that everyone uses.
 
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Calendyr

Calendyr

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I wouldn't worry about using your 14-42 as long as your at the longer end of this lens. Distortion will depend on how close you are, focal length used etc. If you use 35mm (just as an example) and stand a little from the car I am sure distortion wont be an issue.

I am no car photographer, but from looking at your photos I think if it is possible to do your photos either in shade or on a cloudy day, you will get much better balanced light without to many reflections or hot spots from the sun. If the shade is dark you could use a tripod and allow for a longer exposure so everything is bright enough. Try use lowest iso possible and probably an aperture of f8, maybe f11 and see how it goes. Also select the white balance that matches your conditions rather than auto so you get correct car colours. Hope some of this helps

(if the shots seem to bright or dark use your exposure compensation to brighten or darken as required)

Thanks for your answers. I have been afraid to use full manual mode on the camera since I have no formal training. Right now I either use full automatic or semi-automatic mostly in Apperture mode. Could you give me a few pointers on the process of using full manual mode? Right now my camera is set to a high ISO value, I believe it's at 1600. I know it's very high but when I use it on a lower setting I sometimes get unusable pictures because they are too dark. I do have a tri-pod so if I could use longer exposures the ISO could be reduced for sure.
 
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Calendyr

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I use a 16-35mm at 16 a lot. How you place the lens makes a difference in distortion. Some distortion looks good to me. Also, getting low (around the middle of the body) is good I think. Just try different angles from the normal walk up and shoot position that everyone uses.

Can you be more specific? The main thing I need to do is take the same angles with the before and after pictures so people can see the difference. But the angles themselves can be anything I want. Right now I try to take a front, back, front/side, back/side pictures as well as 1 wheel. I know I could do a lot better than that but I am not sure what angles would make a car stand out. Like, taking a zooming in picture of the emblem maybe, but I am not sure how to compose those pictures to make them look good. I know using a narrow depth of field on details could make very impressible pictures, but setting up the camera for those shot is beyond my skill level at the moment. Maybe if you had some pointers I could try it on the next detail I do.

Thanks for the comments btw!
 

Rick50

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Some samples: All these are down low and wide angle lens.
150612-cruisingrand-8031.jpg

150612-cruisingrand-7993.jpg

150612-cruisingrand-7955.jpg

150529cruisingrand-7707.jpg

150710-8426.jpg
 

jaomul

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I wouldn't worry about using your 14-42 as long as your at the longer end of this lens. Distortion will depend on how close you are, focal length used etc. If you use 35mm (just as an example) and stand a little from the car I am sure distortion wont be an issue.

I am no car photographer, but from looking at your photos I think if it is possible to do your photos either in shade or on a cloudy day, you will get much better balanced light without to many reflections or hot spots from the sun. If the shade is dark you could use a tripod and allow for a longer exposure so everything is bright enough. Try use lowest iso possible and probably an aperture of f8, maybe f11 and see how it goes. Also select the white balance that matches your conditions rather than auto so you get correct car colours. Hope some of this helps

(if the shots seem to bright or dark use your exposure compensation to brighten or darken as required)

Thanks for your answers. I have been afraid to use full manual mode on the camera since I have no formal training. Right now I either use full automatic or semi-automatic mostly in Apperture mode. Could you give me a few pointers on the process of using full manual mode? Right now my camera is set to a high ISO value, I believe it's at 1600. I know it's very high but when I use it on a lower setting I sometimes get unusable pictures because they are too dark. I do have a tri-pod so if I could use longer exposures the ISO could be reduced for sure.

Aperture priority mode should be fine. Select ap priority, low iso 100 or 200, depending on camera lowest one. The cam will select shutter speed, if this speed is to slow to hand hold, use a tripod. If the metering makes the shot a little to dark or bright, use exposure compensation to adjust.

It's only the white balance that your selecting to match condition, and this doesn't matter to much if your shooting and editing raw
 

dannylightning

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i would use my 18-35mm lens for shooting cars using a nikon crop sensor camera which is about 1.4x crop.. it looks like your camera has a 2x crop factor so that 14mm-42mm lens i is really a 30-84mm lens on your camera. that should workout just fine..


even at 35mm on mine (49mm after crop factor) i notice i need to stand back kind of far to get the shot if i want the whole car in the photo.. 14mm on your camera would be more like 30mm, i would use the 14-42mm lens.. part of the reason i got rid of the 35mm prime and picked up that 18-35mm 1.8 was i often needed to stand pretty far back or could not get back far enough to get everything i wanted in the shot..

these were taken with a 35mm prime lens pretty close to the car. i would not worry about distortion using your wider angle lens with that crop factor.

DSC_2286.jpg DSC_2290.jpg
 
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Calendyr

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Ok, I will have to try all of that. I have never used the white balance function on the camera, will have to read the manual to see how this is done.

I have a polarizing filter but I never use it because it makes the pictures too dark. I am thinking that using a tripod would probably fix that.

I have so much to learn, thank you guys for taking the time to share some of your knowledge with me. And by the way, those are amazing car pictures!
 

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