Car photography for beginners - tips and tricks for BMW owners

Bianka Rommel
Oct 19, 2020

Have you always wanted to boast about your shiny, retrofitted BMW on social media profiles, but don’t know how to capture its good looks and polish on camera? Or maybe you want to take some awesome sales pics of your car, which would get BMW seekers flocking to you? If your answer is yes then this car photography tutorial for beginners will be the guide you’re looking for.

Here we’re going to give you some useful car photography tips on how to find car photography spots, play with phone camera settings, how to shoot and edit car photography and present you many other car photography ideas. Ready to learn some new skills? So, dig in, take your phone out and start taking some impressive pictures. 

What makes a good photo composition

If you want to take an eye-catching pic of your BMW the first thing you should keep in mind is making sure you get a good photo composition. It’s a key part of presenting your car in a good light that may enhance its most attractive features — so before taking your first shots, think what the best spot for your BMW could be. 

Best location for car photography 

Start with location. Remember that the spot you’re choosing shouldn’t be overly crowded or too busy, so that you can eliminate unnecessary distractions. But you still want it to be original and unique — just like your car. What you could do is search for a place that matches the style of your BMW. Maybe your X6 would fit better in wild scenery as opposed to the modern city background? 

Best location for car photography

Frame your vehicle 

When testing various car photography ideas, also try to think about how you can accent your car when it’s parked. Here, make sure it stands so it matches the surrounding lines and the background adds interesting characteristics to the picture. Things like lines on the ground, shadows, walls or bridges can all contribute to the right framing of your vehicle.

Frame your vehicle

Maintain colour contrast 

Keep color contrast in mind. If your car has bright blue paintwork, set it against contrasting scenery that enhances your vehicle’s shade — for example among orange leaves or a green field. Shooting your car in sunset lighting is also a great way of creating a natural contrast between your car and the scenery. Taking pictures during the so-called ‘golden hour’ makes for excellent soft lighting, and is perfect for most coloured vehicles.  

Maintain colour contrast 

Check some great examples of car photo composition for yourself in Chaz’s short video tutorial.


Angles and natural lighting in car photography

When it comes to boosting the right features of your BMW on a photograph, playing with angles and lighting can make a huge difference in how your vehicle comes across. They may add depth or flatness to your picture as well as make it look softer or more aggressive. Depending on your car and your vision, you’ll want to test out multiple options to obtain the best results.  

Car photography techniques

Shooting your car from different perspectives impacts its grandeur in a photo. Various angles help to make it look bigger, smaller, longer or shorter, depending on what you’d like to achieve. So, the important thing is to try to shoot your car from different angles (low view, mid view, high view) and see in which one the vehicle presents itself best. You can also use the front ¼ and front ¾ rules to show the car from the front while still capturing its full glory — it’s a very easy way to add much more depth to your photo. Check it out yourself.

Any other tricks? Besides testing out various angles and distances, remember to keep your headlights turned on and have your steering wheel turned all the way to one side. It’ll show off the stance of your vehicle and make it look more aggressive.

Car photography techniques

How to play with natural light for car photography 

Managing the natural light of the daytime sun can be tricky for an inexperienced car photographer. But if you’re up for a challenge and want to try different car photography ideas, we’ve got few tips that might help you take a pro picture even during the most radiant weather. 

If you decide you want to take pics of your car in strong sunlight, you might have to fight the problem of glare. It can overexpose your picture and make it look blurred, so one simple way to reduce glare is using polarized sunglasses — placing polarized glass in front of your phone’s camera lense will help you dim that sharp, unwanted glow.

Another important thing is to remember that shadows created by you, your BMW and objects all around can either be your friends or enemies. So while shooting, make sure that the shadows are casting away from your camera lense, not towards it. Otherwise they can be a little distracting and heavy on the photo. Also, remember about reflections! Nobody wants unnecessary reflections of themselves on the glass, so keep in mind what perspective you’re shooting from in the sun.  

However, if shooting pics of your car during daytime still doesn’t give you the effect you’re looking for, wait for the so-called ‘golden hour’. It is the time of the day just after sunrise or right before sunset when the sun gives off a characteristic light with a golden tint.  If you want your car to look magical and elegant, the soft light coming from the low sun will definitely do its job. 

How to play with natural light for car photography

Take a look at how Chaz uses various techniques to shoot his BMW. 

Camera settings in car photography 

To achieve a professional look for your photo, you’re gonna have to do much more than just simply click a shutter button on your phone. Pictures taken without additional ISO and shutter speed settings, manual focus, filters or white balance control may turn out to be quite bland and unattractive, so to make your photo pop we recommend using a few different camera features. 

How to shoot car photography with a smartphone

Nowadays, you don’t need to have access to a professional camera to get a set of pro camera features. Your phone can easily become your best camera for car photography — all you need is a photo app.

 There are few apps you can download that will add professional camera functions to your phone. Among the best ones is ProCam — it is packed with key camera features that will boost the looks of your BMW photo, such as focus mode, color effects, white balance, manual exposure lock, manual ISO and RAW (DNG) files.

ISO and Shutter speed in car photography

One aspect you’re gonna want to start with is making sure your photo is not underexposed or overexposed. To control that, play with your ISO and shutter speed settings. ISO is basically the level of sensitivity of your camera to the light, so it’ll brighten or darken your picture — the higher the number, the brighter your photo will be. However, with too sensitive (too high) ISO you will experience digital noise, which is a color distortion that looks like a grain on your photo. It appears in poorly lit places, so be careful how you set your sensor sensitivity. 

Shutter speed, on the other hand, is the length of time a shutter is open to expose light into the camera sensor. Slow shutter speeds are used for low-light or night photography, as they pass more light into the camera sensor, while faster shutter speeds help to freeze motion. With fast shutter speeds you’ll be able to capture a shot of your moving BMW without missing any details. To keep your moving vehicle in focus, start from 1/250 sec. If you want to achieve greater sharpness, just increase the value.

Depth of field in car photography 

The next tool that may help you draw attention to your BMW in a photograph is depth of field. Simply put, it is a term describing how much of your image is in focus. It also lets you determine which aspects of the photo you want to capture more and which less. You can increase or decrease the depth of field by changing the aperture of your lens. The higher the aperture gets, the greater the depth of field in your photo is. Whereas, the lower the aperture, the smaller the depth of field becomes. Try it yourself and see how it works in your BMW photo.


Aspect ratio and image format

Other features you can focus on are an aspect ratio of your image and its format. 

Aspect ratio is the ratio of your photos’ width to its height, for example 16:9, 4:5, 1.91:1 or 1:1. For Instagram and Facebook, stick to 1:1 or 16:9; you’ll notice most images nowadays are square or posted vertically to give viewers the ability to see images full-screen on their mobile devices. 

Meanwhile, photo format is the format in which you export the picture taken. RAW format is the go-to resolution for downloading high quality images, as it doesn’t compress your photos. The downside, however, is that it takes up more space. If you want your BMW photo to look its finest though, you’ll want to save it in RAW format. It’ll give you greater flexibility during editing.

Aspect ratio and image format

To see how to work with camera features, check out this short tutorial. Chaz will show you how to capture your BMW in its best light.

Editing in car photography 

Knowing how to edit car photography is an important skill, helping you perfect the details of your BMW image. Let’s say you’ve got some scratches on your car that you’ll want to hide, or some unnecessary objects in the background you want to remove — an editing program will help you manage all aspects of your photo and improve them the way you want. A popular editing program we recommend is Adobe Lightroom — you can use it either on your desktop or your mobile device, and although it has some premium paid features, it is available free of charge in a mobile version with 80% of its capabilities intact. 

How to edit car photography in Lightroom

When editing your BMW photo, pay attention to the details. This is the final step of your work, so make sure the image is ‘clean’. If you have scuff marks or scratches on your vehicle you don’t want to show, try to remove them — the same goes for random objects in the background or unwanted car features cluttering up the first draft. 

What else? If your image is too dark or too bright, play with exposure, highlight, shadowing and radio gradient — this way you’ll achieve perfect lighting and make particular points on your car pop, like the BMW logo. Do the same thing with colour. Use different saturation settings, tints and temperatures to see what’s best for your vehicle. 

How to edit car photography in Lightroom

Want to know how to use all of those features and more in Lightroom? Check out Chaz’s two editing tutorials and learn some useful tricks.

BimmerTech Contest

Are you up for another BMW retrofit project? We’ve prepared a car photography contest for you, so you can win a $300 coupon for any BimmerTech product and upgrade your vehicle with the latest in-car technology. All you have to do is show us some of your social media car photography ideas

How can you participate?

  1. Watch all of the above video tutorials on car photography for beginners.
  2. Using tips from these videos, take a photo of your car and post it on our Facebook or Instagram profile. 
  3. Tag your post with #bimmertechcontest.
  4. And may the best photo win :) 

The post with the most visually attractive photo will be featured on our BimmerTech social media profiles, with its owner winning a $300 coupon for any BimmerTech product.  

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