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Car Photography Composition Studies (Not Academic)

By: jwilde

Great photography doesn't exist because of great cameras. Great photography exists because of great composition.

james wilder photographer
Photo by j.wilder, 2018. iPhone 6s (the camera I had with me).

Today, car photography seems like it's mostly about cameras and post-processing.

Comparing your shots to a highly edited photograph can be discouraging for amateurs.

Nevertheless, part of the process of learning how to photograph cars is studying the work of others.

The most valuable thing to study is composition. That is the art/heart of photography.

j.wilder photographer
Photo by j.wilder. Nikon D5000.

Why Study Composition

No matter how much a photo has been post-processed, the most important aspect is the composition.

How the elements in a photograph are positioned and work together is the art of photography.

Composition is a lifelong study and practice. It should consume the majority of our time.

Curate Study and Create

Every day social media pumps out amazing car photos like fast food fries.

I quit following most car photography accounts because at some point, who cares. My photography doesn't improve just by looking at my social media feed. Even for the greatest car photos, how much time do you spend looking at them? Probably enough time to think "Wow, that's awesome," then on to the next.

Time is precious. Why waste it consuming stuff that doesn’t make you a better photographer?

Now I'm deliberate when I look at car photos.

If I see a shot that interests me, I save it for one purpose, to study and recreate.

So, if you like the work of a specific photographer, pick out a photo, and try to recreate it with your camera and your car.

Curate, Study and Create, this is the way.

Photographers

I would like to share with you a few photographers that I find interesting because of their style.

Keep reading to find out why their photos could improve your photos.

Willy Johnson

willy johnson photographer
Photo by Willy Johnson. Used with permission.

Willy Johnson is a professional photographer in San Francisco. His work includes event, portrait, commercial, wedding, and family photography.

However, his car photography projects are what fascinate me.

Whenever I'm driving anywhere for any reason I will almost always pull over when I see a photo opportunity. I love taking artistic photos of cars on the street. Sometimes the composition is right there, and sometimes you have to get very creative. That's why I love the car photography of Willy Johnson. This is "street" car photography at its finest and a great study in creative composition of cars in their natural habitat.

If you like this style of car photography, you can check out more of his work at the link below and on Instagram.

The Automobile Life (Project)
breakbeatbilly.com/the-automobile-life

Andrew Thompson

Andrew Thompson photographer
Photo by Andrew Thompson. Used with permission.

Andrew Thompson is an amazing photographer that lives in Missouri.

I included Andrew Thompson because of the many photos of his Lotus Exige. I'm a fan of photographing your own car. Most of his compositions can be recreated, meaning they are not in exotic and inaccessible locations. Andrew's photography serves* as a great resource for composition study. He appears to use a 200mm lens on most shots, but also includes a few other lenses.

[*serves. Interesting concept. Create great photographs that entertain, inspire and serve. More on that later.]

I highly recommend you check out his Flickr account and study his compositions. There are close to a thousand unique compositions using the same car! The photos range from city to country, awesome Fall shots, and amazing low light silhouette photos. The Lotus has some great lines.

One additional note: how does he get that crazy gorgeous blurred background? I think it’s his killer 200mm 2.0 aperture lens. You might not be able to replicate that gorgeous blur, but do what you can until you get your own killer lens.

Andrew Thompson Flickr
www.flickr.com/photos/visualechos/

Summary

Great photography doesn't exist because of great cameras. Great photography exists because of great composition.

Part of the process of learning how to photograph cars is studying the work of others.

Find a photograph that really resonates with you and study the composition.

Using the equipment you have, go out and try to create a similar (or better!) shot.

Then repeat the process until you get a thousand great photos!

Next Steps

If you mainly use your smartphone for car photography, and are thinking about getting a new camera, then check out the next article "The Best Camera for Car Photography."

Finally

If you are new to photography you might want to check out this article that focuses on Car Photography Tips for Beginners. It's a great place to start.

Keep shooting.

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