How to shoot automobiles: Part Une

Let’s face it, we love cars. Well, I sure as hell do, so I assume that the entire world is like me and loves all things with cylinders.

Car and automobile photography can be a bit of a black art. Cars these days are lower, faster and have more glitter than a drag queen on a bender.
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Hopefully this easy and simple tutorial can give you some ideas on how to make your car stand out from the crowd. And by stand out, I mean be just like everyone else. And by easy, I mean mind-bendingly annoying. And by tutorial, I mean another 9 redbull and a kilo of pixie-sticks induced rant… you are still reading… right? God, I hope so, otherwise my life is a complete waste of vapid mold spores.

Tip 1:
Car owners are dead serious about their cars. Like a heart-attack serious. So be sure to point out every little flaw and paint chip you see. If you really like to see geriatrics pulling their hair out and uncontrollably defecating at the same time, then by all means make sure to call their Camaro a “Mustang”.

Tip 2:
Constantly remind them that you know nothing about cars by insisting that you need to sit behind the wheel of their car and make racing noises and violently shake the steering wheel from side to side.

Tip 3:
Ask the owner if you can rub their fuzzy dice, “for good luck”, while you maintain an uncomfortable level of eye contact for an extended period of time.

Tip 4:
When meeting the motorist for the first time remind them that their hunk of rust is older than you and your only here to pick up chicks. Be sure to use their rear view mirrors to perfect your ‘manscaping’, if they get fussy, tell them that “these eyebrows aren’t going to PLUCK themselves!”. If the motoring enthusiast is a woman, be sure to mention how much you love your ladies shaved…. door handles.

Tip 5:
Look seductively into your clients eyes and make sure to emphasize the terms, “Shaved”, “Blown”, “Stroked”, “Lube Job” and “Juiced”. Make sure your client knows you mean business by asking them to do the same.

Ok, thank god I got that out of my system, now I can write a real tutorial -
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1. Seek weird angles
2. Shoot in B&W – Try it, it’s fun
3. Use a slow shutter – especially for moving shots – 1/160th MINIMUM!! If you can shoot 1/40th – you will have automotive juiciness.
4. Eye level is for n00bs
5. Notice a cars lines and how they interact with one another
6. Pick out features of a car that make them stand out and emphasize them (Tail fins, grills, wheels…etc)
7. Fill the frame.
8. Don’t shoot at a parking lot – the lines are annoying as all get out.
9. Shoot in odd places – Industrial things are more interesting than a lake (most of the time but not all the time and I can’t tell you when is good and when is bad, this is where it gets frustrating)
10. Bring a macro lens – Just do it
11. Bring a wide angle lens – Once again, just trust me
12. Bring flashes – even during day light.
13. Shoot something that will give the hint of what the car is but leave enough to the imagination.
14. Shoot during the magic hour – High noon is terrible
15. bring a broom – Unless you really enjoy picking up cigarette butts.
16. Bring a ladder – small one is fine
17. Space your car from nearby objects – they can be distracting
18. Watch out for reflections off the paint
19. If you must shoot in HDR (ugh) – Be careful of ‘chroming’ effect on the paint – It looks really tacky
20. Bring a CPL
21. Shoot with the car windows up
22. Shoot the owner of the car
23. TURN THE WHEELS!! No one likes to see ‘tire’, it’s ugly, show rim… sweet sweet rim.
24. Bring a set of warm/cool clothes
25. Learn to pan, it’s really really easy… it is. Honest.
26. Learn photoshop. It’s not cheating, no matter how “purist” you might think it is, you’re wrong. Plain, dead wrong.
27. Don’t over sharpen, it’s easy to do.
28. Use a tripod. Monopod for motorsports.
29. Break these rules.

~Eric

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How sharp is… sharp?!

Recently someone on a message board doesn’t seem to quite get the concept of having a sharp photo.

But, how do you know you have a sharp photo? Viewing the image compressed down while resizing it down won’t always reveal that your shot suffers from camera shake or motion blur.

I have gotten into the habit of thinking that all of my shots could potentially be blown up to poster size, 24×36″, So each has to be clear, crips and shot with composition built in. Rarely do I crop a photo in photoshop and if I do, it’s minimal at best.

The best way I’ve found to tell if you have a crisp photo is to find the focal point in which you shot the photo and blow it up to 300-400%.

Here’s a good example of what I mean. Here is the cover shot I recently did for Camaro Performers Magazine.

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Now, here’s the front passenger side wheel blown up %400 and enlarged from 200px to approx. 500px.

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Notice how clearly you can read the brake caliper “Wilwood” logo. This shot was done with a D200 with a 70-200VR lens at 200mm and roughly 75-100ft away.  This is an example of a crisp shot.

You might be wondering, but Eric, why in the hell would I blow it up %400 and who gives a crap!

Frankly, the answer is quite simple. You want the best product, right? The people you sell your product to will notice as well. I’m sure my editor looked at these images this closely because if it goes to PRINT with a blur, that means he can’t use the photo or has to run a smaller version of it, which annoys editors.

So, why should you view your images at %300-400? Because, editors will and therefore you should too. Think like one and you’re photos will get better.

I’m rooting for you,
~Eric

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Cover shot!

Hey folks, for those of you keeping score I just got my first cover image!

CP_Feb_10Never thought I’d be able to shoot for a magazine and get paid for it, let alone get the cover… ON MY FIRST TRY! Totally stoked over the press and the owner is pretty darn happy about it as well.

I was given the opportunity to shoot the photos and write the article. After the contract was signed my contract was for more than we agreed on. I made a quick call to the editor and made sure it wasn’t a typo, sure enough the extra %25 pay for the cover image! That news completely made my day as you can imagine. I’ve really owned my camera for a little over a year and to have such success this quickly is amazing!

I’m happy for the chance to prove myself and hope to maintain the level of work in the future! Thanks for reading.

I’m rooting for you,

~Eric

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What’s the logic?

Just occured to me.

So…. We buy a

$2,000-5,000 camera
$2-5,000 in various lenses
$500 in flashes and accessories
$2,000 computer
$600 Photoshop + plug-ins

all this…. to get a photo that looks like it was taken with a $20 camera.

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D3 and buffer speeds:

I shoot sports every once in a while and frame rate is important. Just received a new Sandisk card and had to compare it to a junky Transcend version.

I just did a quick test and here’s my results.

D3 – Firmware = 2.0

All on continuous shooting, held the button down each time until the buffer crapped out and slowed or stopped. All settings via the shooting menu at set to “OFF”.

Transcend 8gig card @ 133x = 18 frames with RAW, 51 frames with JPG FINE.

Sandisk EXTREME 8 gig card @ 60mb/s UDMA (400x) = 24 frames with RAW, 130 frames with JPG FINE. I filled the 130 pic limit and thats where it stopped.

The things of note that are important to me.

1. RAW continuous shooting was minimally affected by write speed of the card. This leads me to believe the buffer on the D3 is the real limiting factor when shooting RAW.

2. The shooting in JPG FINE write speed was very impressive with the Sandisk EXTREME. I filled the shooting menu maximum shoot rate with ease. I watched the [r#] through the view finder and it barely moved.

3. Recovery time to then again start shooting was much quicker for both RAW and JPG with the Sandisk card.

These results were not all that surprising, but might be helpful to you.

~Eric

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2010: I’m going in!

Well, shit. What a year, huh?

First thing that comes to mind is the myriad of celebrity scandals. But, that has nothing to do with photography, eh? Well, it sorta does. Paparazzi are having a field day!

BAZING! I knew I could work it in!

If anyone is keeping score, I’ve blown out a tendon in my forearm because my job requires an intense amount of de-stressing. I work out as much as possible every day to make sure I don’t lose my damn mind. My arm hurts… a lot.

Photography is an outlet, even if I use my camera phone.

Infinite sadness is a horrible condition we must all deal with. I had a wicked dream lately where all my friends were at a coffee shop for a party for someone else. I tried to avoid people, but the entire crowd was everyone from my life that I cared about and I couldn’t avoid them. People whom I love and people I hate. They all wanted to talk to me.

I woke up in a deep wicked depression.

Who knows for sure what it truly meant, but I took it as a sign that I’ve fucked up somewhere and I need to make amends.

Yes, I can be a bit of a jerk, but honestly it’s a mask for the insecurity of who I don’t want to be.

This year, good luck to all of you… make you who you want to be and make no compromises.

I’m rooting for you.

~Eric

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What did you have for breakfast?

Here’s mine.

Breakfast

Breakfast

My birthday was a few days ago and at 29, I figured I was aware of the many great things life had to offer.
Why the hell did no one tell me about thick cut Maple Bacon!?  From the moment the brick of bacon landed on my lap from my brother, my mind had been blown. This wasn’t some random occasion that you just take on willy-nilly. No, you plan for this, you plot, you use schematics!

The night before I carefully thawed the bacon so it was the perfect temperature. I laid out the schematics in a row this morning and dove right in. Good god, it was glorious.  I opened the package to the most amazingly awesome wafting of maple syrup and bacon aroma. It was going to be good. The 1/4″ strips were daunting to say the least to cook. Each one required the utmost care and precision attention during the cooking process.
Crunchy on the outside and softish in the middle, just like a good baguette I once had roaming the streets of Paris after a long jet lagged morning. No mistakes about it, my kitchen is not Paris. But, for the briefest of moments…. it was a syrupy-bacony-sugary–lustful-glorious-stellar blissful heaven.

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Why are self-portraits so hard?

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I have no clue why self portraits are so hard. I can take photos of damn near anything, cars, people… cats… But, why not myself?
I know myself pretty well. I can tell you at any time what I’m feeling at any given moment. I mean, that stuff takes practice!

I really like myself too, if I had to spend any serious amount of time being anyone… I’d still pick me every time. Nearly.

Yet, every damn time I take a self portrait, I hate it. It’s too blown out, it’s the wrong angle, the lighting makes me look fat,  the photographer is a moron… whatever the reason, they all suck.

So why do we bother? For ego-stroking mindless self-back-patting?

Or is it possibly the hardest conceivable subject because the client is so picky? The ongoing search for the perfect light, the best camera or the sharpest lens? Or maybe it’s deeper, the need to be fully and completely happy with ourselves?

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Suggestions for shooting car events

Ya know, the other day I went to the biggest car show in the midwest, Car Craft Nationals in St. Paul, MN. I didn’t pay a dime and made a few bucks while I was at it.

I say the word “suggestion” because, well lets face it, if you don’t like my “tips” or “rules” then you aren’t going to follow them, now ain’t that right? So, I will suggest some stuff that will help and it’s up to you to use it properly.

Getting in for free:
Hell, going to a car show, especially if like me you have a car you want to put in the show can be EXPENSIVE!

Here’s some SUGGESTIONS for getting in for free -

1 – Volunteer to do work. I did, worked like a charm. I had do some work, but it was free and i got to stand directly on the track…. no other photographer got to be ON THE TRACK, but me!! Everyone there knows me and gives me a lot of slack to take photos.

Side note about volunteering – It can be your ticket in to many many things. #1, you get your name out there, #2 you get special access behind the scenes, #3 you meet the bigwigs and #4 it involves something you enjoy doing. #5 it can introduce you to all sorts of powerful people who make decisions like ..oh… i dunno, WHO TO BUY PHOTOS FROM!! I’m NOT saying you volunteer your photos… Never, ever ever ever … Neh-ha-heh-Hever give photos away.

2 – You can sneak in, it’s easy, i did it. No one even checked my credentials to get into the show.

3 – Ride with a friend who has a neat car. That’s assuming you have friends…. friends with cool cars that are going to the show.


Getting good photos

Good lord I can’t tell you the amount of people who sent me photos of the EXACT same coverage of the event and they were just down right baaaadddd.

1. Get into places others can’t – You’d be surprised how little people ask questions when you have a giant lens/camera combination strapped to your neck. Sorry, but your D40 and the kit lens ain’t gonna get you respect. It’s the truth, people can spot a tourist. The shot below (the red smoke) I was standing directly on the show floor BEHIND the ropes, no one questioned me, hell even the promoter gave me a ‘nod’ and let me go. (See suggestion #4 for getting into cool places and not getting trouble).

2 – Anticipation – There’s no way you’ll get a photo like this without knowing exactly where to stand, what’s going to happen and when to push the shutter. I can’t tell you where to stand, or when it’s going to happen or when to push the shutter… i just know damnit!

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3 – Use photoshop… yes, please do. I dare you to tell me that this photo is better unedited than the “damn dirty cheatin’ lying no good photoshop hoodlums” version.

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4 – Make friends – People will tell you all sorts of fun stuff about their car or even that they are going to do something stupid like a burnout at 4 o’clock (true story, i was tipped off to the silliness by a friend, and got good photos of it). Another true story happened to me last year when I was shooting the 40th anniversary of BIR, the organizer loved the photo i took of him (yes, him, not the cars) and told me that he’d get me into restricted access next time I came to the raceway.

5 – Use slow shutter speed – 1/160th or lower looks good. Any faster and the car looks like it’s sitting still. If you can hit the magical 1/40th or lower and still get a crisp photo… you are buttery goodness in my book.
6 – Use batch processing – I created a batch process to resize, add my logo and save as a jpg to process all my files. 500+ photos can be a pain, but i just hit a few buttons and bingo-bango…. all done for me.

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Making Money

Hell, why go to the show if you don’t want to make money, right?

1 – Join local message boards and make a presence. Just showing up and posting once or twice won’t do it. People need to know who you are and introduce yourself to them.

2 – Look, car people are CHEAP!! Especially the Mustang and Camaro guys… they just are (I should know, I own a Camaro). So don’t be pissed off that some of them won’t buy your stuff right away… you need to have a GREAT product. You need to get the photo that no one else can.

3 – Walking around the car show and taking photos of the cars parked WILL NOT GET YOU PAID!! Those photos look like ass and no one will buy them. Sorry, it’s the truth. Anyone can take those pics and they are boring as all hell. Once again, you need to get the shot that no one else can. I can’t tell you how to do that, i can only SUGGEST things.

4 – Be friends with magazine editors – Yea, it’s tough, but it happens. I am, and I’m not a “pro” photographer.

5 – USE PHOTOSHOP!! – People know the difference between a SOOC shot and an edited shot… edited always looks better (at least when I edit). SOOC looks pedestrian and amateurish… don’t be an amateur, be a pro! LOL

I’ve got more, but i’m fatigued and need to get to work.

Good luck.

~Eric

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It is what it is…

Sometimes things just come up that you don’t quite know how to handle. Sometimes all the experience in the world cannot prepare you for certain events.

How do you say goodbye to a loved one when you can’t visit their funeral?

How do you get someone to truly understand your point of view? And what if they don’t care?

How do you move on from the mistakes of the past? The kind of mistakes that keep you up in the middle of the night, nagging at you, prodding at your consciousness. Digging into the non-self.

How do you maintain your individuality while being in a group?

Life doesn’t give any answers. Books hold nothing of value. Others are just as lost as we are, anyone telling you otherwise are trying to sell you something.

It is what it is, I suppose.

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