One for the professional photographers- Cars

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  • One for the professional photographers- Cars
  • FunkyDunc

    I know nothing about the industry, but if you are coming to a biking forum as your first port of call for help, then I would have thought your chances of making it in a very very competitive industry would be next to nil.

    I very much doubt its a nice way to earn a living too, probably very lonely , cold and wet alot of the time, living out of a suitcase certainly not glamorous in any shape or form.

    Well STW is not my first port of call but you don’t need my life story. And you’ll notice I didn’t put it in the bike section. People come here to ask all kinds of stuff and the answers you can get are sometimes useless but sometimes brilliant. I already got my rallying pictures in front of the RAC rallys press officer through a contact on this site.

    I’m already aware of the grim reality of travelling and to be fair I love it. Everything I own in the world already fits into my van and I’m an only child so I don’t get lonely.

    Premier Icon cr500dom

    I have some mates that do it, one full time but freelance for the likes of Speedhunters etc one part time when hes not doing Jag/Landrover engineering 😀

    Both combine it with writing articles too though and Bryn does commentating at events as well.

    They are both very good and talent has been spotted and picked up on, now they get asked to cover events etc.

    Get out there to events, get shooting, get posting on forums etc

    It helped both Bryn and Rob were just shooting what they loved, and were good at capturing not just the cars but the whole scene / vibe that goes along with it.


    It’s not going to be easy. I worked in the more lucrative advertising side of car photography and a few of my observations are:

    Lighting cars either on location or especially in the studio is not something you just learn overnight, as a still-life photographer with lots of experience I found it a challenge but learnt quickly. I ended up being a lighting guy that other photographers who couldn’t light cars would employ, the reason I never became a car photographer was CGI was startling to bite into jobs and I knew advertising car photographers who didn’t work for a year so I put my efforts elsewhere. Obviously this didn’t affect the editorial side apart from less ad revenue and a squeeze on shoot budgets.

    On the editorial side there are some very good photographers out there who I worked with who could have easily cut it in the ad world but they were busy with lots of editorial and making good money as they were at the top of the tree.

    You now have photographers who would never have bothered with editorial using it as a way to get access to cars and shots for their book so there’s plenty of competition out there.

    No idea of what level of publication you are aiming at but the good stuff often involves lighting on location and it’s not just a flash stuck on a DSLR, you are looking at elinchrom rangers/pro photo 7B’s and more importantly knowing how to use them

    As for assisting its more about being useful and not asking stupid questions but learning from watching what’s going on.
    You will need to be savvy with photoshop and capture-1/Lightroom etc too.

    This may all be irrelivent to you if it’s just a couple of snaps in mini-world and a feature in land rover quarterly but if that’s what your aiming for it’s not going to pay the rent! I expect a few people will tell you they have had something published in ‘rover enthusiast’ once but unless you have support from elsewhere that’s not making a living.


    See FunkyDunc? Loads of useful info already!

    Thanks for the pointers so far.

    Just to fill in some details, I’m already totally comfortable with Photoshop and Lightroom. I’ve been using them for years.

    The main hole in my knowledge is lighting. I’ve only ever done outdoor stuff and while I can do a bit of off-camera flash if I need to the studio environment is totally alien to me. I was thinking about offering to help out in a local portrait studio or similar just to get to know the hardware and how to use it.


    Shark – I’m just saying its not easy and certainly not glam.

    Ive seen mechanics trying to get in to rallying and failing, skiers trying to make it as ski photographers and failing. You have to be exceptional in your field, and IMO have the contacts or its near impossible.


    A local portrait studio isn’t going to teach you anything about lighting cars. I had ten years of solid high end still life photography behind me but walked into a car studio thinking I knew how to light but knew nothing. I have a saying: ‘if you can light a car, you can light anything’ once you have that dialled everything else is a lot easier.

    I’m not trying to put you off, it’s just that being a photographer (car/fashion/porn/advertising/portrait*) is a desirable job and there’s plenty of willing people with a DSLR wanting to have a crack at it.

    *delete as appropriate

    I don’t know what gives you the impression that I want it to be ‘glam’ ?! I have no desire for glamour!

    Also, I know how my original post sounds a little too light hearted but I promise I am under no illusion about how hard it is to a) actually do the job and b) get your foot in the door.

    It’s just something I think about all the time and I like reading other peoples advice and experience.

    Becoming an awesome, hot shot, car photographer. This topic made up the entirety of yesterdays daydream content.

    Travelling the world, shooting exotic cars, covering races and events and going on crazy road trips. It sounds impossible but in my imagination I had it all worked out!

    On a serious note, I’m wondering what the route into this industry would be.

    I’m not a completely hopeless daydreamer starting from scratch. I have ten years of photography experience. I’ve had the occasional assignment and been published in a handful of car and bike magazines but never the opportunity to chase work on a full time basis (until now). I’ve really thrown myself back into it this year and learned a lot plus I just really, really enjoy doing it. I have an online portfolio under construction that’s not horrible.

    So how would you approach it? Email individual magazines to get on the editors radar? Contact the photographers themselves and try to tag along on a shoot? Are there any nice, approachable photographers that would tolerate an assistant asking loads of questions in a provincial accent? I’m just not sure how to approach it.

    I’m currently just grazing the web looking at as many portfolios, tutorials and such as I can get my hands on. I’m also on the car forums trying to source some interesting local stuff for a shoot but having no luck yet.

    STW, font of all knowledge, help me out or shoot me down.


    Premier Icon AlexSimon

    I used to work in a massive hanger-sized studio where they took photos of roomsets for Argos/Homebase/etc among other things (food being another specialism).

    We did the Bentley Accessories Catalogue one year and it was a real eye-opener. So much time to get one shot!

    Every photographer in the place shot with phase one digital backs tethered to macbooks so that any variation in lighting could be judged in realtime. About 4 people on set at any one time adjust lights, polishing bodywork, etc.

    Anyway – the point of this post is that there were always 5 or 6 people hanging around who were learning – assisting with lighting, etc. But basically just soaking everything up in the studio (and business) environment. It’ll be very low pay, but you’d learn ultra-fast. Could you afford to do something like that?

    (I was in the design dept, not the photography dept)

    Could you afford to do something like that?

    Yep! Already lost everything that demanded my full commitment. Been in and out of crappy jobs for the last few years. Done some photography stuff for local businesses and such. Basically, nothing to lose, willing to go anywhere and everywhere and take any opportunity that comes my way. I’m currently stuck in the Northeast though where opportunity is very thin on the ground.


    It’ll be very low pay, but you’d learn ultra-fast

    car assistants earn more, about £250 p/day for an experienced one, editorial rates are going to be lower (150-180 i guess)
    is that classed as low pay these days?

    Premier Icon footflaps

    There used to be a lot of money in it e.g. my neighbour owned a studio in Cambridge in the 80s and shot F1 cars etc. He retired at 40 with three houses (no mortgages) and spends half the year travelling the world and the other half pottering around on his allotment.


    I don’t think this is much different from breaking into any media sector – bikes, cars, surfboards, whatever. MrSmith and AlexSimon have covered the technical points but I’ll come at it from an editorial point of view. When Jeff the Regular cancels a job because his dog/aunt/goldfish is sick, you want them to say ‘let’s try that sharkattack bloke’. How do you get to that point? You find out who commissions the photography for the outlets for which you want to work. You could start at the top (Top Gear magazine I guess) or the bottom, principle is the same: find out who commissions the images and get to know them – a handshake and a chat counts for a lot more than any number of random emails.


    If you’ve got a car go shoot it would be my advise


    a handshake and a chat counts for a lot more than any number of random emails.

    both are meaningless without some quality work to show.


    So I put my money where my mouth is and went and had a go tonight.

    First attempt at shooting 4 wheels.

    Im sure despite my best attempts facebook will have sucked the sharpness from it

    Premier Icon rOcKeTdOg

    Someone’s nicked your bonnet


    First thing I noticed were the weeds in the background…

    Premier Icon catfishsalesco

    Few too many hotspots.

    I work designing homewares at bespoke end of the market and also for a well known brand. As such I have had lots of contact and worked with still life photographers on getting my shoots spot on. We used one well respected guy for ages who sadly moved abroad. looking at the portfolios and interviewing for his replacement on a huge campaign one thing that struck us was how efficient and meticulous the better photographers were. Impeccably dressed, somewhat arrogant and knowledgable. This must surely filter through to the work in the attention to detail. The best were of a certain mould.

    “A handshake counts for more than random emails” this simply isn’t the case. You live and feed yourself by the quality of your portfolio not getting to know people.

    Premier Icon justinbieber

    I slightly disagree on the lighting thing – one photographer whose work I adore is Laurent Nivalle and lots of his work just uses natural light.


    one thing that struck us was how efficient and meticulous the better photographers were. Impeccably dressed, somewhat arrogant and knowledgable. This must surely filter through to the work in the attention to detail. The best were of a certain mould.

    And some people see that as personality flaws, 🙄


    Picky bunch aintcha!
    Weeds – yes its pulled out of the garage and plonked for the pic. Which incidently took about 5 mins from setup to putting it away.

    Hotspot wise, I cba to sit and clone them out last night at midnight.


    I slightly disagree on the lighting thing – one photographer whose work I adore is Laurent Nivalle and lots of his work just uses natural light

    which is fine if you just want to work with natural light, which in the u.k.means often the light isnt doing what you want. and as car paintwork will see it’s environment you need supplementary direct light to pull the colour out of the car and kill the reflections. often an editorial shoot will mean the car is only with you for a short time and you are shooting for that period of time whatever the weather.

    Mr Smith is on the money here. For commercial work the photographers we employ work by their own admission very differently on commercial shoots for us than they do on more ‘arty’ projects. Lighting is a huge part of setting a shoot up. Any delay can also soon run into big money so efficiency on shoot day is vital, waiting/chancing natural light isn’t something that can be depended upon.

    Premier Icon justinbieber

    True, but what if you want to make a career from the arty/reportage stuff such as the OP? I agree that lighting is a huge part of some aspects of car photography, but just as there are wedding photographers who choose to only use natural light, there are those car photographers who choose to do the same.

    I’m not saying one is right and the other is wrong, just that there are two options…

    Rangers / Quadras etc are obviously the best for the job, but I have a mate in London (primarily a very top end Indian wedding photographer) who has just got well in with Aston. He shoots with off camera flash, ‘strobist style, with regular Canon strobes. He gets incredible results.


    Email the buyers with shots they’ve never seen before and wow them. It’s all you need to do,


    I’m not saying one is right and the other is wrong, just that there are two options…

    And if you can do both well you double your chance of landing a job and more chance of making a career.


    When I posted this I was already in contact with the Editors of a couple of magazines about the possibility of tagging along on a shoot with a pro photographer. I have a kind of mental ladder in my head of the people I’d like to work for and I’m starting at the bottom of it until I have enough work under my belt to move upwards.

    One such Editor liked my online portfolio enough to send me along, on my own, to cover a feature car. So yesterday I met up with their ‘Features Editor’ and we went to shoot a car in some seedy looking locations. He filled me in on a lot of insider knowledge regarding the inner workings of the magazines they run. All stuff I needed to learn.

    Anyway, we got on really well. The pictures look good and will be published in a very well known monthly magazine before the end of this year. I came away with the impression that they would like to use me again. They don’t have any other freelancers covering this part of the world. Sometimes (just sometimes) living in the desolate Northeast can come in useful.

    I’ve actually been at this point before, about five years ago, but now I’m in a position to give it a sustained effort so I’m going to keep banging away at it. I’m not looking to earn a million I just love doing it. On the upside, even a one day editorial shoot like this for a small time publisher pays more than I made in a week while spannering bikes in a damp workshop.

    And yes, I’m being deliberately vague about names and details. Don’t want to shout too loudly about it until it’s a more regular thing.

    Thanks for all the advice and anecdotes so far.


    Well done for pursuing your dream.

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