Photography Tips: Shooting Vintage Cars

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I love old cars.  Beautifully restored or rusting junkers, I never miss the opportunity to capture a beautiful old vintage car.  Either as a nostalgic throwback to a yesterday that I was too young to remember (except in the movies or TV show) or simply as documenting beautiful textures of pitted metal, cracked rubber and rust – my camera and I are there!

1.  Watch out for reflections -The shiny waxed finishes on a restored vintage car can be a nightmare to photograph because of all the reflections.  Often the photographer ends up in the shot!  Time to be creative with angles as well as being on the look out for distracting elements such as reflections.

2.  Get in close for details – Fins, wheels, emblems, interiors, engines – there are all kinds of details that can be captured on a beautiful old car.  Besides typically at at car show its hard to get the whole car with all of the people milling around.

3.  Ask for permission – At car shows you might notice that the car owners get a bit nervous when you approach their car.  Basically this is their baby and they spend a lot of time polishing and buffing these beauties.  What they really don’t want to see is someone marring the finish with fingerprints or horror of all horrors, scratching the finish with a belt buckle.  Be friendly to the owners and chat them up a bit.  Gain their trust and them perhaps they’ll be more inclined move the “for sale” sign or take out their lunch from the back seat so you can get a great photograph.

4. Get creative with angles – Go low, go high, get an interesting angle.

5. Get creative with crops – You don’t always have to show the whole car.  Get creative with cropping.

6. Have patience – In a crowded car show or even on a cloudy day when the light is constantly change is pay to have patience.  Come back to the same car on different occasions to see if the crowd is gone or plan to come early when the show is opening to avoid crowds.

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7. Be ready at all times – Finding vintage cars in a beautiful natural setting is the greatest thrill of them all, at least in terms of vintage car photography.  Twice now I have come across a beautiful vintage car parked at the shore. Once in Victoria-by-the-sea where a cute Minor 1000 was parked on the pier and recently down in Fort Myers, Florida where I found a mint two-tone red and white Chevy BelAir parked right up next to the beach.  It was in a handicap spot and we had just been leaving the beach after snapping the sunset.  Driven to parking lot by a swarm of no-see-ems, this beautiful vintage car was just sitting their basking in beautiful dusk light.  I had to move quickly to get a number of shots trying to keep distracting elements such as garage cans and signs out of the shot and I saw the owner walking back from the beach.  Be prepared and have your camera with you at all times!

 

Where to find old cars to photograph

  • Museums
  • Car shows
  • Cruise nights
  • Local car clubs
  • Car lots
  • Car refinishers
  • Auction houses

See 100+ vintage car photographs here

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