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Best Camera Settings for Car Photography [With Tips & Tricks]

Unlike randomly clicking stuff around you, adhering to specific settings is advised to get the job done perfectly. You might be a beginner or a hobbyist who wants to take great pictures of a car, this post has everything explained from basic parameters to actual camera settings for car photography in different situations.

From clicking static car pictures to a moving car or focusing on specific parts, car photography can be a situation and cause-oriented affair. Right from changing the camera’s shutter speed to fixing the ISO, aperture, and focus, a lot of work needs to go behind perfecting the shot.

Fret not, as I will touch upon every relevant setting needed to adjust to different photo-specific scenarios. Be it keeping changing the depth of field for the desired bokeh effect or handling the lighting in the manual mode to manage the camera better, this article will take you through anything and everything.

Best Camera Settings for Car Photography

Type of Car PhotographyApertureISOShutter SpeedFocal Length
Commercial Car Photographyf/4.5 - f/7.150 - 4001/125 - 1/25050 - 100mm
Static Car Photographyf/4 - f11100 - 2001/500 - 1/100085 - 105mm
Car Photography at Eventsf/7.1 - f/11100 - 8001/160 - 1/25035 - 60mm
Car Photography in Race Tracksf/11 - f32100 - 4001/200 - 1/800Up to 28mm
Car Parts' Macro Shotsf/5.6 - f/11 100 - 8001/100 and higher50 - 180mm
Car Photography in Day Lightf/10 - f/16100 - 2001/500 - 1/100070 - 200mm
Car Photography at Nightf/1.8 - f/5.0100 - 20030 - 60 seconds16 - 35mm
Car Interiorsf/2.4 - f/5.0400 - 16001/60 - 1/12050mm - 100mm

Before moving to the car photography tips, let me briefly explain each of the concerned parameters. This detailing shall help you understand the above-listed car photography settings better, which will then result in improved camera usage and clicking better pictures.

1. Aperture

Aperture

Simply put, camera aperture is the extent to which the lens opens up. This feature manages the overall brightness of the image, depending on the lighting conditions of the surroundings. Plus, the aperture even helps manage the depth of field, which lets you manage the extent of ‘Background Blur.’

Smaller the aperture, i.e., f/1.8, wider is the aperture opening to incorporate more light into the mix.

2. ISO

ISO Range

This term, or rather a camera setting, manages the camera’s light sensitivity. Therefore, a lower ISO count means that the camera sensor doesn’t have to put a lot of effort into illuminating the image or into brightening it up.

Higher ISO lets you get some well-lit shots but adds noise and distortion, as well.

3. Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed

The shutter opening timeframe determines the amount of light entering the camera. A faster or higher speed allows a lesser amount of light to enter the camera, which is meant for moving and well-illuminated shots. A slower shutter speed can lead to blurry photos if the camera ends up moving a lot, but it is excellent for night time car photography.

4. Focal Length

Focal Length

This metric determines the zooming capabilities of the camera. Plus, the right amount of focus helps get the sharpest car images possible. For car photography, camera lenses with focal lengths fixed at 35mm or floating between 24mm-70mm are preferred, as they are great for depicting objects and natural shapes.

5. White Balance

White Balance

White balance allows the camera to adjust the color temperature of the captured image depending on the time of the day you have zeroed in to capture the image.

Tips & Tricks for Car Photography

Now that the best settings for car photography are out of the way, here are the strategies that can be followed to maximize their impact and capture the best car photos.

1. Bokeh Effect

The camera aperture determines the depth of field. Keeping this aspect in mind, you can simply focus on a static car or include the environmental aspects as well. If you plan to widen the aperture that is going lower than F/4, you would be able to blur out all the background elements and concentrate simply on the car.

However, if you do not prefer a bokeh effect and plan on keeping all the other elements in focus, a narrower camera aperture, higher than f/8, is the way to go.

2. Pair a Wide-Angle Lens

Yes, a wide-angle is the best lens for shooting cars as it increases the area that can be captured. However, the most important aspect here is that a wide-angle lens has a smaller focal length, allowing you to fit in more into the scene.

3. Zero in on the Time and Light

While it is always advisable to shoot static cars and car parts in daylight, you might have to change the scene depending on the output. As mentioned previously, you can play with the shutter speed and ISO to get the exposure right.

For well-lit conditions, lower ISO and a faster shutter speed are advisable. And when the illumination is dull, it is important to look for a higher ISO level but not something that would bring in noise and grains into the mix.

4. Pan & Motion Blur

If you plan for moving car photography at night while keeping the light streaks emanating from them intact, Panning and Motion Blur are the strategies to follow in cohesion. A good approach is to have a tripod in place as you would be relying on slower shutter speeds for the same, especially for capturing the details relevant to a moving subject

Panning the camera at ultra-low shutter speeds is the way to go.

5. Account for Reflections

In case you are a professional photographer who is a tad wary of reflections, it is important to carry accessories to ensure that the light bounces of them, which shooting the cars.

Also, cameras with integrated light meters help as they read the overall scene exposure and manage the clicks accordingly. However, striking the perfect balance between the shutter speed and ISO is what really helps

Finally, it is advisable to pay significant attention to the car’s color as this metric would determine how much light is being reflected off the surface.

6. Image Composition

While the settings are expected to help, as a photographer, you are in charge of the image composition. Arranging the elements in a scene is what comes across as the key in case you want to monitor composition beforehand.

If you want to monitor and manage composition based on the exposure, bracketing or shooting the same scene with different values of exposure seems like a good approach. Or you can create a composite picture by combining different images into one.

7. Post-Production

There is to a limit what the camera and the attached lens can achieve. Once the desired image is clicked, seasoned photographers rely on post-production to make them look better. At this stage, it is the focus shifting, color balancing, and saturation that gets handled like a pro.

Frequently Asked Questions

What shutter speed should I use for car photography?

For moving car photography, you might have to consider a shutter speed of 1/125 or even higher/faster to maximize the quality. Also, panning is important in this case. For static cars, though, anything close to 1/25 to even 1/100 of a second works really well.

How do you take a good picture of a car?

While the entire process is highly detailed, you need to find the balance between ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and the focus to take good car photos. Also, regardless of what steps you follow, do not push the ISO higher than 100, even for car photography at night. It is better to play around with the aperture and shutter speed to get more light into the mix.

Is 35mm good for car photography?

Yes, 35mm is great for car photography as the lower focal length makes it a decent wide-angle resource. Therefore, with a 35mm lens, you can capture a wider scene than usual.

How do you motion blur a car?

Panning at low shutter speed is the ultimate trick to motion blur a car. However, for this to work, I would prefer a higher f-stop or aperture reading.

Conclusion

Shooting cars is one of the more rewarding professions there is, provided you are aware of the car photography camera settings and the tips to take it to a whole new level. Regardless of how you follow the car photography tips, it is important to keep clicking and practicing to get the best hang of the complexities.

Simply put, there are several aspects of car photography, and mastering each would require a lot of practice across real-world scenarios.