Datsun 240Z action

Photographing features for magazines uses a wide variety of photography styles but the hardest type is definitely action so I thought it a good idea to outline a few of the most commonly used shots and explained how they were taken. The subject I’ve chosen is one of greatest Japanese sports coupes, the Datsun 240Z.

Cornering with the Datsun 240Z


In the shot above the car is cornering hard and the idea is to capture an image to demonstrate the handling characteristics .This is best done by watching the car come around a tight open corner and looking for the point when it no longer is coming towards you but starts to travel across the frame, a front 3/4 view . Shoot from a low position using a telephoto lens of about 200-300mm should keep you at a safe distance but be sure to check that your Autofocus is on ,set to Servo, so that it will follow the car around the corner keeping it sharp throughout. Shutter speeds from 1/350th – 1/640th second depending on the speed of the subject.If you too fast on the shutter you’ll freeze the tyres and the car can look parked on the corner.

Datsun 240Z panning


Panning is one of the oldest and most diverse action shots you can use when shooting a car. You’ll find panning images from 100 years ago which is remarkable considering the ungainly and clunky equipment of the day.
You can shoot a profile, front 3/4 ,rear 3/4, wide angle, telephoto, zoom pan…the list is always being updated as snappers discovers new ways to photograph cars. The original and the best though has too be a profile pan, side on, this flattens the perspective giving the truest interpretation of the shape and is the most straightforward to master. Look for a road that is open on one side with bushes, trees or a fields close on the other side that will offer up a good amount of blur. Start shooting using a telephoto lens of about 200mm at 1/125th second, Autofocus set to Servo, keeping the car in the frame as it passes in front of you from about 20-30metres away swinging your hips in a smooth even arc. Check for sharpness on the screen blowing up the image to be certain and then slow your shutter speeds down to 1/60th and then try 1/30th second to really get some serious blur on your image. Practice makes perfect so don’t be disillusioned if you don’t get sharp images straight away…keep at it.

Cockpit in the 240Z

In Car Action

Another great action image to include in your portfolio is a cockpit shot.You can hand hold the camera and pop a bit of flash into the frame to fill in the shadows, shooting from the back seat with the road snaking away looks good….Or you could get a window clip mount as in the shot above.This fits onto the lowered window with a wide angle lens and uses a super slow shutter speed of about 1/2-1/15th second.Engine off, the car is pushed or rolled down a gentle hill at walking pace to give a highly effective action image.

Car to Car the Datsun 240Z


There are lots of other action images you can shoot if you have the time and you’ll find more in the ‘How to Photograph Cars’ book but the other type you often see on the covers of the top car magazine is a tracking or Car to Car shot. This is taken using a standard or wide angle lens from the back of a hatchback from an overtaking position to depict the car traveling along the road. You’ll need a two good drivers to drive the camera car and the subject car , a quiet or private road and a shutter speed of between 1/125th-1/30th second…the slower shutter speed you use the more blur you will get in the background but the lower your hit rate will be as it’s hard to hand hold on a bumpy road.Safety is a priority here so make sure you obey the rules of the road and don’t break the law.

Next post will be about how to choose the right camera bag and backpack and I’ll be testing a Tamrac Anvil 23. intro2020 #tamracphoto #camerabackpack

Silverstone Bentleys

I recently went to Silverstone circuit to shoot a race to celebrate Bentley’s centenary for a magazine.I’m not really a race track photographer as I don’t have the long 400mm +lenses required to reach the action from the behind the barrier that can be up to 100m back from the tarmac on the F1 circuits.. However in a career of over 30 years I’ve had to adapt to get what is required.Fortunately the theme here was for portraits and atmosphere with a mere smattering of action…right up my street.

In a busy race day it’s important to remember that you have to work around the schedule of practise,qualifying,driver briefings and the race itself.Speed is of the essence.If you get hold of a subject you want to shoot, photograph them straight away and don’t make an appointment for later on as they undoubtedly won’t turn up…their priorities are on the race not you.

Be sure to shoot a variety of images ,atmosphere,action,detail,portraits in different locations to build a full portfolio of the event.The assembly area seen above is often a good place to catch up with drivers but be aware that they are often nervous before the race and may not want too chat.

Think about an opening image that might be a double page spread with enough space at the top for the art ed’ to drop in a title, a selection of action images from different places around the track as well as the incidental images that often lighten the feature up in a magazine.

For this feature we asked the organiser ,who knows the field best who, out of the 40 entrants, had the most interesting cars and stories which saved a lot of time.Make sure you have contact details for all the portraits you shoot, in case the writer forgot to ask .I always make sure I’ve got a pen and notebook with me for just this instance.

The most important action image you’ll take is always the start, either off the grid or at turn 1.This is because the cars will be grouped tightly together making for a more interesting image and much of the overtaking happens here.Pick on one car and pan it allowing the other elements to float in and out of the frame.Shutter speeds from 1/1250th down to 1/15th second will all offer up varying degrees of hit rates but with a long race you’ll have time to experiment with longer exposures.

To see the whole feature and read all about the incredible Bentley race at the Silverstone look out for the Bentley at 100 July 2019 issue of Classic and Sports car magazine

National motor museum car photography workshop

Mustang -Pan
Mustang -Pan

My latest car photography workshop was hosted by the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the New Forest for the Royal Photographic Society although, it was open to all. Ford supplied the perfect pair of contrasting cars, a brilliant orange 2018 Mustang and a lovely 1963 Consul Convertible as subjects and although cloudy the threatened rain held off.


The day was in two parts:Photographing the Mustang and Consul in the grounds of the palace of Beaulieu, choosing sympathetic locations for each, working on composition, shooting details and finally action. Here’s the Consul by the abbey ruins and the Mustang driving for cornering photos in the arena .

Mustang -handling
Mustang -handling

In the afternoon we headed inside to shoot cars in the museum. Photographing cars inside is always tricky with mixed low lighting set for atmosphere so we worked with tripods and fill in flash to capture  the historic displays.

Museum-Silver Ghost
Museum-Silver Ghost

Final part of the afternoon covered editing images and retouching.The car photography workshop was fully booked a long way ahead so if you would like to come to the next one do please get in touch via the contents page or drop me an email to:

Go to the How to Photograph Cars Twitter feed for more images:


Competition winners 2017

There was a great response to the inaugural ‘Best car photos of 2017’ competition.

Dave Mundy’s superb slow panning image of the Austin special at the VSCC meeting at Prestcott hill climb won the ‘Action’ category. Dave say’s”I loved the ‘lived in look’ of the car and how basic it was.”

Dave Mundy- Action
Dave Mundy- Action

Zack Stiling took the book prize for the ‘Static’ category with his reportage shot taken at the Detonator’s rockabilly BBQ in Shooter’s Hill, south-east London “The show had a great atmosphere, with people dressing in the spirit of their hot rods and ’50s cars, and I wanted to capture some of that. I thought the Buick in the foreground presented the ideal opportunity to photograph the ladies chatting, as the car’s streamlined, Art Deco styling cues direct the eye towards them” said Zack.
Nikon Coolpix L810, f/3.9 at 1/500th second, 9.3mm

Zack Stiling - Static
Zack Stiling – Static

The overall competition winner was a fabulously images taken by Paul Cook entitled “Stallion in the shower’.

Mustang water splash
Mustang water splash

Says Paul”My future brother in law bought a Mustang and when we went out to visit him in Canada over the summer, I decided it was the perfect time for this technique. For this image I first used a Yongnuo YN300II to light paint the car. Then I got my fiance to stand in specific places with my speedlight while her brother threw buckets of water at the car. The result was something I am quite pleased with for a second attempt, and a nice image for him to print”.

Congratulations Paul…Great image !

Enter the best car images of 2017 competition

How to Photograph Cars is launching a brand new car photography competition to find the best images of 2017.

Open to all amateurs of any ages there are two categories that you can enter. ‘Static’ and ‘Action’, one image per category per person.

The overall winner will receive a copy of my Lamborghini: 50 years of the Supercars’ book worth £50 with the runners up in each category receiving a copy of the latest edition of ‘How to Photograph Cars’.

So start editing all your images you took at the race track, car club summer events,classic rallies or motoring festivals . You might get some ideas on how to pick your best photos from this website or the maybe check out the How to Photograph cars YouTube channel .

Your photos don’t have to have been taken on an expensive DSLR , they might have been snatched on your phone or compact camera…just send them them in to win some great prizes.

Lamborghini book
Lamborghini book

How to Photograph Cars
How to Photograph Cars

Image Guidance : Entries should show good use of technique and creativity and be photographed in the calendar year of 2017. Please write a caption for each image including a short sentence about how you took it. Add your full name and address and please list your age if under 18 years old.

The How to Photograph Cars photo competition is only open to UK residents.

Send your entries to in jpeg format at no more than 5MB at 72 dpi or 30cms / 850pixels wide by Weds 20th December 2017. Please title your image with your name and which category you wish to enter.i.e: Smith: Action

Winners will be notified by Weds 10th January 2018.

By entering the competition you agree to allow How to Photograph Cars to publicise your images on social media. You will be credited and retain your copyright.


Time lapse photography at the Frankfurt Motor show

I’ve recently been working for Renault at the the largest motor show in on the planet in Frankfurt,Germany. One of the Renault press team asked me to shoot some time lapse photography of their stand. I’ve never been asked for this before so hadn’t a clue how to do it but another photographer had supplied some clips to them before so I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know how to do it.

However Mr Google came up trumps with enough information and an online tutorial which I watched in my hotel room and experimented shooting traffic out of the window. Every camera is different when it comes to built in processes but my Canon EOS 5DSR features time lapse in one of it’s menus.Here’s a clip from my first attempt.

It allows you to set the interval and total time and even displays how long the finished animation will be. Mine was set to 1 frame every 3 seconds over 15 minutes which delivered 12 seconds of .mov file. It’s best to keep time laspe clips short as ,like any .mov file, they  can get too big to be useful. The camera must be mounted on a tripod on other secure platform and on initiation automatically shoots 300 frames building the clip without the use any editing soft ware.

It seems to work best with a mix of fixed and moving subjects in the frame although you can get a motor that will pan your camera during the time lapse.

Note that during the shooting sequence there is no shutter noise but the LED menu screen will show progress and count down to completion.

It is definitely something I will add to my repertoire now that I know how to do it…all you need is plenty of time, some patience and the results speak for themselves.

8 ways to shoot a portrait with a Lotus Elite

Quite a common request from art editors for a magazine shoot is to photograph a portrait of owners with their cars. Usually it’s a variety of makes and models so there’s no problem making them look different but occasionally it’s only one type as in a recent 60th anniversary shoot of the Lotus Elite . How you pose your subject will depend on the individual, some will be happier to lie on the ground and some may prefer or suit a more formal approach as with this portrait of ex F1 supremo Max Mosley. Don’t shy away from the standard set up of standing behind the car but make sure you connect your subject to the car so as not to create two subjects.For a magazine shoot it’s important to always keep in mind how the image will look on the page.Mix up a variety of angles with the car and subject positioned both to the left and right. This portrait of Lotus guru Malcolm Ricketts is back lit with flashBehind the wheel is another great option but it’s a good idea to ask your subject to turn their body towards camera if not belted in too tightly and drop their arm to open up the portrait.This is the same position as the Malcolm Ricketts portrait but from a higher angle on a wider lens making it look completely different. Make sure you ask your subject to keep eye contact with the lens and shoot at least 4 or 5 frames to be certain you have the best shot.One of the keys to relax your subject is to keep talking to them as you work, a good start is to ask them about their car,you may learn something.Don’t be concerned about allowing your subject to be small in the frame for a car portrait as long as your composition is good the eye will be drawn to the face.

Photography workshop for journalists

Last week I led a car photography workshop for the Guild of Motoring Writers at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu.

GOMW group
GOMW group

It was designed to cater for journalists who are asked to shoot their own photos on car launches and for magazine shoots. As much as photographers might not like this it’s a fact of life that budgets are being squeezed and we are all being asked to do more for less.

We had a great mix of young and old, classic and modern car writers who learnt everything from the rule of thirds, choosing sympathetic locations, featuring our two vehicles, a Peugeot 3008 and MGB as well as brushing up on their panning and cornering image skills.

The afternoon was spent in the museum dealing with mixed and low light situations and planning a portfolio of images suitable for a magazine to include establishing shots , informative photos and details as well as the star cars on display.

GOMW group
GOMW group in the museum

Porsche 911 cornering

I was recently on a magazine shoot with this stunning restored 1973 Porsche 911 Targa in the home counties around London.It’s often difficult to find decent driving roads to shoot the necessary action shots required for a full feature shoot in the South East so it was a great to find this open corner on a common just a few miles from the owner’s home.

This sequence shows how the car progresses through the corner.I use my Canon EOS 5DSR set to high speed motor-drive mode for cornering but only shoot in short bursts of 4-6 frames as the files are large and buffering occurs. The shot above shows the approach to the corner which was a full 90 degree bend.

The idea of a cornering shot if to show the handling capabilities of the car and the critical point where this is best demonstrated is when the car changes direction from coming towards you in the frame to crossing the viewfinder. The frame above with this head on view is not quite there.

Without panning you’ll need a shutter speed of 1/500th second or more to freeze the car.The faster the speed of the car the faster you’ll need to set your shutter speed, up to about 1/1250th second when the car will be frozen and look like it’s parked on the corner if you are not careful.This was a fairly slow corner so I shot it at 1/640th second which at 200ASA on a cloudy day gave me an aperture of F5.6 on my 70-300mm lens. The frame above here is nearly there.

You will need a good driver to get the best out of a cornering shot. We didn’t want tail hanging out …loss of grip doesn’t show handling and the road wasn’t suitable here. Ideally you’ll want to get a low perspective and be able to see all four wheels. The shot above is usable but improving…..

Porsche corner-1
Porsche corner final

…to this frame which shows the front inner wheel almost lifting and a 3/4 view of the car pin sharp with with the tyres blurred.

Setting up a studio in a museum

Studio museum

I’ve just come back from shooting for a  couple of days at the fantastic Donington Grand Prix collection. I have a regular double page studio spread in F1 Racing magazine and have built up a large archive of F1 cars photographed in the studio style but need to keep adding to it all the time.

Thinwall Special -2w
Thinwall Special -2w

I had 4 cars on my shooting list in my museum studio and fortunately 3 of them were together in one hall so I set up my black background cloths and trusty Bowens monolites and got to work. I use a wireless Elinchrom Ranger flash system to trigger the other flash heads and a strong back light usually made up of a pair of soft boxes to give depth and add highlights to show shape.

Cars on the list were: 1950 Thinwall Ferrari Special, 1954 Vanwall VW2, 1955 BRM V16 Mk2 P30,1983 Williams FW08C

BRM V16-1-w
BRM V16-1-w-un-retouched image

The first 3 cars were green or dark green which, without careful lighting can lose their colour and end up looking black. The way around this is to use the flash heads with only spill kills on them and point the lights straight at the car. Be aware of where the reflection of the light, or pings, as I call them , appear on the body work.You can’t avoid these but make sure they reflect into a panel that can be easily retouched and don’t spread onto any detail that might be lost. The BRM was darker than the others so I set up a white sheet and banged a flash head through it to give a broader highlight along the bonnet.

Vanwall VW-2-w
Vanwall VW-2-w

Comping two images together

One of the images I try to shoot if there is time is a locked off shot of the whole car with the bonnet on and off comping these together to give a shadowing effect of the engine through the bonnet. It’s critical that you don’t move either car or camera between images to maintain the size and angle for the post production final image to be a success.

Thinwall Special comp-w
Thinwall Special comp-w