Car Tips

Getting the Best Shots: A Singaporean Guide for Stunning Car Photography

15 Minutes

Joining a Car Community

The car communities and clubs may decline (or go quiet like EVs), but our hearts still race for our cars. Many of us enthusiasts still love getting photos of our cars taken.

Singapore's bustling streets aren't the easiest places to take great photos of cars. It's crowded and not entirely car-friendly (these days), but somehow, we car lovers and photographers always make it work.

Sleek urban landscapes or ulu B-roads, capturing the essence of your car, is the base desire that drives us to search for the next fantastic shot.

Whether you own a luxury sedan, a hatchback, a sports car or an EV, immortalising our four-wheeled companion in stunning photographs is a yearning for most car enthusiasts.

By the end of this guide, you'll be ready to DIY your car pictures here in SG. To that effect, we will cover everything from lighting and composition to the choice of cameras and editing software.

1. Light up your Ride!: Understanding Lighting

Lighting can easily make or break your photos. This makes lighting one of the most critical factors to note when taking pictures of your car.

Thankfully, our sunny Singapore and its incredible tropical climate have excellent natural lighting. But it can sometimes be too hot or even too harsh.

So choose the best timing for your photo shoot or a location where you can find a variety of possible lighting sources and directions.

The golden hours (sunrise and sunset) provide a soft, warm glow but can be too dark. There tend to be more crowds (especially sunset), so do plan for your photoshoots in advance.

That said, golden hour lighting can beautifully enhance your car's contours.

Another option is to try urban shots. You can consider playing with light and shadows created by the buildings, street lights or other building light sources (like signboards and park lights). The reflections from glass buildings and the interplay of artificial lights can add a cool touch to your images.

Remember to take note of the direction of light. Looking at that will allow you to highlight your car's best features and minimise distracting shadows. You will have to move your car around a few times to capture the best lighting, but it will be magical when you do.

2. Get the Beast in Your Sights: Mastering Shot Composition

When it comes to photos, how to create an appealing shot and how to lead the eyes of the viewer all comes down to the art of composition.

This is where you will position the various elements (car and exciting foregrounds and backgrounds) within the frame to capture amazing photos.

When taking pictures of cars, it's important to showcase a prominent and identifiable part of the car, even when doing closeups. It would help to experiment with various angles and perspectives to find the one that best highlights your car's unique and beautiful features.

Here are 3 simple rules you can follow to make sure you are spot-on with your composition:

  • Rule of Thirds. Divide your frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically. In this 9 grid, place your subject, in this case, your car, only along the lines or at any of the intersecting points. This creates a balanced and visually appealing composition. You don't have to achieve symmetry. You can even use one-third of the space and fill it up with your foreground, background and leading lines.
  • Foreground and Background. Using interesting foreground and background adds to the richness of your shot. You can easily make the car pop or sync by choosing the right foreground and background. Of course, you want to have an excellent location for that. Here are some places you can try. Remember to ensure that the site and position you choose complement your car rather than mute or hide it. You could always pick an iconic background for a shoot, like MBS, the F1 Pit lanes, or Seletar Aerospace.
  • Leading Lines. You can add some depth and a sense of dynamism but use lines to guide your viewer's eyes toward your car. You can use roads, parking lots, or other straight-line elements to make them lead to your car. This will make the eye catch a line, follow it, and eventually, up to your car.

3. Have the best tool for the job: DSLR vs. Mobile Phone Cameras

Times have changed for photography, haven't they?

There was a time when if someone was serious about photography, they had to have a DSLR. To this day, professional car photographers will still swear by their DSLRs. And for good good reason.

DSLR and the multitude of lens options can actually make a big difference to your car photos. But modern smartphones are not far away because of their ability to leverage the latest tech. Multiple lenses and increasingly sophisticated software make a smartphone a great choice.

So what to use when?

DSLR Cameras: When you want to manually control various settings or go for some extreme shots, the higher range DSLRs will make a big difference. Not to mention, the image quality will also be superior on DSLRs. If you are looking to not just master basics but want to go beyond as a car photographer. DSLRs will be a great choice. You can even attempt shooting excellent video footage on your DSLRs with some attachments. If you go down this route, consider investing in a wide-angle lens. It will help you to capture your car and its surroundings more artistically.

Mobile Phone Cameras: There is just no beating a smartphone for quick shots. With easy controls and a smart camera, the smartphone is a breeze to position when you have to move fast and get quick shots; the smartphone will win hands down. While the quality will be slightly lost, the software will compensate for much of it. If you keep your phone's camera settings set for the best image quality, the lenses set up and software will get a decent car picture every time. You have to focus less on adjusting and more on the composition, instead giving you time to experiment with different modes, such as portrait or night mode, to enhance your shots.

4. Editing Magic: Enhancing Your Photos

Everything can be fixed in post. Or so the saying goes. While not exactly true, post-processing could easily boost the outcome of your car photos to the next level. Whether you shoot with a DSLR or a mobile phone, there is free and paid editing software that will allow you to refine your picture.

Adjust colours, adjust exposure, add creative effects and even remove imperfections from your photographs.

Road lines you don't like? Or people who aren't supposed to be there? Or number plates that need hiding? Everything can be fixed in post.

You can also do the following:

Colour Correction: Transform your car's colours. You can do the basics to ensure the colours of your car are accurate. Or you can enhance them to give it a tinge to either mute them or go a more vibrant representation. You can also easily adjust the white balance to eliminate unwanted colour casts.

Contrast and Sharpness: Have a slightly blurry image? You can easily adjust the sharpness of the image using most software to give your car a crisp, professional look. But be careful; some of the AI-assisted software may over-correct your picture. If you were intentionally blurring parts of your image, you may lose some of the effects you might have been going through. You can also enhance the contrast to make your car pop a little more. Or reduce it down to help with brightness. If your original picture was well taken, you only need a minor correction, so be subtle with your changes.

Creative Filters: Some software will allow you to add cool filters or presets to add a unique touch to your photos. This can produce exciting results, but be warned: Do NOT overdo it! Be subtle and creative. Sometimes, less is more when it comes to producing the most striking results.

Here are some editing software you can consider:

For smartphones:

1. Picsart (Android/iOS)

2. Snapseed (Android/iOS)

3. Lightroom Photo & Video Editor (Android/iOS)

4. Photoshop Express Photo Editor (Android/iOS)

5. Canva (Android/iOS)

For Desktops/Laptops:

1. Adobe Photoshop

2.Adobe Lightroom

3. Canva

4. Fotor

5. Pixlr

6. PhotoScape X

5. Recommended Equipment and Our Free Photography Service

You only need a little to start on your DIY car photography adventure. However, as you master the basics and want to go for more advanced techniques, you might want to think about getting a few tools that can elevate your pictures:

Tripod: This is one of the best additions to your arsenal. Photography loves a stabilised camera (or smartphone). This is especially so for those effects you need a long exposure for. Or when you are shooting in low light conditions. Get this first!

Gimbal: If you are also considering moving from car photography to car videos or want to do moving shots, an extendable gimbal is a good addition. It will give you stability and more reach to capture angles that wouldn't be possible with standard cameras.

Circular Polarizer: Another great piece of equipment for Singapore. A diffuser will reduce glare and reflections on your car's surface. This piece can be handy in Singapore's harsh natural light, especially during outdoor shots.

6. Choosing the Perfect Location for Your Car Photoshoot

Location. Location. Location. You have to get this right if you want a well-composed picture. The car and background must come together to create magic for you to shoot a fantastic picture. Selecting the right location, therefore, plays a significant role in producing a great set of car photographs. Check out our some of our favourite car photoshoot locations.

Consider Your Car's Personality: Consider your car's style and colours. Think about the story you want to tell with the picture. Modern buildings may complement sleek, current models. Old colonial buildings enhance the classic cars. Natural settings can improve pictures of classic or earth-toned vehicles. Or even use murals for artistically wrapped cars. Personality matters when it comes to photography.

Day or Night?: Locations change with different light settings. So you want to get there at the time of day when the location shines perfectly for you. The city comes alive in the dark, with street lamps and bright lights playing a considerable role. Natural settings often do better during the day, where they can offer soft, diffused light. 

Consider the ambience you want to capture and plan your shoot accordingly.

Accessibility: Ensure the chosen location is easily accessible and permits photography. Some places may have restrictions or require permits, so checking beforehand is crucial.

Scenic Backdrops: Look for locations with interesting and complementary backgrounds. Iconic landmarks, architectural elements, or natural features can add depth and character to your car photos.

Remember, the perfect location enhances your car's visual appeal, contributing to a memorable and captivating photoshoot.

Here are some iconic or interesting places you can consider to shoot at to showcase your car against the stunning backdrop of Singapore:

Bayfront Plaza Carpark Located near Gardens by the Bay, you can get some cool shots with Marina Bay Sands in the background.

Seletar Aerospace Park Set in close proximity to the Seletar airstrip, the planes in the background provide interesting pairing with the car.

Shenton House Get a beautiful shot at the rooftop carpark with a stunning OUE city background - a must have in your car photoshoot collection!

Saddle Club Also known as BTSC, the 72 year-old riding school has recently bid goodbye to its stables, tracks, and tack rooms at its home near The Grandstand in February 2023.

And there you have it. Everything you need to get started on your DIY car photography journey. We are sure you will enjoy mastering the basics and taking awesome car photos. Develop your attention to detail and try a variety of settings, angles, locations and lighting to develop your skill. Your creative eye will get better with time and practice!

Keep experimenting, learning, and enjoying the process to progress and show your car in the best light possible! We all love our cars, and despite what others say, our car is more than a mode of transportation; it's a symbol of your personality. For some of us, our car pictures are like a family portrait. So, make sure your personality shines through. 

As part of our commitment to our Cult of Cars members, we offer a free photography service designed exclusively for car owners. Our experienced photographers will capture your car in its best light, handling every detail from lighting to post-processing. Visit our Photography Service Page to learn more and book your session. You are also welcome to shoot along with us. Take pictures of your (and others') cars for practice and keepsakes. 

Hope to see you soon! In the meantime, enjoy snapping away!

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