Never Tried Car Photography? Here Are Five Good Reasons You Should.

Never Tried Car Photography? Here Are Five Good Reasons You Should.

Photographing cars and motorsport is a unique and exhilarating genre of photography, here are 5 good reasons you should try it.

Maybe it's the speed, or perhaps it's the sound. Or even the feeling you get as a glorious V12 engine screams past you igniting a blood-pumping adrenaline rush. There are countless reasons to love cars, and as you may be able to tell, I'm a huge fan, which is why events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed are huge highlights of my year. The Festival of Speed combines all things cars and bikes, from classic vehicles to state-of-the-art Formula One machinery, all driven by new talents or old greats. This festival got me into photography in the first place, so it holds a special place in my heart. My last four visits there have acted as markers to witness how my photography has developed. Looking back over those years of photos taken at Goodwood reminds me why I photograph cars and why you should try it too.

The Audi S1 Quattro rally car sits in the paddock at Goodwood festival of speed. This model of car was had its debut at the 1000 Lakes Rally in August 1985

1. Appreciation

For petrol-heads, it's a no-brainer. Photographing cars allows us to appreciate the beautiful machines we love so dearly. It allows us to dive deep into the details of each wheel component or flowing piece of bodywork crafted perfectly to cut through the air. Car photographs allow us to relive those moments in which we witness our favorite car race past or capture an action moment in a wheel-to-wheel race. It captures that fleeting moment of emotion, allowing us to live it time and time again. And who wouldn't want that?

A Ford Focus World Rally Championship car waits by a marshal at the Goodwood festival of speed.

2. A Fantastic Day Out

There's much more to car shows than car nerds and burning rubber. Even if you only have the tiniest interest in cars, a day out at a car show is fantastic for solo photographers or the entire family. Local events may have activities for the kids or maybe the adult who wishes they were a kid. Burger vans and live music are popular finds on the grounds of a UK car show. So even if the cars are not your main attraction, getting out to enjoy a summer's day with a drink in one hand and a camera in the other, there's no better feeling.

The Nurburgring 24 Hour Winning Audi R8 leaves a trail of tire marks as it passes marshals at the Goodwood festival of speed.

3. Community

One thing I hugely value about photography is the community of creatives it allows you to meet. Through creating, I've had the opportunity to get to know many talented people, many of which I'd now consider close friends and I believe there are parallels in the car community as well. In only four days at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, I spoke to several other photographers while waiting for the next batch of cars. Through chatting, you realise you may have more in common than you may have previously thought. I've found these conversations can lead to fantastic friendships and help you build a network of fellow creatives with whom you can collaborate in the future. Community is an aspect of photography we may often overlook; this artform can feel like a solo adventure sometimes, but this couldn't be further from the truth. I've found that creating with others can lead to much more exciting results and tonnes of fun. Combining the car community and photography is a perfect way to start.

4. Adrenaline Rush

You can photograph only a few things that give you the same adrenaline rush as cars. Shooting cars is undoubtedly intense, but there is nothing else like it for those who love that sense of excitement and thrill. It's incredibly fast-paced, and it no doubt gets your heart racing. From running around from point to point on a racetrack to the hair-raising sound that a classic race-car produces as it drives past you, there are few moments to take a breath. It'll keep you on your toes every moment of the day and hopefully keep you coming back for more. 

A Subaru World Rally Championship car drifts around a hairpin on the rally stage at Goodwood festival of speed.

5. The Challenge

Finally, car photography is a tough challenge. You may need to try and overcome many obstacles throughout your shoots, such as catch fencing, crowds, and whatever mother nature throws your way. As I previously mentioned, it'll require a high skill level to achieve brilliant results because automotive photography is fast-paced. You may not have the luxury of time to prepare every shot perfectly and as a result, you'll need to be very familiar with your camera and its operations to adapt your settings to changing lighting conditions and different shot types. Panning shots are a popular technique, and it takes time and practice to master them.

Like many things in photography, it's unlikely that you'll nail it the first time but through practice and repetition, you can add a new skill to your repertoire, which is always beneficial. Despite being a challenge, car photography is a broad photography area with a wide scope of possibilities. There are only a few rules to follow, and I'd even encourage you to break them and try something different. It will help you stand out in those scenarios where it feels that there are many photographers getting the same shot as you.

A racing driver suited up in modern equipment yet a retro helmet livery awaits instruction before driving his classic Ferrari up the infamous Goodwood hillclimb at the 2022 festival of speed.

My Recommendation 

The next time a car event comes to town, or you find you have that friend with a cool car, get out and give car photography a go, enjoy your day out, and get creative. I've fallen in love with it, and you may do too!

Esteban Gutiérrez performs a burnout for the crowd in the Mercedes AMG Petronas W10 right in front of Goodwood House at the 2022 festival of speed.

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11 Comments
Michael Holst's picture

IMO automotive photography is one of the most challenging to tackle. I always think of it as product photography on a very large scale. A large portion of my favorite photographers have a history with commercial automotive work.

At the very least it's worth a try because you can usually get a ride in (or even sometimes drive) amazing cars.

David Pavlich's picture

Yep! Especially if you go to a car show. The cars are parked on top of one another and there's always people milling about. This is a time when you take pictures of engines or hood ornaments. :-)

Lucas Johnson Faustino's picture

Yes, car shows can be tricky! Luckily Goodwood has lots of moving shows so you can a few moments to isolate the subjects.

Plus, people aren’t always a bad thing, if you can use them effectively I find it can be quite fun!

Of course, the dream is to have cars where you have full creative control over the situation!

Lucas Johnson Faustino's picture

Absolutely! A definite challenge but I also think it’s quite creatively freeing, so many possibilities!

Ivor Rackham's picture

That's a really interesting article and it's a branch of photography I hadn't considered trying. Now I might.

Stuart C's picture

Croft circuit near Darlington is a great place for it Ivor, been a few times and keep meaning to go back. They have all sorts of events on too.

Lucas Johnson Faustino's picture

Even a track day is a brilliant event to attend!

Stuart C's picture

Absolutely, and often free to get in. We went to a Jack Frost winter rally a few years back and had full access to the paddock and the teams let us wander around the cars and mechanics grabbing some shots of them working. Everyone was friendly too. Then the racing was great.

Lucas Johnson Faustino's picture

Absolutely! It’s even better when you get great access. The opportunity to get right up close and see what goes on behind the scenes is fantastic. As well as brilliant for photos!

Stuart C's picture

Perfect events for a novice motorsports photographer, you don’t get herded around like cattle as you do at a lot of the larger meetings.

A lot of the riders/drivers are happy to chat and have a bit of banter too which is great.

Lucas Johnson Faustino's picture

I totally agree! Chatting with the riders and drivers is brilliant. You get such a great insight!