So you have the hands of a new Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus ($ 941 on Amazon) Google Pixel 3 ($ 725 at Walmart) or Huawei P30 Pro ($ 960 on Amazon) and you have the keys to the amazing Aston Martin DBS Superleggera. Of course you have a happy bastard.
To document this wonderful event, you need to take some really wonderful pictures. That's where I come in. I'll take you through my best tips on how to get pictures on the front of cars with just your phone.
Although I use a Galaxy S10 Plus and an Aston Martin (because of course I am), most of these tips apply if you shoot on any new phone or car. All images in this section have been included and edited on Galaxy S10 Plus. Let's start.
Location, location, location
Finding a good environment for your car is the absolute best way to increase your chances of getting a brilliant shot, so think carefully about where you want to go. A parking lot at the back of a supermarket will probably not be a great success for you, but a beautiful coastal road? Now we're talking.
For me, I led to idyllic rolling hills and sweeping paths in the Peak District of northern England. I know this area well, so I already had some good places in mind. It is also a good place to drive a car like DBS, and I wanted to make sure that the place fits with the car's theme. A racing car would look a bit out of place on a mountain bike path, for example.
Use the weather to your advantage
The weather can completely change the mood of your image, so think about how you can use it. A rainy day with billowing black clouds overhead is great for giving an impression of nature at its wildest – I would use this to add drama to a car like an outdoor outdoor Land Rover. A beautiful, golden summer day is in the meantime worth looking for a luxurious open-cruiser.
Of course, you can only go so far in planning around the weather, so you will often find yourself with what you have. Once again, site planning is important here – don't go to Scotland if you want guaranteed clear blue skies.
Use available light wisely
Even today's smartphones, such as the Huawei P30 Pro, can take good pictures at night, you still get the best results when photographing during the day, so that's when you plan to take the most out your photos.
But even then you choose your times well. At my shot with DBS, the morning sun was far too harsh, which meant that the already dark car fell into shadow when the phone struggled to balance it against the bright sky. By waiting until later in the afternoon when the sun was lower in the sky I could capture much nicer pictures of the car when the light took a softer quality.
Even then, it is still important to think about how to use that light. Do not take a shot of the car with the sun directly in the background behind the car. The side of the car you are photographing will be in the shade and one of two things will happen. Either the phone will be exposed to the sun, throw the car in the shade, or the phone will be exposed to the car, which means that the sky looks completely exhausted. It's not a good look either.
Instead, it will go around an angle where the sun lights up in the car, giving you a much smoother exposure.
Finding Your Angles
While finding the right angle, you will catch the car in its best light, which is also how you add real drama and creative feel to your image.
The classic view of any car – definitely the angle that you see most in advertising – is the front quarter quota. This shows the most of the car in a shot and captures all the stylish front details. It is the best starting point when you think of your pictures, and it is an absolute must-have angle.
But how you get that angle is up to you. For powerful performance cars like Aston Martin, I like to use a lower angle. This gives the car an impressive, dominant stance, which really works well with the car's powerful character.
Move around the car and try from different angles to see what works best. By moving nearby and using the angle lens of the phone, you can just keep your car in your shot – great if you can't control where the car is and you want to eliminate any background diversions.
I wanted to show the car in the beauty of the surroundings, so I moved away from it and used the standard zoom lens to add more context to the scene. Well, why come all the way to the countryside if you won't catch it in the shot?
Capture the details
Every type of car has interesting details that tell a bit about a story about what the car is about. For DBS I came close to the stitch details on the seat, and on the DBS mark on the glitter color, be sure to tap to focus exactly on the spot, I wanted to be pin sharp.
Look around your vehicle and consider what details you should mark. Whether it's a performance car, watch out for rear wings, aggressive-looking air emissions, carbon fiber details or anything that suggests speed and power. Scots a luxury car? Get in and get close to the fine leather seats, genuine wood paneling or some hooded ornaments, such as Rolls Royce "Spirit of Ecstasy."
Slide in raw, later processing
Although the Galaxy S10 Plus are good, vibrant photos in their usual photo mode, I strongly recommend switching to Pro mode and shooting in raw format. You will find this option in the Pro mode setup menu. This file format removes all of Samsung's standard processing process and gives you a much more "clean" record file.
Raw pictures often look pretty flat and lifeless straight out of the camera, and you always have to do some machining work. It is therefore not so fast a process as shooting in the auto JPEG mode, but getting advanced pictures here is much more of a slow boat than about quick snapping. I always shoot my car photos in raw, whether it's my phone or my Canon DSLR, because I know I always have to do some finishing.
I edit my photos on the phone with Adobe Lightroom CC, but I have also spent a lot of time with Snapseed and VSCO. Don't be afraid to edit your photos, and don't be fooled by the fact that you're "cheating". Keep in mind that there is not a single advertising image of a car out there that has not undergone editing – or heavy expert composition in many cases – and most monitors you see on Instagram will have had at least a little work done to them.
On most of my pictures, I will tend to put down the highlights to control the sky and bring up some of the shadows, which helped ease the dark colored Aston Martin. I also used the brush tool in Lightroom to selectively illuminate the car itself and add some contrast that helps to pop up a little more – it is after all the hero in the picture.
Finally, I usually do some kind of color balance work, adjust the color tone, saturation, and luminance levels for each color to give the effect I want. By using the row files, you can do much more on your pictures without developing the kind of unpleasant image items you get when using a JPEG.
How much or how little you do for your pictures is to your liking, but it is worth moving in your app and choosing experiment with styles. My advice? Take a cup of tea, add some music and sit back and spend some time adjusting these controls to see what you can bring. After all, you can always go back to the original if you are not keen, so why not get lost?
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