Expert Reveals the Car Photography Mistakes You Keep Making

The dreaded day is finally here. After years of service and a lifetime of memories, it’s time to clear the Macca’s wrappers out of the backseat, unhook the air freshener from the rear-view mirror and bid farewell to your daily driver. But while some goodbyes are harder than others, the most challenging part of upgrading your whip actually isn’t forking out the cash for a new one, it’s trying to unload the old one.

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Online car sales websites are chock-full of used cars begging to be picked up, but few make the shortlist for prospective buyers. Why? Dodgy photos that fail to represent your former beauty’s true worth.

“I’ve seen some awful photography out there that I’m sure has made the experience of selling cars so much more difficult than it needs to be,” Easton Chang, Australia’s leading car photographer tells Man of Many. “The goal shouldn’t necessarily be to have a billboard-quality shot, but having an image that tells a story is definitely going to help you sell your car.”

Easton Chang

Chang definitely knows what he’s talking about. The Sydney-based photographer and filmmaker has built a career out of capturing incredible shots of some of the world’s most unique and inspiring vehicles. With over a million followers on Facebook alone, Chang’s style is instantly recognisable, characterised by vivid movement and heightened shadows. But while his portfolio includes commercial work with BMW, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, the photographer started out his career in an unlikely manner.

“I started off just shooting snaps of a 2001 Integra Type-R, filling writable CDs every week. When I was putting my portfolio together, I actually ended up shooting my friend’s run-down 1980s V20 Camry,” he says. “The reason why I’ve maintained that street-style is that my background is in car culture, not commercial photography. I learned how to take pictures through car meets, road cruises and hanging out at group events. It was all very ‘Fast and Furious’ culture back then and that’s where that look and style comes from.”

Making Any Car Look Great

From shooting his mates’ cars to big budget productions with Lewis Hamilton, Easton has come a long way. Now, the top Aussie photographer is sharing his secrets in a new partnership with Gumtree Cars. The lens-lord has signed on to help Aussies up their game behind the camera, particularly when it comes to selling their prized possession. “I’m really excited, with Gumtree the goal was to make the experience of selling a car smoother and if I can help people improve the quality of their photos, that’s a huge advantage.”

Easton’s partnership follows the unveiling of Gumtree’s new Instant Car Valuation tool, a service aimed at making it easier for Aussies to get the most out of their sale. Here, Easton spills the beans on how to make the best of what you’ve got with four essential tips to the perfect shot.

1. Be Mindful of Reflections

When it does come time to take a quick snap of your car, ready to hit the sales platform, you should really pay attention to the details. “The main thing people don’t think about when they try to take a picture of their car stems around the fact that cars are big, metallic, shiny objects,” Chang explains. “Taking a photo of a car is a lot like taking a photo of a metal spoon. The reflections are so strong, you wind up not shooting the object, but shooting the environment around it.”

Taking note of the light-reflections, sun position and framing of the shot will allow you to better position the car in a natural and aesthetically pleasing manner. There’s nothing worse than trying to peer through the sunlight in a still image to decipher what exactly it is you are looking at.

2. Consider the Environment

With that in mind, the second critical point to consider is the environment in which you are shooting. With reflections detailing every inch of what is in the shot, along with some other aspects that might not be, make sure you are letting the car shine on its own.

“It sounds simple, but the cleanliness of the area around the car is key,” Chang says. “When are taking a photo, it’s easy to become distracted. You end up not looking at the environment around the car and simply focusing on the object itself. One easy step I would recommend for everyone trying to take images of their vehicle would be to be more conscious of the environment. You want to shoot somewhere where the lighting is consistent and the reflections are clean.”

3. Direct Focus

We’ve all seen those images where the car sits smack-bang in the middle of the shot, and yet, your eyes keep falling to the wayside. It could be as simple as a pretty colour, someone walking through the fame, or worse yet, another car.

“I’ve seen photos where the car’s not in focus but the photographer’s feet are,” Chang laughs. “That’s a technical issue, which sometimes can’t be avoided, but what really does you a disservice is framing. If you choose to take your shoot in a big, open carpark from far away, details will be lost. Similarly, if your interior shots are full of hoarded rubbish and I can’t see the state or quality of the car, it doesn’t instil a lot of confidence that it has been looked after.”It sounds so obvious but clean it inside and out before you shoot.”

But at the same time, Chang believes it’s important to be creative. “Even with my friend’s V20 Camry, we made it look cool by experimenting with some modern lighting and motion techniques. We were rigging cameras underneath the car and fabricated essentially an early incarnation of the selfie stick out of bits and bobs from Bunnings. It just goes to show that even on a cheaper car, there are things you can do.”

4. Tell a Story

Above all else, Chang says quality car photography is an exploration of visual storytelling. “From a universal advice perspective, people need to realise that from the most expensive Ferrari to the most entry-level Kia, cars are still aspirational objects,” he says. “Manufacturers spend so much money on the visual storytelling side of their cars that you simply won’t see photography like you would for a toaster. Even the most affordable car is aspirational to someone, so when you are selling a car on Gumtree, you need to tell that story. It might be just a runabout for you, but the prospective buyer needs to envision this is the hot hatch that will take them to and from uni. It’s all about painting that picture.”

Chang reveals that the aspirational aspect of car photography is a big reason why location is so important. “Don’t shoot low angle like you’re in Fast and Furious, use a long lens and try to capture something that represents what you’re doing. If you are shooting a HiLux, for example, you might photograph it in the back of a paddock or dirt road. I think the key is to remember these cars, no matter how cheap are aspirational pieces, if you want to give an upper-level shot, you have to set the scene.”

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Easton Chang’s Favourite Shot

As a bit of inspiration, Chang showed off some of the images that sit high on his list of achievements. What’s more, this ones aren’t the product of studio lighting, location scouting and critical planning. Rather, fortuitous timing and a willingness to pull the trigger.

“When it comes to my favourite images that I’ve taken in my career, they almost always have something in common, and that is that they aren’t repeatable,” he explains. “Every photo will depend on an element of luck and the skill is putting yourself in a position to be lucky more often than not. No matter how much work and resources you put in, there is still that aspect of luck and how you adapt to that is a reflection of your personal style.”

Chang reveals that an image he took of an Audi R8 V10 Plus, captured in a small town in Italy is among his most prized works. “We were driving through Italy and we just decided to go up the nearest mountain. It wasn’t famous or iconic, it was just close,” he says. “When we made our way to the top, this tremendous black cloud rolled by, engulfing the village in this shadowy vision. It became this spooky Silent Hill-type ethereal location, which, when combined with buildings that are nearly 1,000 years old, made the R8 stand out like a UFO. I jumped out of the car, took the shot and then as if by design, the cloud disappeared. It was one of those shots where you know you are capturing a moment, it isn’t something you can replicate.”

You can check out this shot and bunch more examples of Easton’s amazing work via his Instagram below.

Check it out

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Easton Chang 2

Easton Chang 2

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