Last year, PHR readers had a great time sending us photos of their cars. We asked for your best shot, and you gave it to us with some very memorable cars, settings, and photos. Things went so well, we're doing it again this year, and it's going to be bigger and better than ever. We've got a huge box of swag that will rival all others, and we're also giving away commemorative PHR Photo Contest T-shirts to the top 20 amateur photographers. So rev up those cameras and start shooting. Who knows, you might even get a job at PHR as a photographer, just like last year's winner, Robert McGaffin.
Every contest has rules, and this is no exception. Fortunately, they're simple, so you've got no excuse. The photos will be judged on how well you use the tips listed in this story, so pay attention. To enter, send us a CD containing no more than 10 high-resolution images. Make sure these are jpg files, and that they are large enough to publish in a magazine (7 inches wide at 300 dpi). If you're not sure about size, consult your camera manual and set the controls to capture the largest image possible. (Internet-sized photos are 72 dpi, and are way too small.) Print your photos in color, and send them along with the CD.
We also need information about your car. Make sure you enclose a cover letter along with the entry form printed with this story (you can list your info in your cover letter instead of cutting the form out, if you want). Feel free to add to the basic information required-say anything you like about your car, the photo shoot, or the location. Send your photo CD with photo prints, cover letter, and entry form to: PRIMEDIA-Popular Hot Rodding, Attn: PHR Photo Contest, 774 S. Placentia Ave., Placentia, CA 92870. We'll need all entries postmarked no later than Wednesday, August 15, 2007. At a minimum, we will publish the top 20 entries in the December issue of Popular Hot Rodding, which goes on sale October 23. The photographers of the top 20 photos will also receive a contest T-shirt, license plate, and window decal, as well as a copy of the December 2007 issue (containing the published contest photos). The winner, of course, gets all of this plus the big box of swag we've been saving all year.
Check out the photo tip sidebar to get the inside scoop on taking good pictures. Just remember a few basic things: Find a large, open location with minimal reflections, and shoot at (or just after) sunset. Experiment with different views, but stay away from rear shots, and make sure you don't aim the front tire treads at the camera. Also be careful of background objects growing out of the car from behind and watch for reflections of trees, poles, wires, and buildings in the paint. Best of luck!
Tips for Better Car Photos
Shoot at twilight-The best light is at dawn or dusk. Shooting in the middle of the day introduces harsh highlights and blocky shadows. Try shooting in flat overcast conditions, if you must shoot midday.
Use a tripod or other camera support
Shooting in low light means you won't be able to hand-hold the camera. Buy a tripod or another form of camera support. Got no cash? Fill a sock with sand, put it on the ground, and then set the camera on top of it.
Don't put the sun to your back
Avoid your own shadow in the picture. Placing the setting (or rising) sun to your left or right will add to the drama of the shot.
Bounce the light in
Fill the front grille with light from a reflector, and bounce it off the car toward the camera. Direct lighting (i.e., coming from the camera's direction) is a no-no, unless you want a flat, lifeless photo. You can make reflectors with cardboard and aluminum foil. Experiment for best results.
Don't use a flash
Turn off the on-camera flash, and use a tripod and reflectors instead. If your flash is detachable, you can try experimenting with it at night or in low light. Detach it and pop it manually by having a helper trigger it in front of, say, the grille.
If shooting low, show all four wheels
Low-angle shots are cool, but make sure you can see all four wheels; a three-wheel car looks weird. Try turning the steering wheel a little so that the dish of the front wheel (not the tire tread) is presented to the camera.
Avoid tangencies and "growths"
Before releasing the shutter, look the shot over to make sure nothing is growing out of the car or stabbing into it from behind. The silhouette should look clean and uncluttered.
The more, the better, and we suggest four extras (plus you). You won't be able to take a good shot unless you bring helpers to hold reflectors or flashes. Know a cute gal? Make her your model.
Find a good location
An open area with little or no traffic is best. Use pavement or concrete (gravel only in a pinch); grass is for cattle, so stay off it. Also avoid painted lines. Look for a location that creates a flowing horizon line in the side of the car, with no nearby trees or buildings.
Watch for reflections
Buildings, buddies, trees, sun flares, and telephone lines are to be avoided, so move the car or camera as necessary. A circular polarizer can help reduce reflections and bring out colors.
Tilt for effect
A slight angle to the camera can add drama to the composition, but don't overdo it. All it usually takes is 10 degrees of tilt.
Use the car's lights
When the marker lights are on, the car comes "alive." Usually, all you need are parking lights for the color to add mood. In darker conditions, headlights may need to be flashed briefly during a longer exposure.
Roll up the windows
Open windows are sloppy, so close them. Some pillarless hardtops without "wind wings" may look OK with all the windows rolled down, but only those. Shoot convertibles top down, with the boot on and all windows down.
Frame it artfully
Don't cut off the ends of the car, and leave a comfortable margin around the subject; try not to make the car look too small either. You can use background objects or structures to help frame it, as long as they don't appear to sprout out of or cut into it.
Change your point of view
Try shooting from a low or high angle for added effect. Shooting from eye level can get boring in a hurry, whereas shooting from below or above your car can also help get rid of problematic backgrounds.
Use different lenses
A wide-angle or telephoto lens can flatter a car or accentuate different "personality" characteristics. When used in combination with different points of view, there are unlimited ways to capture a car.
Model: Lisa Callinan
We're sending out a huge box...
We're sending out a huge box of swag to the winner of our 2007 photo contest. It's full of DVDs, books, apparel, and all sorts of other goodies. The contents of the box grow every week, so send those photos in. The top 20 entries will get a commemorative PHR Photo Contest T-shirt, license plate, and decal, as well as a copy of the December 2007 issue with the photo contest results.
Believe it or not, this '68...
Believe it or not, this '68 Chevelle is a leftover photo from last year's second runner-up, Ryan Fultz (Noblesville, Indiana). We hope to see more from this budding hot rodder in 2007. Our '69 Mustang lead image by David Dewey of Melbourne, Florida, is also a leftover image from last year.
Last year's winner, Robert...
Last year's winner, Robert McGaffin (Elk Grove Village, Illinois), shot this '66 Nova belonging to Craig Mengarelli. We liked Robert's work so much we hired him as a freelancer. Check out the photos of Matt Delaney's '73 Duster in this issue ("Red Dog," page 54) for more of his work. We're serious about hiring our best readers as photographers and writers.
Matt Gassner of Albuquerque,...
Matt Gassner of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was our first runner-up in last year's photo contest. He shot this gorgeous 434-inch small-block '68 Camaro owned by Lew Knight, also of Albuquerque.