3:18 PM

How to photograph your work

Posted by Anthony

I'm not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not going to tell you what F stops to use or what appartures to set your camera for (if cameras these days do any of that). I pretty much just point and shoot. What I'd like to tell you about is how to show off your work properly.

I see pictures all the time of black cars in the shade reflecting brightly lit backgrounds. Yeah, that doesn't work for me. Any dark color will reflect brightly lit objects, so it isn't a fair view of what you have accomplished. Likewise, just a brightly lit paint job doesn't always do much for showing off the work you accomplished.

For example, this car I did using XMT 360 to test the swirl removing and shine capabilities on a light colored car. Here is the after shot of the deck:

Pretty slick, right? Slick, but not perfect. I remember that car well and I know I didn't get it perfect simply because it was a college kid's daily driver and only got washed when she brought it home between semesters. Here is the before and after of a swirl removal project on a similar condition vehicle owned by the same guy using a FLEX DA, blue Edge2000 pad, and XMT360:

Even though it looks better by far, just having the paint lit doesn't show that there are still quite a few swirls on the paint. The whole car essentially looked like that second picture, but you can't tell unless the sun is in the shot.

Black is another great example. It is easy to put a black car in the shade and have it look stellar.

While those pictures might look like well detailed cars, it is really tough to say unless you have the sun in it. The sun won't let you hide squat. Case in point... Here is the fender and hood of that Porsche. You can tell that with the sun in the shot you are going to see all the imperfections. The hood is still not perfect, but rock chips will do that.

Granted, sometimes it is hard to get the sun in the picture and still show what you are trying to show. Sometimes getting the sun in it isn't even possible. Here is a good example of that. I wanted to be able to show the detail of the flames, but getting the sun right in the middle of the tank washed everything out. However, having it in there a little bit shows that I'm not trying to hide anything. Even without the sun you can try to get a light bulb or something in there and that will do the trick too.

Camera quality being bad doesn't matter either. I did these pictures with the camera on my Blackberry Pearl, so don't think that having a crappy camera is an excuse for not being able to really show off your work.

Sometimes I don't even think it is necessary to get the sun in every shot. With the sun at the angle it was by the time I was finished with this vehicle it was impossible to get a very good sun shot. So when I posted pictures I made sure I had at least one sun shot to show I was being serious about removing the swirls. If I was going to take the time and had the ability to do this on the hood, then it can be assumed that I probably did that on the rest of the vehicle.

Light colors are tricky. All I can say is try to take the most unforgiving angles that you can find. Get any light source that you can find to reflect in the paint. Just avoid the shade and relying on the brightly lit background to serve as proof of your skill. Any color in the shade will reflect brightly lit backgrounds, so try to get as much direct light on the paint as possible. Even light colors can impress if you do that.

I'm not saying that you should avoid the money shots by any means. What good would cameras be if we couldn't use them to take advantage of perfect angles and special lighting? Definitely leverage that if you can. It produces some great results!

shady side on silver:

extreme angle on white:

shady black: (screw the car... I want that house!)

more shady black:

total shade oxidation removal: (you can't see it, but the paint is still pretty borked on this paint, but the point was to show the difference)

definitely one of my favorites:

curves do wonders in the shade:

and of course, the irresistible self portrait:

The whole point of this thread is to say don't be afraid to show off your work! You know you did a great job, so don't hide it by taking pictures of the shady side. Get the car out of the garage and into the sun. A picture of a black car in the garage reflecting the shelves three feet away is not impressive. I'm sure the paint is perfect and it looks spectacular, but if it wasn't then the car would still reflect the same. Do your work justice by taking pictures out in the sun where we can see that you did an awesome job and there isn't anything to hide. Don't avoid the money shots, but make sure you get some real before and after shots as well.