1. Light Management Part I: The first thing you should know is that there are optimal light conditions you should strive for when taking a photo. The best light is early in the morning or late in the evening. Its generally referred to as "magic light". Colours are better, contrast is not as intense and shadows are softer as opposed to the light at high noon. Here is an excellent example of this:
Good Light: Warm colours, with smooth soft shadows:
Bad Light: Light way too intense and colours are washed out
2. Light Management Part II: Another ideal condition to take photos is an overcast day, where the light is naturally soft, is not coming from any one direction and there is little to no shadow.
Good Light: Very little editing required, because the light was good to begin with.
3. Light Management Part III: As much as possible...have the light BEHIND you. You want the colours of your car to come out, so you need the light on the car, not against it. If you take a photo with the light in front of you, you'll have to use a flash. Otherwise, you'll get shadows instead.
Good Angle: Here the blue colour seems normal
Bad Angle 1: At a different angle, the same colour is now lighter and washed out
Bad Angle 2: The blue is muted because you're taking a picture of the car's shadow instead
Don't just park the car and walk around it to take photos. At some point, you will be facing the light and taking a picture of the car's shadow.
WORK WITH THE LIGHT, NOT AGAINST IT.
4. Depth of Field. There are two main factors that enable you to control the depth of field in a photograph - the focal length of a lens and the aperture (measured in f-stops/f-numbers). The longer the focal length and the wider the aperture (lower f-numbers), the less depth of field (shallow DOF) you'll end up with. Wide aperture makes the background blur and draws the attention to the subject.
Here's a few examples:
5. Shutter Speed. Use slower shutter speed if you want to capture movement or if you're shooting in a low light environment. A tripod is essential!
1/60th / sec (At 60MPH) shutter speed was used for this picture:
6. Composition. A photo with the perfect lighting can still look bad with poor composition. Some key things to remember are:
- Balance. If you have an element on one side, try to duplicate that or complement it on the other side. Here is a good example of that. The car is a little off centre, but you get the idea. The lighting here is good - no harsh shadows:
- Background. Make the effort to find a nice background for your photo.
Its very difficult to manage a background after the fact (unless you're a PS wizard), so its better to find a good location.
Avoid taking photos in common areas like your garage or driveway. Go out and look.
Keep it tidy. Do your best to avoid distracting elements in a shot. If you can't help it, they can be photoshopped out later.
Also, an ideal background should have some colours that contrast the colour of the car.
The green grass in this pic is a perfect contrast to a black car.
- Rule of Thirds. By far the most widely used approach to composition is where the frame is divided into nine equally sized boxes using two vertical and two horizontal lines. The strongest four points in the frame are where the intersections of the lines occur, and any subject placed at these points will always have a strong visual appeal.
Here are some examples:
- Angles. As far as what angles of the car are good to take, you should browse through various car pics you can find. If you find an angle that appeals to you, then try to copy it. You can also use various lens types to achieve different effects.
7. Post-Processing. It's easy to take a photo and then manipulate it with Photoshop. Image editing with Photoshop is a whole other thing. Here are just couple of basic tips:
- Use Photoshop to edit out distracting elements. That would include things in the background like bins, lamp-posts, etc. Also, if you are taking pics in a car park, you can remove the parking lines. Edit out things on your car too, like paint chips and scuffs.
- Crop for perfect composition (reframe). To crop more subtly (when shooting), either zoom in with your lens or move in a little closer to the subject, removing distracting matter from peripheral areas of the photo.
- Use a noise-reduction program (third-party filter) like NoiseNinja to get much smoother surfaces or after shooting with high ISO (ISO 800 or more).
- Use Smart Sharpen filter for better results sharpening the subject. This should be the last step on image post-processing.
- Adjust Contrast or Levels for deeper dark colours and Saturation to bring out bright ones. Don't over-saturate the photo though, or it'll look really unnatural.
- And the most important: DO NOT put too much contrast on a picture.
Remember to AVOID blown-out highlights (whites) and loss of details (blacks).
Please feel free to add more tips & techniques with examples, or ask questions