Best Camera Settings for Car Photography - B&C Camera

One of the best things about car photography is that it’s a vehicle (pun intended) for many different worlds to collide. A person interested in photography might not necessarily be interested in cars, or vice versa. However, through photography, these two distinct passions can come together, igniting your curiosity and educating you in whichever aspect you lack the most know-how. Whether you’re behind the lens or behind the wheel.

For many people, photographing cars is a fun and challenging hobby, but it’s a dream job for others. In this blog, we’ll examine some of the best camera settings that will help you shoot like a pro.


Overall, best camera settings for car photography are:

  • To blur the background, use a wide aperture f/2.8 - f/5 
  • To keep the car and background in focus, narrow down your aperture to f/8 and up
  • Use ISO 100
  • Set your shutter speed to 1/60 or faster
  • Select auto white balance, you can always change this in post if you shot in RAW

First, let’s break it into two categories: parked and driving, or how we’d say it in photo jargon: static and in-motion.


Car Photography Settings


To blur the background and make the car stand out, use a wide aperture of f/2.8 to f/5. This will create a shallow depth of field, with the car in focus and the background blurred. However, if you want to keep both the car and background in focus, you should narrow down your aperture to f/8 or higher. This will increase the depth of field and make everything in the frame appear sharper.

Related article: What is Aperture and How to Use It?


Another important setting to consider is your ISO, which controls the sensitivity of your camera's sensor to light. For car photography, it's best to use a low ISO of 100, which will reduce noise and produce clean, sharp images.

Related article: What is ISO in Photography - When do I Use it?

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is another crucial setting, as it determines how long the camera's sensor is exposed to light. For car photography, it's recommended to use a shutter speed of at least 1/60 of a second, or faster if possible. This will help you freeze the car's motion and prevent motion blur.

Related article: What is Shutter Speed in Photography

White Balance

Finally, when it comes to white balance, it's best to select auto white balance, as this will allow your camera to adjust to the color temperature of the light in the scene. If you shoot in RAW format, you can adjust the white balance later in post-processing. However, if you shoot in JPEG format, it's essential to get the white balance right in the camera, as it can be challenging to make significant adjustments later without affecting the quality of the image.

Related article: White Balance Photography: What is White Balance

By following these camera settings for car photography, you can capture clean, sharp, and visually appealing photos of cars that truly stand out.

Static Car Photography Settings

Generally speaking, when taking photos of a static car, the first thing to think about is a depth of field. Do you want a shallower DoF (f/4 and lower), making the car the only sharp object in the picture, or do you want to include the setting where the vehicle is parked? If the latter is the case, you’ll want to increase the aperture to f/8 or higher.

Because a car is much longer and broader than, say, a person, you’ll typically have to be using a wide-angle lens or standing a healthy distance away to get the entire car in the shot. Because of the nature of depth of field, even if you’re shooting at an f/2.8, your DoF will automatically deepen because you’re further away from the object.

Related article: Best Lens for Car Photography

This means that unless you’re isolating a single detail of the car in your shot, the background will probably be a part of your image. You just have to decide if it’s an aspect of the story you’re telling and if you want your settings to accommodate it as much as the car itself.


ISO and a Fast Shutter Speed 

More general settings include a low ISO and a faster shutter speed -- to ensure sharpness and detail. This will become simpler if you compensate for the slight loss of a fast shutter with a wider aperture.

If you are only focusing on a unique detail of the car, a shallower depth of field (f/2.8 or lower) is usually the way to go. The short zone of focus will make a decal, rim, or mirror the total focus of your picture and give you that creamy, optically satisfying blur familiar in portraits.

Settings for In-Motion

Driving cars tend to be a whole other ballgame in terms of difficulty, but vehicles are meant to move (and move fast!). You’re going to want to get a few shots of your brand new ride or restored classic in its proper state of motion.

Use a much faster shutter speed -- 1/125 or quicker, depending on your light availability. If you’re shooting in the bright daylight, crank that speed up for increased detail and less motion blur. Also, pan the camera side to side, essentially following the motion of the car. If the shutter speed is fast enough, it will compensate for the movement of the vehicle and the direction of your arms as you try to catch the speeding bullet in time.

You’ll need to hone your instincts and timing for the panning technique, but it will be well worth the effort. Consider investing in a monopod as additional support for your pans. You’ll be able to lock your camera into a fluid head and pan smoothly with the connected arm, following motion and action with ease.

Related article: Night Car Photography

A Quick Word on Lighting Your Car

Because cars have a shiny paint-job to accentuate their stealthy design, it can be challenging to photograph them without getting glare, reflections, and unsavory “hot-spots” from lights. Daytime/outdoor shooting can be very helpful in getting natural and even light, but if you’re shooting in a studio or garage, or you’re adding your own external light, consider using as powerful of lights as you can find. More power equals a greater distance from the subject, reducing reflection. Also, use heavy diffusion, allowing a smoother, wider throw of illumination, eliminating those pesky points of light that will ricochet off a racing stripe like a laser.

Lastly, upload your shots into editing software as the final piece of the puzzle. When attempting to capture a fast-moving object, the effort in the field isn’t always flawless. Use this software to recompose your shot, crop, edit, embolden, re-color, sort, and even adjust the focus of your photograph.


Best Camera Equipment for Car Photography

In addition to camera settings, the right equipment is essential for capturing great photos of cars. When it comes to lenses, a wide-angle lens can help you capture the entire vehicle and its surroundings, while a telephoto lens can help you get up close and personal with details. Tripods and filters can also be helpful for stabilization and achieving specific effects. Additionally, some camera brands and models are better suited for car photography than others, so it's worth researching before purchasing. Check out our article on best lenses for car -photography:

Related article: Best Lens for Car Photography

Best Lighting for Car Photography

The proper lighting can make or break a car photo. Shooting in bright sunlight can create harsh shadows and wash-out colors, while shooting in overcast or a cloudy day conditions can create flat, dull images. Shooting cars at night presents challenges but can also lead to some unique and dramatic shots. Reflectors, diffusers, and other lighting equipment can shape and soften the light, while the creative use of shadows can add depth and interest to your photos.

Related article: Camera Settings for Bright Sunlight

Related article: Camera Settings for Cloudy Day

Related article: Night Car Photography

Best Composition for Car Photography

Composition is essential to any photography, and car photography is no exception. When framing a car, it's necessary to consider the angles and perspectives you're using and the surrounding environment. Leading lines can draw the viewer's eye to the car, while creative use of angles and perspectives can create unique and dynamic shots. Consider the rule of thirds and other composition techniques to create visually appealing and engaging photos.

Related article: Photography Composition Techniques

Best Post-Processing Settings for Car Photography

While getting your camera settings right in-camera is important, post-processing can help take your car photos to the next level. Editing software can be used to adjust colors, contrast, and sharpness and remove distracting elements from the background. Filters and presets can also create a specific look or mood, whether for a vintage feel or a modern, edgy look. Be careful not to overdo it; too much editing can make your photos look artificial or overprocessed.

With these tips and a little practice, you’ll be able to catch cars from the family van to a Formula 1 racer, all with the click of a shutter button.


Related article: Night Car Photography

Related article: Best Lens for Car Photography

Related article: White Balance Photography: What is White Balance

Related article: Best Settings for Street Photography

Related article: What is Bracketing in Photography

Related article: Best Camera Settings for Outdoor Portraits


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published

Blog Articles

Product Reviews