Tips From a Pro - How To Shoot Great Photos (and Video) for Auction
I learned what professional photographers see BEFORE they shoot - it’s the first step to getting great photos for your auction listing
World famous automobile photographer and publisher Michael Furman shot my 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider!
Michael Furman’s incredible photos are featured in dozens of books. His Best in Show photos from the annual Pebble Beach Concours D'Elegance over the past 20 years are legendary.
It was a dream come true for a petrol head! Michael Furman, photographer of the most prestigious car collections in the world and the publisher of Coachbuilt Press, offered to take a quick photo or two of my car during some down time at the studio. I met Michael in early in 2020, when he was working at his west coast studio – at the Collector Car Vault, in Santa Paula, California.
Photo by Michael Furman. Photographers use light to help viewers better understand the design language of a car. The classic PininFarina front fenders, scooped headlights and nose are common elements on many of their most beautiful designs.
Michael invited me to observe several photo sessions of customer cars, and we eventually made a few short videos for DriveTribe. It was a priceless masterclass in automotive photography! I deeply appreciate the kindness shown to me by Michael and his great crew: Esteban “Steve” Granados, Phil Mantas, Ian Crammer, and Even Bracken!
I watched as the crew prepped a priceless Jaguar one day and an all original Model T the next day - it was a lesson in how to really SEE a car. When I finally put my car under the strobes it was a reality check! I had a TON of work to do before it would be ready for an auction!
One of the first things I learned is that if a car isn’t correctly prepared (detailed to the Nth degree), the photos won’t make it look any better! Under the glare of the flash strobes, through the gaze of a telephoto lens, and in the giant 100mb digital file every flaw is like a crime against nature.
Work smarter not harder! I spent 7 hours under the car, and with some help we cleared away 15 years of road grime so I could see and photograph everything. I can now reassure buyers of the car's great condition with the photos.
I was lucky to find a lift I could use for the under-car shots – but it still took two days. One day to prep and one day to shoot. The day spent under the car was the project’s toughest by far, but I used about 70 of the photos in the BaT listing! The good news is we didn't find any issues: everything was dry, with sound rockers and any older repairs done expertly and permanently.
I started the photography project thinking that detailing the paint would be most the important job, but in hindsight I would suggest reversing the order - start with everything else first. Dress the rubber, polish all of the metal, clean the engine bay and underneath the car, and detail the interior before working on the paint. I found that I had to go back and re-polish numerous spots on the car that got superficial scuff marks from an air or vacuum hose touching a fender, or when I leaned over the car to reach something inside.
Seats out! The only way to detail a classic interior. It's been my method since high school, when detailing my 1971 VW Bug interior meant eliminating certain spilled seeds from under the seats, for safety reasons. Check out that Kool-mat install!
The detailing took multiple weekends and many after-work and early morning sessions. I used so much elbow grease that I needed extra physical therapy appointments to recover! My son never wants to hear the word "detail" again. Hours of meticulous orbital polishing, perfecting and sealing were both grueling and contemplative at the same time.
All taped up with nowhere to go. Next time I'll do the paint last! We had to protect the paint from the metal polishing rag with painter's tape to avoid marring the finish - tedious and time consuming!
There are some notable websites that have truly great 'how to' videos and tutorials - far better than I can offer here. I've watched them all! Some of my favorites are the Griot's Garage website (my wife hides the Griot catalogue when it arrives in the mail), and I'm a big fan of Larry Kosilla at Ammo NYC – both companies have great products, and great tutorials that I've used. Larry was the reason I bought a steam cleaner - I steam cleaned the livin' hell out of the Spider's interior with the seats and carpets out!
Was it worth it? You decide and tell me in the comments! Stay tuned for the next post - I'll share some of the lessons I learned shooting stills and video for the auction.
A walk-around video is part of nearly every BaT auction listing. We shot this just after sunset in a parking lot near the beach. Bonus - the palm tree reflections in the freshly waxed paint! It's all about the lighting...