Street Rod Life

What to Expect During a Photo Shoot

If your car is being shot indoors or in a studio, you’ll probably want to plan for a full day of hanging around. A full-fledged studio shoot might not be as glamorous as it sounds…but it’s still worth it!

We get in the Passenger Seat and let hot rod photo pro Michael Harrington explain what you should expect when your rod poses for a feature. 

Words and Photos: Michael Harrington 

Congratulations! Your car has just been selected for a feature shoot in a magazine! Now what?

As with any situation in life, there are fluid variables involved, such as the location, time of day, weather, vehicle mobility (we hope they always roll down the road), indoors or outdoors, just to name a few.

First things first — have your car cleaned up and looking good! If there are enough days, or hours before a shoot, having a clean vehicle will help expedite the process. There have been times where the photographer has had to spend upwards of an hour cleaning the vehicle. Try to envision the photo shoot as if it were a first date — shower, brush your teeth, and comb your hair.

Ok, now that we are polished and dusted, how long is this going to take? Again, the whole variable thing comes into play. If the vehicle is being shot in a studio, there is a great chance it is a full-blown production, which could easily take a day or more.

Typically, and thankfully, most photo shoots will occur in the car’s natural habitat: on pavement, at a racetrack, and the like. Keep in mind that even these situations can take a minimum of two to three hours. There really is no firm set of rules: if the vehicle is going to be used for one angle, then expect a far shorter shoot time. If your vehicle is slated for a full four- or six-page feature, then it’s all dependent on the photographers’ workflow.

If your car is being shot indoors or in a studio, you’ll probably want to plan for a full day of hanging around. A full-fledged studio shoot might not be as glamorous as it sounds…but it’s still worth it!

If your car is being shot indoors or in a studio, you’ll probably want to plan for a full day of hanging around. A full-fledged studio shoot might not be as glamorous as it sounds…but it’s still worth it!

Ahh…workflow, just what does that mean? Well, let’s compare it to fishing shall we? Some fishermen may finesse the line with a top secret hand-tied fly, gently enticing the prize-winning fish to the surface. Other fishermen my use power bait, sit on the bank in their easy chair, crack open a tall one, and hope for the best. Some may throw dynamite into the water and scoop up everything that dredges to the surface. The end goal being that there is fish in the frying pan.

For a photographer, the end goal, no matter their individual workflow, is a finished set of photos to hand off to the editor. (As for the editors and art directors, that is a story for another day.)

So, what do you, the vehicle owner, do during these photo shoots? Glad you asked (even though you really didn’t). Be prepared to do some strange things, and have strange things asked of you by the person with the camera.

“Ok, back up here, but turn the wheels this way. Perfect. Okay, lay down so we can’t see you, but keep your foot on the brake pedal.” It sounds strange, but the photographer will ask you to move the vehicle in a variety of different ways; some may even seem like microscopic movements, and will seemingly make no difference at all.

In some cases (meaning all), you may be asked to “volunteer” to hold a reflector to help bounce light onto the car. This will also lead to a number of different movements, positions, and direction from the person with the camera.

Through it all, the main thing, of course, is to kick back, have fun, and let the photographer do their thing. Chances are they have been honing their craft for years, can picture exactly what they want, and have a plan for how it will look in the magazine pages. Bring a lounge chair and some refreshments, because that photo shoot may take a couple hours. And it will all be worth it when you open that new issue and see your street rod in print or online.

Like Mike on Instagram @highgeared or check out his website.