Photograph Your VW Like a Pro

Snap scroll-stopping pics of your VW with these automotive photography pro’s tips.

There’s nothing better than posting a VW photo that garners all the love. And when that photo looks so good that you look like a real pro? Even better. What does it take to make snaps of your beloved #VW shine? Chicago-based Jeremy Cliff (@jeremycliff), a professional who specializes in auto photography, shares his top tips and insights.

Practice patience

Some photographers describe their job as “chasing nature.” It’s true: The sun (or shade) doesn’t shine on your schedule. Be patient, and, well . . . wait for it. Try your photo in both sunny and overcast conditions — cloudy skies lend a softer, more forgiving light, while bright sun creates cool reflections (but also harsh shadows).

Find your frame

The rule of thirds is a fundamental technique used in art and photography for composition and balance. Here’s how it works: Divide the image into a grid of nine squares — three horizontal sections intersecting three vertical sections. Centering your subject is one option. Or, build drama and interest by placing your subject off to one side and slightly above or a little below center.

Get low

The most impactful images are often not taken at standing height. Squat down to put your camera eye-to-eye (or lens-to-headlight) with the subject. Not only does this angle make your car look more prominent and powerful, it hides a lot of background noise (such as wires and poles).

In addition, try stepping to the right or left to reframe the image and hide distractions such as signage or other cars.

Horizontal — it’s a thing

Although vertical is the default format of most mobile device images and video, don’t ignore horizontal shots. They’re great to capture an energetic scene — and you can still use other techniques, such as the rule of thirds, to make your shot stand out.

Play with shadow

The interplay of sun and shadow is a great way to highlight lines and small details, which wouldn’t be as accessible in a more brightly lit image.

The magic hour

Use nature’s twice-daily symphony of color — known to the rest of us as sunrise and sunset — to your advantage.

Near or far

Experiment with the depth of field. Keep the car in focus but let other things in the foreground or the background fall softly out of focus. It’s a great way to boost visual interest.

Stay off the grass

Pulling onto the green makes your car look squatty, even if the grass is short. Instead, keep your wheels on the pavement and use the grass as a backdrop rather than a surface.

Headlights give life

Turn them on when you’re shooting: It’s a trick photographers use to mimic what it’s like to see a sparkle in someone’s eye.

The pro pose

Keep your wheels straight (not turned) and the windows rolled up.

Check the mirrors

Be aware of what is being reflected in the paint, chrome, glass, and mirror. Can you see yourself, the color of your shirt, or other cars? What about shadows? Is your own silhouette in the way? If so, move yourself and the camera, try a new angle, or wait for the right light.

Use the tools

Social media filters and your mobile device’s basic photo editing software let you play around with color saturation and temperature, depth of field, and more. Don’t be afraid to experiment and learn what each tweak (and command) can accomplish.

It’s all about the hashtag

Use and follow #VW, #VWLove, and others to see and be seen on social media.