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As always, constructive criticism welcome.
The first shot is your strongest, and quite nice, but could have definitely benefited from some more of the tricks listed above.

And opposite of what @Groucho said, most guys make the mistake of cropping too much out. Remember, the difference between a picture and a photograph is that a photograph tells a STORY. And what is a story without a background? Nothing. You NEED the background to tell the story of what's going on. The first shot is not too close, nor too wide, it just needs a slight crop to put it more within the rule of thirds.

Shot #2 is too far away for the size of the subject, suffers from a centered composition, a dark subject, and the tire is facing the viewer instead of the wheel (never a good thing, even if you're shooting a tire ad).

Shot #3 suffers from many of the same issues as shot #2, although it's closer (a bit too close), and the composition is off because you're showing more light concrete than dark background, forcing it to compete with the car. Too many reflections as well, there is just no way for the viewer to concentrate.

The last shot is a bit too far away, has the obvious vehicle, has a darker subject, and again suffers from composition issues. Please always refer to the rule of thirds with automotive shots, it'll almost always save your composition.

Remember that if you're going to do night photography without bringing your own light source, you're going to spend a LOT of time removing reflections, it's just part of the game.
 

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Jeff
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And opposite of what @Groucho said, most guys make the mistake of cropping too much out. Remember, the difference between a picture and a photograph is that a photograph tells a STORY. And what is a story without a background? Nothing. You NEED the background to tell the story of what's going on. The first shot is not too close, nor too wide, it just needs a slight crop to put it more within the rule of thirds.
Hey, news flash. YOU ARE NOT RIGHT.

Nor am I if I tell someone that their composition is right or wrong. My opinion is just as valid, no more or less, than yours.

Photography is an art, not a science. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to take a photograph. The "rule of thirds" is a not a rule and it's not even a particularly good one IMHO; it's far too simplistic; I prefer thinking of the golden ratio if you're going to try to get mathematical. A better way, IMHO, is that the further to the edge the focal object of the photo is, the more interesting/exciting/dynamic it is, but the further it is, the more it has to justify being out there. I'm not saying it as clearly as I could, but "The Photographer's Eye" by Michael Freeman explains it pretty well with examples.

For example:
Shot #2 is too far away for the size of the subject, suffers from a centered composition, a dark subject, and the tire is facing the viewer instead of the wheel (never a good thing, even if you're shooting a tire ad).
I completely disagree; I think the tire facing the camera would make for a far better and more dynamic shot than the wheel. Especially with the positioning of the car; the car is not in a place where it would be natural for the tires to be pointed left. It is positioned to make a right turn.

One thing that some photo websites sometimes do is provide a raw photo and have different people process it, and you'll see many variations depending on people's tastes; different croppings, white balances, shadow detail, etc.

My point is, Tony, you can listen to feedback from multiple people, but at the end of the day, it's really up to you to decide which kind of photo pleases you most, and you should be having fun doing it. As an amateur, that's all that really matters.
 

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Wow. Contentious tone there. I'll go ahead an throw in my $.02.

0. Handsome car shown to good advantage. Thanks for sharing your pics!

1. Yes the lens flare is a problem. I also see what looks like some blooming going on. The good news is that it's sometimes over sky or pavement and you can 'shop or crop it out.

2. Yes, there are some depth of field issues - particularly in the third shot where the front of the car is crisp but the rear is blurry. This is a great example of why it's handy to take the exact same picture several times with different aperture, point of focus, etc.

3. yes, some cropping helps tighten up the shot. I did a couple of quick crops of these pics just to see what they looked like. My default method with cropping is to ask myself if that object in the edge of the frame helps tell the story of the picture. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes cropping down too far does cause proportion and center problems (Rule of thirds isn't really a rule, but it is a good guideline and, like jazz, you should probably know the rules before you deliberately break them).

4. I don't have a strong opinion on the front wheel angle, but do agree that the sport pack wheels have more visual interest than the blocky tire tread does, so probably would have pointed the front wheels left a little in shot #3

5. The moon is a little annoyingly high in shot #2, but to really make it work, it should be down a little in the frame - it's too close to the edge. This shot would benefit from a tall tripod or a view camera...or catching the moon lower in the sky. Sometimes you have to work with the shot you have, as VisualEchos did with the Blue Angels airplanes.

6. because the car is a dark subject at night, it really would benefit from a diffuse fill light source on the dark corner in most shots. The downside is that these are tricky to use and add cost and complexity to the shot.

Here are the quick and dirty crops I did. I was aiming to remove extraneous information that didn't contribute anything but clutter, but not change the statement of the shot. Note that these are both not my best work (MS Office photo editor at work), and are just one example of what cropping can do for good or ill.
 

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Hey, news flash. YOU ARE NOT RIGHT.

Nor am I if I tell someone that their composition is right or wrong. My opinion is just as valid, no more or less, than yours.

Photography is an art, not a science. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to take a photograph. The "rule of thirds" is a not a rule and it's not even a particularly good one IMHO; it's far too simplistic; I prefer thinking of the golden ratio if you're going to try to get mathematical. A better way, IMHO, is that the further to the edge the focal object of the photo is, the more interesting/exciting/dynamic it is, but the further it is, the more it has to justify being out there. I'm not saying it as clearly as I could, but "The Photographer's Eye" by Michael Freeman explains it pretty well with examples.

For example:

I completely disagree; I think the tire facing the camera would make for a far better and more dynamic shot than the wheel. Especially with the positioning of the car; the car is not in a place where it would be natural for the tires to be pointed left. It is positioned to make a right turn.

One thing that some photo websites sometimes do is provide a raw photo and have different people process it, and you'll see many variations depending on people's tastes; different croppings, white balances, shadow detail, etc.

My point is, Tony, you can listen to feedback from multiple people, but at the end of the day, it's really up to you to decide which kind of photo pleases you most, and you should be having fun doing it. As an amateur, that's all that really matters.
And this is why I don't like giving CC. There is always an expert in the crowd dispensing advice, having no idea what he's talking about, and no professional career to back up his advice.

I think I've said enough in this thread anyway, good luck with your photography guys.

-Andrew
 

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Jeff
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Wow. Contentious tone there. I'll go ahead an throw in my $.02.
Not trying to be contentious; it just chafes me when one's opinion is listed as fact, in any topic. :) Especially when I'm specifically tagged to say how wrong I am, which is silly with something as subjective as photography.

Your notes proves my point; here we have three different takes on the same photos; all valid opinions.

Here are the quick and dirty crops I did. I was aiming to remove extraneous information that didn't contribute anything but clutter, but not change the statement of the shot. Note that these are both not my best work (MS Office photo editor at work), and are just one example of what cropping can do for good or ill.
I like those, especially #1 and #4 (which are very similar.) If I were doing it, I would probably have chopped more off the left of #2 (moving the car to the lower left rather than center left, but ultimately the moon being lower would help the most), and chopped just a little more off the left and bottom of #3. I might also play with rotating #3, just to see how it looks with the car tilted a little more or less.

And this is why I don't like giving CC. There is always an expert in the crowd dispensing advice, having no idea what he's talking about, and no professional career to back up his advice.
CC is not "you're all wrong, I'm right, and that's all there is to it." You're quick to resort to personal attacks, floods of your images, and denigrating other opinions; hardly a very helpful attitude.
 

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Discussion Starter #126
Looks good. I would lean towards cropping the wide shots closer but that's a personal taste. It'd be nice to see a little more light on the front of the car since it's disappearing into the shadows.

On a purely technical level, it looks like whichever lens you're using doesn't have great flare control - the lens flare in the first shot is distracting, I think, since it goes right through the nose of the car. I might try to go with a larger aperture to give a smaller DoF too, to get the car to "pop" a little more and separate it from the background.

The third shot is my favorite but I'd crop it even closer - from the left and bottom, putting the car a little more off-center, and turned the front tires so the tread was facing the camera.

Overall though, I think you should be pretty pleased with your results!
Thanks for the comments. I honestly didn't even notice the lens flare until you pointed it out. Definitely distracting. I'll have to see if I can sort out what caused it.
 

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Discussion Starter #127
The first shot is your strongest, and quite nice, but could have definitely benefited from some more of the tricks listed above.

And opposite of what @Groucho said, most guys make the mistake of cropping too much out. Remember, the difference between a picture and a photograph is that a photograph tells a STORY. And what is a story without a background? Nothing. You NEED the background to tell the story of what's going on. The first shot is not too close, nor too wide, it just needs a slight crop to put it more within the rule of thirds.

Shot #2 is too far away for the size of the subject, suffers from a centered composition, a dark subject, and the tire is facing the viewer instead of the wheel (never a good thing, even if you're shooting a tire ad).

Shot #3 suffers from many of the same issues as shot #2, although it's closer (a bit too close), and the composition is off because you're showing more light concrete than dark background, forcing it to compete with the car. Too many reflections as well, there is just no way for the viewer to concentrate.

The last shot is a bit too far away, has the obvious vehicle, has a darker subject, and again suffers from composition issues. Please always refer to the rule of thirds with automotive shots, it'll almost always save your composition.

Remember that if you're going to do night photography without bringing your own light source, you're going to spend a LOT of time removing reflections, it's just part of the game.
Thanks for the comments. I think I got a little "deer caught in the totally the forgot to turn on headlights out there" while shooting. I had a plan to try all of those tricks and totally blanked when I started shooting.

I thought the car was too dark in all of the pictures. I think the exposure bracketing would have saved me there. Or maybe positioned the car a little better relative to the light. I think I need to be a little more aware/conscious of the overall light/dark balance of the shots.
 

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Discussion Starter #128
Wow. Contentious tone there. I'll go ahead an throw in my $.02.

0. Handsome car shown to good advantage. Thanks for sharing your pics!

1. Yes the lens flare is a problem. I also see what looks like some blooming going on. The good news is that it's sometimes over sky or pavement and you can 'shop or crop it out.

2. Yes, there are some depth of field issues - particularly in the third shot where the front of the car is crisp but the rear is blurry. This is a great example of why it's handy to take the exact same picture several times with different aperture, point of focus, etc.

3. yes, some cropping helps tighten up the shot. I did a couple of quick crops of these pics just to see what they looked like. My default method with cropping is to ask myself if that object in the edge of the frame helps tell the story of the picture. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes cropping down too far does cause proportion and center problems (Rule of thirds isn't really a rule, but it is a good guideline and, like jazz, you should probably know the rules before you deliberately break them).

4. I don't have a strong opinion on the front wheel angle, but do agree that the sport pack wheels have more visual interest than the blocky tire tread does, so probably would have pointed the front wheels left a little in shot #3

5. The moon is a little annoyingly high in shot #2, but to really make it work, it should be down a little in the frame - it's too close to the edge. This shot would benefit from a tall tripod or a view camera...or catching the moon lower in the sky. Sometimes you have to work with the shot you have, as VisualEchos did with the Blue Angels airplanes.

6. because the car is a dark subject at night, it really would benefit from a diffuse fill light source on the dark corner in most shots. The downside is that these are tricky to use and add cost and complexity to the shot.

Here are the quick and dirty crops I did. I was aiming to remove extraneous information that didn't contribute anything but clutter, but not change the statement of the shot. Note that these are both not my best work (MS Office photo editor at work), and are just one example of what cropping can do for good or ill.
Thanks for the feedback and taking the time to crop the pictures yourself. It gives me a better idea of what you guys are thinking.

Totally agree on the moon height. I really wish I got out there sooner so that moon was a little tighter to the car. I think if the moon was lower, and I could have framed it closer to the car, that would have been the best shot.
 

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Jeff
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Thanks for the comments. I honestly didn't even notice the lens flare until you pointed it out. Definitely distracting. I'll have to see if I can sort out what caused it.
Well, it's having one object that's much brighter than everything else, and the lens flare is that light bouncing off the different elements inside the lens. Without changing gear, your options are limited; it's mostly a matter of trying to minimize that kind of thing, or working with it; just make sure the flare is somewhere acceptable. If you were really desperate, you could merge multiple exposures and use something to block the bright spot in one, eliminating the flare. This is the same reason you want to shoot with a lens hood as much as possible, to keep stray light out of the lens guts.

Each lens manufacturer has their own "secret sauce" of lens coating that they put on the front that attempt to minimize flare. That's what's referred to when you see things like "multi-coating" in lens descriptions. For example, Sigma calls theirs "Super Multi-Layer Coating"; Pentax had "Super Multi Coated" and now "Aero Bright Coating", etc, etc. So if you try a different lens, you will see different flare; not only from the coatings but from the different elements inside each lens.
 

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Groucho's pretty much nailed it about the lens flare. If it were a telescope (like my fine vintage Towa), you could just take one lens off and line the barrel with light trap black velvet, which works very well, then put it back together. Obviously this isn't practical for something like an SLR camera lens unless you have a lot more optics repair chops than I do.

Generally speaking, specular distortion and lens flare problems do decrease as you spend more money on a lens. It's one of the arguments for spending more money on a lens, IMO. That said, you really want to see some test data before you plunk down the cash, because everybody's application is different, and I can conceive of cases where spending more money gets you worse lens flare, not better.

The only other way to deal with lens flare that I know of is to go to a simpler lens, but this can come with other effects you may not like. Astigmatism is common, for instance with one or two element lenses. The extreme case is to go to a pinhole lens, but this comes with infinite depth of field and very long exposure times at night...
 

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Jeff
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Modern high-end lenses get closer to optical perfection but sometimes at the cost of "character"; I like shooting with vintage lenses a lot (I get a good amount of use from some late '50s primes); they are sharp but have more "imperfections" but sometimes it's those imperfections that make them appealing... kind of like these silly cars we like to drive. :)

For now, it's probably best to just be aware of the possibility of flaring and be conscious of it when framing shots with very bright lights at night.
 

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Discussion Starter #132
I'm starting to feel a little better about low light pictures. Plenty of work left to do of course, but at least making progress. Thanks to everyone for their advice/ideas.

I'd like to try out some more urban areas this week. Any good examples or advice for what pictures or locations have worked well for you?

Thanks in advance.
 

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That first image in the latest group is a huge step ahead for you - congrats!

Regarding your earlier images, your main problem is that you're trying to do something really really hard - show a dark car at night with no control over light in an area with a ton of environmental light sources. It's an expert-level problem, so don't feel bad about the criticism you're getting.

If I were you, I'd do a couple of things.

First, I'd worry more about overall composition before you try to show trick/dramatic lighting. Some of the basics VE provides earlier in the thread are good, but they're just that - basics. Groucho is 100% right in noting that these "rules" are just guidelines, and you can make very effective images that don't comply with the rules, but while you're learning composition, you probably want to stick to them more often than not. That said, there's nothing inherently wrong with centered images, negative space, or other "nontraditional" compositions - you just need to make sure they make sense. VE is a little hardcore on the "right " way to do things - too much so IMHO, but the fundamentals *are* sound and for sure you won't make a bad picture by following his recs.

Second, learn Photoshop and Lightroom. All the pretty stuff VE posts? The light highly manipulated, and that's not an insult. (Also note how carefully the car in placed relative to the light and shadow in the scene itself - more on that later) Out-of-camera jpgs aren't going to reveal detail and subtlety the way you want, and if you want to be able to pull shadows, balance exposure and change image temperature, you're going need those tools to work with RAW images most of the time.

Third, remember that all the rest of the stuff in the image matters. Things like light poles, power lines, the aforementioned contrasty nighttime light sources - all of that stuff plays into the final image. Again, there are basic suggestions you should follow for now, but Ive seen effective images shot at dusk at a bear, or midday in a strip mall. VE is pretty good at setting the "atmosphere" of the shot - go back and take another look at the environment he places his "model" in and think about how that impacts the final result. Think about where the natural light is falling, where the car is in relation to that light, and how you want it to fall throughout your frame.
 

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I'm starting to feel a little better about low light pictures. Plenty of work left to do of course, but at least making progress. Thanks to everyone for their advice/ideas.

I'd like to try out some more urban areas this week. Any good examples or advice for what pictures or locations have worked well for you?

Thanks in advance.
I'll again state that I'm only a mediocre photographer, but here's my take:

#1 is pretty good, like 7/10 in my book. Not terrible, but not a "wow" picture. Something I'd maybe use for a computer background image for a few weeks.

#2 I'm not quite sure what's going on - I look at this and wonder what exactly you're trying to highlight here (I suspect it's the vehicle side profile, but everything looks kinda out of focus and I'm not sure). The background is also kinda busy and the streetlamps are kinda distracting. I've been starting to notice tilted horizons in my wide shots lately (it's starting to drive me nuts) and the angle of the curb in front just kinda of triggers that "the camera should have been leveled first" reaction. Easily the weakest shot.

#3 Your best shot in this thread so far. If the treeline on the right wasn't there (so the picture looks a little more balanced lighting-wise and you can see the right-side haunches of the vehicle) I'd submit it to our local lotus club for inclusion in their annual calendar.


I'm kind of a fan of photographing in urban locations - my big problems are typically traffic (and super aggressive drivers) and parked cars cluttering up shots.

I took this a shot a few years ago in front of Calder's Flamingo in downtown Chicago at sunrise. I'm not quite happy with the lighting or the way the lines in the photo are tilted and I hope to retake it again someday. Note that this photo was really only possible at this location because it was a passable temperature on Christmas Day and traffic was low enough to temporarily park the car for 40 seconds at sunrise. If I tried to do it again on any other weekend morning, it would likely result in serious damage to the car (I have had cars, yes multiple, run into before in the city).

(5dmk2 @ ISO400, 33mm, 1/40 @ f/5.6 on a 24-70 2/8L)


Took this a little later (was able to get the car in front of the Bottega Veneta store on the Mag Mile). Tried to edit it in an attempt to approximate the toning I've seen in high-end fashion/luxury ads to limited success.

(5dmk2 @ ISO200, 65mm, f/2.8 on a 24-70 2/8L)


As you can probably tell, I'm a big fan of side profile shots.
 
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