Auto Show Photos & Notes

We're having fun taking pictures of classic cars at Bay Area car shows, and put this page together to share our images and thoughts with other car enthusiasts and photographers.  We use images extensively in our real estate business, so photography is both a vocation and avocation.   We also collect classic cameras, and it's fun to shoot some of the old cars with classic film cameras along with our modern Nikon digitals.  Hobby photography helps us to grow our skills and gets us out to more events.

I've been playing with pictures shot at various auto shows to come up with less distracting backgrounds, which I feel focus more emphasis on the cars.   Some backgrounds are derived from the original backgrounds, and others are just simple patterns hinting at pavement and sky.

I'm discovering a preference for shots where the proportion of front to side are nearly the same; the left front and left rear corners are equidistant from the front left corner of the car.   Expectations and perspective seem to give an illusion of length to the car, where if you measure on the image, these will be close to equal.  

I also like a low angle with the lens position just below to just above the headlights, but not significantly tilted up or down.   I'm now shooting a string of shots for each car from a squat up to a crouch, and rotating a bit in both directions around 45 degrees off the front left corner.  I typically focus on the nearest headlight and use f8 to f11 apertures to give a reasonable depth of field, with minimal diffraction.  My best results seem to be with a focal length between 18mm and 24mm, with various zoom and prime lenses.  

Only a small percentage of cars at any show are going to have reasonable alignment to light, and even among those time of day is so critical.  Unfortunately shows are rarely open in the early morning and early evening, so I'm frequently shooting in bright sun, but the results are pretty good.

For now the backgrounds are just experimental and the car images can be moved to other backgrounds.   Eventually I'll spend more time perfecting backgrounds if people like the concept.  We are also interested in working with collectors on private photo shoots, where we can do a detailed photo-shoot of your car and feature it on one of our dedicated webpages or virtual tours.

Contact Us

1936 Chrysler Airstream C8 Convertible Coupe - Smaller.jpg

This is a 1936 Chrysler Airstream C8 Convertible Coupe. The Airstream was introduced in 1935 as a 1936 model, to supplement the more radical Airflow model, which failed badly; one of the classic marketing/design flops. The Airstream, based on a 1933 model, sold well. This was shot at the 2014 San Rafael Auto Show.

This car was lifted from the background, which was then blurred to simulate a shallow depth of field, though the cars in front and behind were removed, brushed-out, or covered-over.   Removing placards etc. from the windshield was tricky.  This was my first effort, but is one of my favorite shots.


1935 Hupmobile Pleasanton California - Good Guys Car Show 2014.    This car is remarkably stock for a custom.  The bumper is missing, it's been lowered, and they've removed the door handles.   But otherwise it seems pretty intact.

I tried a different approach on this background.  I covered over the clutter in the background with lawn and foliage, but did not add blur.   You can tell if you look closely.  Much of the windshield is hand-drawn due to the placards.  

1937 Cord 812 Phaeton, Danville California Concours de Elegance. September 2014.  Nikon D5100 18mm - 70mm Nikkor lens at 18mm f8.  Focus on nearest headlight port.  The background is a modified street scene in Danville.


1941 Chevrolet Martinez California - Owner's driveway.  The angle of the sun was nearly ideal, though a bit bright.   This is a fully artificial background, based on the sky and asphalt of the 1956 Ford Fairlane picture (below).   It is a bit more work to lift the bottom of the car and shadows then drop them on a synthetic asphalt.   However, this image is now 100% portable to any background. 


1941 Chevrolet.  Car show Martinez California.  The angle of the sun was nearly ideal, though a bit bright.

1941 Ford Pickup - Martinez CA Advertising photography for Alhambra High School Reunion


1946 Ford parked in the Martinez Marina at sunset.  I only removed the large truck parked behind it.   I shot this a bit more form the front to deemphasize the after market wheels.  The red paint in the upper grill is part of the original design.   This may be a candidate for further work on the background, it seems a bit unbalanced and overly white.


1949 Cadillac Convertible. This was shot at the 2014 San Rafael Auto Show.  The background is a hybrid of actual and created.   This image shows much more side view than my typical proportion, but I like this best of the various shots of this car.   My only disappointment here is the paint reflection on the door and rear fender.  Reflections demonstrate the luster of the paint, but may be distracting for some viewers. 


1951 Chevy Belair from Oakley California, at Martinez California Car Show 9-6-14.   Taken just before the end of the show, but an hour or so later would have give better light on the grill. I reworked the grill in Photoshop to enhance the light.


1955 Buick Special, Walnut Creek Car SHow, Las Lomas High School 9-27-14.   This is an experiment in black and white, with a few spots of color.

1956 Chevy Bel Air, Martinez CA   Advertising shot for Alhambra High Reunion


1956 Ford Fairlane at Fairfield Auto Show 8-16-14

This car is shown on actual pavement, but the adjacent car and some other clutter have been removed.    The actual sky was stretched to meet the ground, eliminating trees and buildings.  While the horizon is not realistic, I'm getting positive feedback on this photo.   Should there be a transition between the pavement and sky to add realism, or is simple better?


1957 Cadillac Coupe de Ville at Martinez California Car Show 9-6-14.   Taken in full shade.  The simulated lens blur was added in Photo Shop.


1957 Ford T-Bird, Sacramento Car Show 9-28-14.  My thanks to the owner ho kindly put the hood down so I could get this shot.  Nikon D5100, Sigma 10-20mm, 20mm, f8 ISO 400.


The 1958 Packard Hawk was the sportiest of the four Packard-badged Studebakers produced in the final year of Packard sales.  Packard models in this last year were all rebadged and retrimmed Studebaker products. The Hawk was essentially a Studebaker Golden Hawk 400 with a fiberglass front end and a modified deck lid.  Only 588 were built in its only year of production, the last year for the Packard brand.  Vacaville Auto Show 8-18-14

This car has some challenging colors and needs a complimentary background (later).  Reflections in the paint were a huge problem on this car, and this is the most extensive "airbrushing," where I've tried to get rid of people, motorcycles, etc., especially from the door.   About half of the door below the chrome trim is brushed and a significant reflection was removed from the trim rail.


1959Corvette  at Livermore California Car Show 9-28-14.  The reflections from the yellow car next to this one were so strong that I had to remove all the yellow from the image.   Then I selectively removed colors to highlight the subject car.   Nikon D5100 with Sigma 10-20mm, 20mm f8. ISO 240.


1961 Buick Electra 225 Pleasanton California - Good Guys Car Show 2014.   This white car was a challenge in the midday sun.     I drew in some detail because I have a history with this model.  Our family once owned this identical model, color, etc.  She's missing some chrome but still a stunning car.  The car was sitting on some very spotty grass and had a lot of background clutter.  I "patched" the grass but am likely to transfer this to a fully synthetic background eventually.


1962 Corvette from Pleasant Hill  California, at Martinez California Car Show 9-6-14.    Taken just before the end of the show, but an hour or so later would have give better light on the grill.


1964 Chevrolet Impala SS with the 300 horsepower 327 Turbofire engine.   This is the last year for the third generation Impala, with continued refinements to the 1961design, and only minor changes from 1963.   Vacaville Auto Show 8-18-14.  I put together a Web-Display for the owner.

This car was in a crowded location, but the owner volunteered to move it forward out of the line.  This really paid off in less reflections in the side-paint. My biggest challenge here was removing a prominent orange reflection from the left side of the hood.


1966 Shelby GT 350.  This was shot at the 2014 San Rafael Auto Show.  The biggest challenge to this photo was the windshield.  The windshield wipers were up and there was a large placard under the left wiper.  I made much of the glass transparent, overlaid it on the background, then drew-in the reflections and shadows.


1966 Chevy Chevelle with an after market 454 engine.    This was shot at the 2014 Livermore  Auto Show.   The background is substantially as shot with a PotoShop blur.   I got aggressive in removing some of the reflections in the rear fender.


1966 Chevy Chevelle SS 396.  This was shot at the 2014 San Rafael Auto Show.   The background is substantially as shot with a PotoShop blur.   There is too much reflection for this to be a great shot, but I do like this car.

This is one of my favorite GM body styles.  I think that 1966-67, was the highpoint for mid sized GMs, and the move to the 1968 swept back was a negative.  Of the four offerings on this platform, I think that the Chevy is the cleanest, and the simplicity makes it the most timeless. 


1969 Mustang convertible from the 2014 San Rafael Car Show.   This was a lucky find.  Many of the Mustangs were on a side street between tall buildings, where the light was even and low.   Note that there is almost no shadow under this car, and the shadow is progressively darker farther under the car.   This makes it more difficult to extract the shadow from the background, for a "transplant."

Without a tripod, I was pushing the handheld limits to keep a fairly good depth of field and low ISO.    This car had the trunk open, but that was an easy fix in PhotoShop.


1969 Shelby GT 500.  This was shot at the 2014 Millbrae Art & Wine Festival (car show section).   This car belongs to a close friend.  

People seem to love or hate this shot.  The reflections demonstrate the luster of the paint, but also confuse the details.  This was shot a noon when he got to the show, but the reflections were a challenge.   I think that the angles are right, but we need early morning or late afternoon and a spot with less objects in the reflections. if not consistent shade.  


Model T Truck - early 1920s  2014 Pleasanton Auto Show