More often than not, people look at pictures more than they pay attention to the words in magazines. Of course, a good headline is important to catch the reader’s eye, but photos are much easier to appreciate. Sometimes, good photos lead the reader to actually start reading the article.
It is true – A good story just isn’t complete without great pictures. In fact, the significance of visuals might override that of editorials because the story has to first capture the readers’ attention from afar. Let’s face it – most of us do not read every single article in a magazine, but we definitely flip through every page to look at the pictures.
What is it like to be a specialised automotive photographer? Some people scoff at it, saying that taking inanimate objects like cars is ‘chicken feet’ compared to capturing human expressions and body language.
But don’t knock it till you try it.
Those who know how to admire the various lines and curves of the cars will know what a good photo can do to bring out the essence of the car’s design. While others like to shoot food, people, places or scenery, some prefer to just shoot cars.
Adrian Wong, a first-year Arts, Media and Design student at Nanyang Technological University, enjoys automotive photography so much that his hobby has started earning him some extra pocket money. He saved up to buy himself a DSLR back in 2007 after experimenting with his uncle’s for a while.
“I like taking photos of cars simply because I like cars since young and I picked up photography along the way. Combining both interests, I chose to pursue automotive photography,” said Adrian.
Only 22 years of age, I started working with him years back, during his pre-National Service days at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Multimedia and Animation, even before he got his driving licence.
Since then, he has shot for several local car magazines, including Wheels Asia, where you have probably wowed over his photos before without realising they were taken by him. He has come into contact with some of the rarest cars and even more supercars than some motoring journalists ever did, as he is engaged by private owners to do photoshoots of their beauty rides.
But to get great pictures is more than just buying a good camera and snapping the shutter.
Many may not be aware of the challenges of taking photos of cars in Singapore. “First there are already limited places to shoot cars in Singapore as the country is just so small and we lack scenic landscapes like that of overseas. Then, it doesn’t help that there are strict rules implemented in Singapore and security guards are usually very particular about taking photos on some premises,” Adrian told me.
The lack of locations to shoot cars is indeed one of the biggest challenges for local car shoots. Many times I flip through magazines and instantly recognise or find familiar that particular venue the car was shot at.
One can produce well with the right access and the best equipment, not forgetting advanced software programmes like Photoshop to eliminate the last of the blemishes. Still, every photographer has his or her own unique style, eye for angle and flair for creativity that caters to different viewers’ tastes and preferences.
For myself, I am more of a writer than a photographer. The only reason I made an entry-level DSLR purchase is because it is not cost-effective to hire a photographer to go to every event that I attend. Nowadays I shoot more motorsport events than still car shots and therein lie another set of challenges.
Understanding how to set up the camera for the shot is one thing, but there’s also the process of getting the shot. Being in tropical climate, the weather is another factor to battle. You’re either drenched in the rain or in your own perspiration. There’s also all that tyre dust you breathe into your lungs from the cars whizzing past!
The heavy camera equipment to lug around is another challenge too. When I met up with long-time professional Formula 1 photographer Darren Heath previously, he told me that he carries around 40kg of camera equipment worth at more than 30,000 British pounds when shooting at a race.
He brings at least two camera bodies, multiple memory cards, nine lenses ranging from 14mm fisheye to 840mm super telephoto, several filters, one flashgun, one tripod, camera and flash batteries, battery chargers and a laptop just for one race. Other than the laptop and chargers, everything else goes onto him as he goes out to shoot!
Shooting motorsports is different from shooting still shots of cars but both require skill. In motor racing where everything is just moving so fast, you have to be quicker than the cars or you miss that shot forever. But despite the dirt, heat and perspiration, the satisfaction from achieving good shots supersedes all the sacrifices (and sometimes pain) experienced while getting that shot.