Car photos are a popular subject on image‒based social media such as Instagram. From photos of ordinary people that capture the little things of everyday life with their favorite cars to photos of experts who have taken detailed photos, car photos with sincerity are loved by a lot of people. Here, Jinyoung Lee, who posts daily life with the Veloster N on Instagram, and Seongpil Min, a professional photographer who specializes in car photos, discuss the characteristics of car photos that receive a lot of ‘likes’ and what kind of skills professionals have.
There are countless Instagram accounts dedicated to car photos ‒ like Jinyoung Lee (only_throttle_1674) riding a Veloster N. However, Jinyoung Lee’s posts have their own characteristics; they always get a good response just with small, everyday photos with their car, not overly staged photos. Even just a photo taken at a gas station gets hundreds of ‘likes.’ How did Jinyoung Lee get into car photography?
“Actually, I don’t know much about photography. I just loved cars since I was a kid. I even said that the first thing I would do when I grow up is to buy a car. But once I became an office worker, I couldn’t afford to buy a car. Then I saw the Veloster N on the way and fell in love at first sight. I saved up my money and bought the Veloster N as my first car. And I started taking pictures to make good memories.”
Jinyoung Lee only uses a smartphone camera. At first, she picked up a DSLR camera, but then she said that it was not easy to pack a camera bag all the time, and she took less pictures because of the burden of taking good pictures. That was when she began to use only her smartphone. Jinyoung Lee explained the advantages of smartphones as follows.
“My hobby is driving. On my way home from work, I take a leisurely drive outside the city, and when I see a nice spot, I stop for a moment and take a picture. The same goes for going to a cafe or gas station. When the car looks pretty, I take a picture right away. If you take out your DSLR camera at the gas station, won’t it attract attention? But smartphones don’t do that. I can’t say the quality of images is superb, but it’s easy to handle, and I always carry it with me. I think it’s an advantage to be able to take pictures so easily.”
Jinyoung Lee uses her smartphone’s default camera app. She does not use a specific app, but the difference is that she mostly takes photos vertically. This is because vertical photos look larger on Instagram. Also, she just uses auto mode, then adjusts the focus. The feel will be slightly different just focusing on the part you want to emphasize. She mainly uses the basic filter and markup function of her smartphone, and when she wants to work a little harder, She uses Adobe Lightroom Mobile. It’s because it’s free, and it’s easy to adjust the exposure, contrast, or color of her photos.
Regarding the preferred photo shoot location or composition, Jinyoung Lee said, “I like a place where there are not many people, so I can take my time and think about it. I live in Daejeon, so I often go around Daecheong Dam or Pibanryeong. You can capture the scenery that changes with the seasons. And the composition mainly uses a low angle to emphasize the sportiness of the Veloster N. It’s also a good way to zoom in on charming points such as the headlamp or take a picture from the side where the character line is clearly visible.”
So, what is the secret of Jinyoung Lee’s daily photos with her beloved car getting a lot of ‘likes’? “The first is the time, the second is the hashtag,” she replied. Time refers to the time of upload. “I get the most responses during lunchtime or after work, when office workers take a break to post on their social media. So, if possible, I tend to post during that time.”
Hashtags also require strategy. “I put hashtags related to my car, such as Hyundai, Veloster N, and car photos. If there is a tip, write English tags such as VELOSTER, HYUNDAI, ABOUT_HYUNDAI, and NEVERJUSTDRIVE together. Foreign users often click ‘Like’. The scenery and daily life in Korea can seem new and strange to foreigners,” explains Jinyoung Lee.
Jinyoung Lee’s daily life has changed a lot since meeting Veloster N. As she attends clubs and often goes on circuits, she gets to know new people, and there are also moments where she finds peace of mind by traveling with her car. Through her Instagram, she even exchanged ‘Likes’ with owners of Hyundai cars overseas. She says she enjoyed being able to make so many memories with her car, and taking pictures of it.
“Posting photos on Instagram was like keeping a daily journal for me,” she said. I started taking pictures because I wanted to cherish the happy moments with the Veloster N for a long time. Luckily, I’m just thankful that so many people like my photos. For me, car photography is the joy of making memories.”
So what makes a photo of a professional photographer different? First of all, taking pictures of cars requires expertise because a car is one of the largest things in our daily lives. Photos published by automobile companies for advertisements or promotions or in magazines are the work of professional automotive photographers. Photographer Seongpil Min of ‘Team Road Studio’, in this interview, is also an expert in car photography. He majored in fashion and advertising photography in college. The starting point was fashion photography, but as he started his career as an automobile photographer, which he had always admired, he expanded the world of his work. He has presented a variety of photos as the head of photography for an automobile magazine, and he is now collaborating with several automakers.
Photographer Seongpil Min’s photos have an intensity that instantly catches the eye. The car, the main character of the picture, shines more than anything else. “The most important thing in car photography is to preserve the unique design of the model. But the car is a very large subject, so it reflects a lot of light. So you have to use light to make the car’s design stand out more,” he explains.
How to take good car photos? “You have to focus on the face of the car,” says Min. As many of the design elements of a car sit on the front, you should try to express the front of the car well. He also explained:
“The front of a car is like a human face. Think of your friend’s face. Some are gentle, some are reliable, and some are playful. And you want to take pictures of their personality. The same goes for cars. If you take a photo that matches the design, it will shine even more. I try to figure out what strengths designers want to express when shooting a car, and make use of those strengths. In other words, a good car photo is completed by adding the designer’s intention and the photographer’s expression.”
Can an average person who has just started taking pictures of cars be able to take pictures like a professional photographer? It is unreasonable to expect amateurs to do like professionals from the beginning, but knowing the tricks will definitely help. Here, photographer Seongpil Min gives tips on camera settings.
“A car is a mobile machine. So, the types of photos are also divided into two types: still and driving, and the setting method should also be different. To reduce distortion caused by the lens as much as possible when taking still photos, use a telephoto lens and increase the depth of exposure to express the original design of the car as best as possible. When taking pictures of a moving car, I focus on creating a dynamic feeling by lowering the shutter speed. I also focus on expressing movement well by changing the lens in various ways.”
Of course, there is a difference between shooting indoors and shooting outdoors. “When shooting in the studio, there is little or no light coming in from the outside. So you can adjust the amount, intensity, or height of the light as you want. However, outdoor shooting should take the sun into account. Sunlight is the perfect light source, but there are many variables, such as time. It is important to adjust the layout of the car with this in mind. Think of the sun as a light. If you use the sunlight well, you can take natural‒looking photos that are trending these days.”
So, what are the best filming locations for car photographers? Seongpil Min chose Songdo and Incheon in Korea. With various modern buildings and roads, those places can show the charm of each city well. However, sometimes he leaves the city to find a place for a special angle. Composition is an important element that has a great influence on expressing the image of a car. Seongpil Min explains how to do it for beginners.
“Although not ultimate, there are some universal formulas. There is an angle of view that suits the characteristics of the car. For example, cars with the lowest roof height that emphasize sportiness can be expressed magnificently by shooting at a low angle with the camera standing lower than the headlamps. Taller cars, such as SUVs, are shot according to the height of the headlamps, but by using a telephoto lens to minimize distortion, you can capture the unique design of the model. On the other hand, when taking a diagonal shot of a car with a long wheelbase, you need to be careful not to make it look too long. Take a picture so that the headlamp on the other side looks a bit more prominent. It would make it look more stable.”
He has taken countless pictures of cars so far. But, he says, shooting a moving car is still the most exciting. “Photographing cars in motion is the essence of car photography since the photographer’s skill becomes crucial.” He also talks about their charm.
“The beauty of photography lies in capturing the moment. It’s heart‒pounding when you capture the stunning look of a car in motion. There are many ways to take, but the two most common are ‘Panning’ and ‘Car to Car.’” In the panning technique, the car runs on a set course, and the photographer takes a picture of the car passing a specific set point. A typical example is shooting a race car running on a circuit from the outside. The car‒to‒car technique, on the other hand, is a method of taking pictures while keeping a certain distance between the model vehicle and the photographer’s.”
“Neither way is easy. To get a good picture, you have to consider all the complex factors. There are limits to what a camera can do. Going beyond this requires the photographer to plan well and utilize his skills. That’s why I like pictures of cars in motion ‒ it is so rewarding. It is quite difficult to plan all the elements such as the movement, arrangement, angle, and sense of speed of a car; and then capture them all in a single photo. But when everything fits together, you can feel it intuitively the moment it catches your eye. And that’s when you can take a good picture. The joy of pressing the shutter at that moment is indescribable.”
Automobile photography boasts a vast amount of depth. You can simply enjoy it, or you can dig deep. However, just like everything else, it is quite difficult to develop your skills. Many suffer a lot until they finally get what they’re really doing. Seongpil Min gives you a piece of advice:
“The most important thing is to try a lot. To create your own style, you must first get a feel for it. If you take a lot of pictures of different types of cars from different angles, you will definitely get your taste. Don’t be afraid to try different things. Both success and failure are good for you. Above all, be patient. Skills don’t develop quickly. I hope you have fun taking pictures of things you love.”
Photography is both an art and a recording medium. The photos remind me of past events that I can’t even remember. In this way, car photos become a good way to keep your daily life with your favorite car for a long time. You don’t have to be a good photographer; The important thing is to get started. If you take pictures in your spare time and leave a record, one day your album will be filled with precious memories you had with your car.
Interview with Jinyoung Lee, Seongpil Min
Written by Minhee Ahn
Photography by Hyejin Cho, Jinki Hong
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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