In the first of a new series of interviews with professionals working in car photography and the industry of illustrating vehicles, Car Photographer catches up with UK based car photographer Tim Andrew about his long career shooting cars, what’s in his bag and what the future holds for car photographers.
How long have you been a photographer and have you always been a car shooter?
“Pretty much the whole of my 25 year career to date, although I started at school doing portraits for friends. I’ve had many forays into other types of photography such as interior design or products but I have always come back to cars.”
What’s in your bag?
“Quite a lot! My main tool is a Nikon D3, but I switch to a D3x or D200 according to the requirements. I own about 20 Nikon lenses from 10.5mm all the way to 500mm, but find myself mostly using the 14-24, 24-70, and 70-300. Then there are 4 Nikon and 4 Metz flashguns and a forest of tripods and suction clamps.”
Favourite gadget or piece of equipment?
“First: the Nikon D3 changed what was achievable more than any other camera I’ve owned so that gets my vote. Second: are my many Pocket Wizard radio flash slaves, as they liberated me from the hell of sync cables. Thirdly my iPhone as it makes the whole business of keeping in touch a pleasure.”
Are you an in-the-camera shooter or do you use post production a lot?
“I’ve grown up shooting in camera, so tend to think that way but am thrilled by the post production possibilities. HDR and spherical images are (currently) impossible without post production. But time limits what it’s practical to do. I’ll try to save my time to hone the killer shots to perfection in Adobe Photoshop and just adjust the rest in Lightroom.”
Car editorial is under pressure from many directions right now and car advertising budgets are being cut. What are your views on the future of car photography, CGI, video etc?
“Clearly there are pressures from all angles, but creating compulsive content is always going to bring rewards. We may have to adapt significantly to new markets. CGI has taken most of my manufacturers website work away, but I am now set up to shoot CGI spherical images and backplates for that market. These are exciting times and I’m always up for something new.”
Are you shooting any video yet or do you plan to?
“I started a couple of years ago, but find clients reluctant to pay for the extra time, equipment and effort. I enjoy the process but learning all the new skills is time consuming. The arrival of video within DSLR cameras and HD headcams is an exciting development. I like the 16:9 format and have at last stopped wanting to shoot upright footage! The formats and codecs need to settle down though as there are way too many.”
What particular type of car photography you’re engaged in. EG editorial, advertising, motorsport etc
“Mostly editorial, web, and car manufacturers’ brochures, PR, and marketing. I’ve worked for most of the big names in car magazines over the years: Car, Autocar, Performance Car, Classic Cars, Automobile (USA) but have also worked for non-motoring titles.”
Photo editors never seem to run with our favourite shots, so here’s your chance. What four portfolio shots do you particularly like, why and how did you shoot them?
“I love “inserting” cars into the landscape. there’s a natural balance and flow to the photo. The colours are a restricted palette too. The composition is not thought about too hard but arrived at by moving around until “comfortable” with it. Having said that I try to make photos work across a double page spread by thinking about the position of the spine or fold of the publication. I’ve left enough buffer around the edges for an art editor to run it full bleed across two pages.”
“I love really wide lenses as they put you right there in the middle of the action. This is a great example of showing a beautifully lit interior but making what could be rather static into an attention grabbing shot. This image is a combination of about three frames, but all shot in action. The idea is to pick the best frame for the whooshy trees , reflection and sun spill, and combine into one. This is editorial though, as manufacturers baulk at the distortion of their products.”
“This is a clean, simple and uncontroversial shot, but it’s restful, peaceful and hints at infinite space. I dislike two dimensional claustrophobic shots. If I talk in terms of experiences rather than photographs, think of getting out of a cable car at the top of a mountain and feeling a sense of release, the surprise of the chilly air, the majesty of the mountains, the unparalleled views: this is what I like to impart to the viewer.”
“Here the car is the star in a pool of stage light. I noticed when setting up for this shot that there was a great shadow when the doors were open. Even the tint of the glass on the floor hints at some magical insect spreading it’s wings. To preserve purity, I used only one big tungsten light shone from up high.”
Lots of car photographers aren’t always into cars. Are you a petrol head and what are you driving right now?
“I drive an ’07 Vauhall Zafira SRi, which is my mobile office, van, and family car. My wife has a yellow Colour Concept MK3 VW Golf GTi, which I borrow a lot! I’m definitely into cars although have never owned the cars I dream about. I’ve driven tons of great cars; for instance, most Porsches including the Carrera GT, Mercedes McLaren SLR, Bugatti EB110, Lamborghini Diablo SV to name a few supercars. This is why I shoot cars 😉 Favourite car: a fast Lotus Elise.”
Final tip or piece of advice for car photographers?
“I really think you have to be into cars to appreciate their character and therefore the way they should be portrayed. Take a shiny object such as a mirror ball or chrome model around with you and look at what happens to the reflections and light on it in all sorts of weather and lighting, you’ll learn a lot!”