Anyone can take a photo. Anyone can take a decent photo. An iPhone can only take one so far. I found this out the hard way. When I started my automotive photography journey, all I had was my iPhone 5. I would take the most boring shots of cars, throw them on my instagram, and call it a day. After a year or two I decided it was time I upped my setup. I saved up some money and invested into an easy to use Nikon D5500 with an 18-140mm lens.
The Nikon D5500 is by no means a “hard” camera to use, nor is it the most advanced body on the market. However, it does the job better than I anticipated. I primarily shot in raw on Automatic as I really had no idea how to use a camera properly. Using automatic was easy, simple, and fast. I could focus on anything pretty much instantaneously and snap 10 shots. Using automatic is a great way to learn your style. After shooting for about one year in automatic, I had finally learned my style. I no longer took pictures of a whole car, but instead, zoomed in on the details and framed them in interesting ways. I remember coming home from shows and literally spending hours editing, cropping, and even occasionally photoshopping shots until I was content with my work. None of these shots were really interesting, they just looked pretty.
Over the course of time, I began to slowly shift to manual shooting. My first real experiences with this were in Boston. Within a few hours of playing around with manual, I had begun to pick up some techniques. One of those, was long shutter time, very low ISO, and a low F number. This resulted in what I like to call “light ray” shots. It makes the traffic from the roads blurry, and all you see is the taillights and headlights, but the background is still. These shots are some of my favorite to shoot. I would spend hours looking out my window in Boston taking hundreds of shots on different nights. Sometimes it was stormy, sometimes it was crystal clear, and other times it could be cloudy and dark. This technique taught me a lot about backgrounds. Sure, it’s important to capture your foreground in an interesting way, but if something is off in the background, the whole photo is ruined.
Tripods are key for decent shots. I try not to bring them to car shows, only because they take up so much space, but they can really make a photoshoot 10x better. I try to keep my setup as inexpensive as possible, so the tripod of choice for me is the Albott 70 Inch. Yes, 70 inches may seem a little excessive for a tripod, but it really helps when I try to get a decent angle on a car. What I like about this tripod is how light it is, and how easy it is to use. There aren’t too many knobs or screws, and the leg extenders are easy to use. Everything about this tripod is well thought out and customer friendly. The Albott was also a huge help in my shoot with Black Bridge Motors for their Plymouth Fury.
Shooting in manual is key for success, but it can be a huge pain in the butt. If you don’t have steady hands you can easily ruin any decent shot. Luckily, the Albott tripod can hold my camera’s weight better than I can for long shudder times. When I went to shoot the Plymouth, the sun was beginning to set, light began to diminish, and I was beginning to use longer shudder times. Had I not had my tripod, I would’ve had to cut that shoot much earlier than I did. Sure it may be fairly easy to shoot with a 1/20 exposure time with no tripod, but it’s also a lot easier to make a freehanded shot blurrier at that speed too. The Albott tripod keeps my camera perfectly steady and requires minimal effort to use, and is probably the only tripod body I will use. I do have to change the head to accommodate for my new 70-200mm lens, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
To wrap up today’s blog, the D5500 with the 18-140mm lens is the perfect amateur camera to use. It’s incredibly easy to master, takes little effort to learn on, and is the perfect way to enter the photography world. If you’re considering buying your first camera, I highly recommend the D5500.