I enjoy taking photos at car shows, but not because of the awesome shots you can get. The truth is, it’s the car that usually makes the photo, not the photographer. I enjoy a great looking car as much as the next guy and if done right, you don’t need a great sunset in the background or other additive to enhance the shot, just a sharp, beautiful car. Sure, there are some technical challenges to overcome like glare, reflections, bad light and such. But the biggest challenges have nothing to do with the car. Instead they are the visitors and the car owners themselves. Since most car owners want their cars to be photographed, here is a short list of car show etiquette that can help make that happen.

Visitors pretend like they don’t see your camera and tripod and will walk right in front of you and stand there; a long time. Then you move and they follow you. We have to sit there patiently waiting and try not to be rude and say anything. We understand they have every right to be there too, but when we are set up and ready to fire, give us just one more moment please.

Then there are the car owners that bring the extended-stay hotel with them. They set up lawn chairs, portable tents and even grills behind the cars and camp out all day long. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing that excites me more than a car photo with everyone hanging around behind it drinking beer and chomping on a BBQ rib. 

These days, most car owners want to swing the trunk and hood up, ruining the lines of the car, as if everyone wants to see their chrome air cleaner.

And please, don’t lay out every trophy or plaque in front as if to say, look at my awards. We didn’t come to see the awards, we came to see the cars.

Some people set up cute little gas cans, models or period items around their cars. Blah. Leave the awards and do-dads at home. We came to see the cars.

Following these simple suggestions increase the odds of a quality photo and possibly getting published somewhere  The owner of this Dart Swinger did it right. Gene has a beautiful car that speaks volumes without anything to distract you from the gem it is.



5 thoughts on “Car Show Etiquette

  1. Great. I just short circuited my computer from drooling all over it, Tim! I don’t know if you can see me from here, but I have fallen in love with that car and your shot of it!! I truly believe that to be one kick-butt 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger with a block block 440 in it. That right there is the stuff of legends, my friend! And your shot… you’ve nailed it! You got all the character of this monster machine perfectly composed and brought to life!

    Many, many years ago I had a Dodge Dart Demon with a small block and four speed. I still think very fondly of that car and really wish we hadn’t driven it into the ground as young lunatics…

  2. Thanks Toad! I think we all have a car or two that we remember at “young lunatics” that we wish we had now. I had a Mustang that brings back the same memories.

  3. Hahaha, love the article, and can so relate to your frustrations!!! Particularly the extended stay family visits!!

    Let people enjoy your cars and don’t bring all the chairs etc!!

  4. You have several good points about appreciating the lines of cars ar car shows…. However, cars at shows are judged not only for the exterior, but the interior, and the creative displays around the cars educating the observers about either the car history or the restoration process. Judges do not touch the cars.

    You can ask the owners to close the doors, trunk and hood to get the real lines. The owners are proud of their babies and would love to show them and even have them photographed. All you need to do is ask. They never know if the car will be featured somewhere cool.

    Stroke those egos with your requests and get the best shots you can… Then send the owner a copy via e-mail as a thanks. Probably will be the best shot they get of their car.

  5. Yes, I totally agree. I used to show a Mustang and have been on the other side, however we never camped out. And back then, there were no websites or other mass publishing opportunities like today. In many cases (unless they’re camped out by the car) the owner isn’t around. They are out visiting or looking around too, so it’s hard to get the doors closed etc. But your’re right, a kind request can usually get the doors and hood closed.

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