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Top Gear Philippines

What should go into your car photography kit? (Part 2)

So you're headed out for a car shoot. You've hauled all the essentials I talked about last time around, and you think you're all set. But wait! There are actually some more items that are better to have than not at all. Consider packing these in your camera bag:


What should go into your car photography kit? (Part 2)

1. Camera cleaning gear

Many car shoots are done outdoors where the elements are just raring to ruin your gig. Dust, dirt, even smudges on your lens can affect the output of your shoot so much that you might even have to spend extra time editing out the imperfections in your shots. So what do you do to prevent that? Make sure your camera is tidy by bringing along a microfiber cloth and a sensor dust blower.

If you're using interchangeable-lens cameras or DSLRs, then it's mandatory you pack at least the latter in your bag. Changing lenses allows dust to enter the camera body and settle on the sensor's optical filter or its surface. Some quick squeezes of air toward the sensor with the camera body facing down can help dislodge foreign matter and spare your shots from the cloning process after the shoot.

Wiping down your camera from time to time also reduces the chance of dust gathering in between the camera's crevices. Remember, protecting your investment will afford you more usable time with your gear.


What should go into your car photography kit? (Part 2)

2. Car-cleaning paraphernalia

It's not only your camera that you have to keep clean, but also the car itself. Unless you have an anything-goes theme, car shoots are usually done with cars that are spotless and unsoiled. By having chamois or microfiber cloth and some water around, you can wipe off dirt, grime, dead bugs, or tire-black stains that might have latched onto the car.

You can also use your sensor blower to get rid of dust specks on car interiors. Wiping dust off dashboard knobs, buttons and switches before you actually shoot will allow you to spend more time enhancing your shots during post-production rather than cleaning them up by cloning or patch tooling.

As I always say, "If you're going to shoot, shoot it right the first time."


What should go into your car photography kit? (Part 2)

The image on the left shows how a typical dashboard surface looks. Notice all
the dust on the A/C button and fan control. The image on the right shows
you how much effort it takes to stamp out each speck one by one.

What should go into your car photography kit? (Part 2)

And see how much neater it is once all those dust specks are edited out. Cleaning
the surface beforehand achieves the same result but takes a lot less time.


What should go into your car photography kit? (Part 2)

3. Charger and extra batteries

Depending on how long your shoot will actually take, stuffing some extra batteries into your kit gives you peace of mind that you can continue shooting even when the camera's power source has dried. There's nothing worse than not being able to shoot because you only brought a half-charged battery with you. Missing out on the action is one of a photographer's worst nightmares.


What should go into your car photography kit? (Part 2)

4. Spare body and memory cards

Now, depending on how addicted you are to camera gear, having a second body can actually save your life whenever your primary camera decides to play diva. As a photographer, you must always be ready to get the shot your client is expecting of you. That means the "my dog ate it" excuse and the resulting scratches on the head aren't going to cut it.

You don't have to necessarily invest on two identical camera bodies, though. Your secondary camera can be a lower model that can accommodate the same lenses you use on your main body. Or it could be a RAW-shooting small camera that approximates the image quality your primary shooter churns out. The important thing is you have a fallback whatever happens.

And with RAW images taking up huge chunks of memory space in your cards, having a couple of extra ones lets you shoot continuously if you have to. It's ultimately better--and more professional--than stopping mid-shoot to download a card onto your laptop or not being able to shoot at all anymore.


What should go into your car photography kit? (Part 2)

5. A peg

You must have heard of this term at one point or another. The peg, or a reference image, is always an invaluable guide whenever you go out on a shoot. It may be a printout of someone else's work or even another magazine's shoot. Why is it important?  For one, it allows you to shoot faster because you already have a preconceived idea of how to position the car, what angle to take or what background to use. And in these kinds of shoots, time is always of the essence because you will be working with other people who may have other schedules to keep up with.

Second, it ties down the whole shoot into a common theme, look and finish. Submitting a unified-looking set of photos speaks a lot about your skill and talent. It is also one way to ensure you get more commissions in the future as a professional photographer.



What should go into your car photography kit? (Part 2)

A commissioned shot of the Chevrolet Colorado based on the peg above.


What should go into your car photography kit? (Part 2)

You don't have to exactly match a peg when you shoot. You just need to be inspired by it. Innovation and creativity are still your best friends when walking into a shoot.

Now that you more or less have an idea of what we Top Gear photographers bring along during our shoots, it's time you go out armed and ready to capture images again. Use your gear; they are excellent tools to help you get the images you want. At the end of the day, your talent will dictate how far you can push yourself and your equipment.

If you have other topics you'd like us to discuss--even a comment or violent reaction perhaps--don't hesitate to shoot me an e-mail at As in life, there's nothing better than learning from each other.

Mikko David
Mikko is the team's in-house race car driver, roadtrip GPS, assignment lifesaver, calorie-counting convert and go-to writer and photographer. The only thing he likes better than shooting cars is driving them, to the limit if needed.
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