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How to photograph and video cars at the MIAS 2023

How to photograph and video cars at the MIAS 2023

Ardie Lopez

Undoubtedly, the upcoming Manila International Auto Show will be a huge spectacle as it always has been for the past several years. The many car manufacturers who’ll be exhibiting their latest releases, including some that’ll only be seen in the metal for the first time by the public, will make sure to come up with the most dazzling launches complete with celebrities, dancers, and gorgeous models all under impressive light shows and blaring, rousing music. Who wouldn’t want to capture these amazing activities? Especially if you’re a car enthusiast, you would definitely want to “take it all in”.

So, on top of making sure you get the best angles and the most shots of these awesome cars, you’ll have to compete with basically everyone whose aim is to do the same. You’d be jostling for space amidst the professional photographers and videographers with the media, the huge throng of content creators and hobbyists, and of course the general public who’d be there to enjoy the show just like you.  Given that, what’s the best way to go about this?

Be prepared. Go early. Expect that foot traffic will multiply and simply get heavier and heavier towards the weekend, especially on the last day. The Manila International Auto Show will start Thursday, April 13 and will run ‘til Sunday, April 16. I suggest you go on day one. And of course, be equipped to shoot all day, whether you plan on just taking photos, just video, or both. Make sure you’ve got enough power to last all day. Power banks, charging cables and spare batteries will be your best friends, but they’ll also weigh you down. Pack light and do away with gadgets and accessories you’re not sure you’ll need or use often (like tripods, extra lights). I recommend wearing sneakers and comfy clothes as you’ll be on your feet for hours and moving around a lot (log on those steps, baby).

Your most useful camera will be your phone. Unless you’re a pro armed with mirrorless cameras and such (which means you probably won’t need these tips), your smartphone if used properly will give you great results, so I’ll focus on that here. Max out your settings. It’d be best to put your phone’s camera settings to shoot at the highest possible resolution or largest photo size possible. These days if your output isn’t high res, it’d be subpar. On video mode, if you phone is capable of shooting in 4K at 60 frames per second, go ahead and pick that setting. As a rule of thumb, it’s always better to shoot at the highest settings and shoot as much as you can, and just discard what you won’t need or prefer, after you choose the best shots post-event. Also, make sure to set your aspect ratio (or image framing) to wide aspect, or 16:9 on photos. Why? Cars are wide objects, so logically you’d want to capture them entirely in your frame without including unnecessary elements (at the top of the frame) in your shot. It’s also the default setting when shooting high resolution video, whether you choose to shoot horizontally or vertically. 

Clear out storage space. Shooting at high res will eat up so much space in your phone or memory card much faster, so back up and/or delete old media files on your device, and empty that trash bin. The worst time to find out you’re low on storage space is while you’re shooting. 

Now here comes the meaty stuff. In this scenario, proper framing AND patience will serve you very well. The exhibitors paid well to ensure their displays are beautifully lit, so their cars would look their best especially in photos and video, so good for you. Keep your angle leveled unless you really intend to shoot the car in a skewed angle, which is also good for variation. Frame that subject well in the center, so that you won’t have to crop and rotate on editing. If you’re the type who edits photos, remember you’ll be editing a LOT of them, so minimize the work you’ll have to do after you shoot. Don’t forget to tap to focus on the most prominent feature of the car you’d like to capture well, and practice tapping the shutter button gently to keep your phone very still. Always take at least one extra shot of an angle you like. I mentioned patience too, since you’ll be encountering a lot of other people trying to shoot what you’re shooting, or simply wanting to take a closer look. Remember that they have the same right as you to have time with the display, so just time your shots for when it’s clear of obstructions. It also won’t hurt to ask them politely to move, to get a clear shot every now and then.

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Cars are best viewed from their quarter angle, as this shows most sides of the car. This points to one side of the car’s fascia or front end closest to you, emphasizing the headlight cluster. Now raise your camera or phone to slightly above eye level, tilted down to your car subject, and frame it so you have some comfortable space around the car as well, and shoot a few snaps. You can do this on the reverse side of the car, to get a quarter rear shot. If it’s allowed, take some of the car interior from the driver’s seat towards the dashboard. Here, you’ll have to use your ultra-wide angle or your 0.5x setting to get a dynamic coverage of it. Typically once you get this set of shots (front and rear quarter and driver’s side interior) you can move on to the next car, so you can get to cover a lot. But it’s entirely up to you to shoot more angles if you prefer. Don’t forget the full front (head on) and rear view, full profile (or flat side view), and some detail shots (engine, wheels, and notable design cues).

Experiment with zooming-in a bit after stepping away (this actually “compresses” the image of the car to make the shot more flattering and dynamic), or using your 0.5x ultra-wide and stepping in close to get a different exaggerated view of the car too, just not too much or too often. This applies with video too, and while some accessories (like a gimbal or a phone video rig, selfie stick) can help with keeping your shot stable and camera movements smooth, practicing beforehand will help a lot to give you those fluid and flowing clips that would look great in your edits for Facebook reels, etc. Oh, and don’t forget wireless mics (there are some meant for smartphones now, which have become quite affordable- search online) if you intend to make some commentaries, interviews or even simple sound bites, as this’ll vastly improve the production value of your acquired content. Don’t forget to shoot establishing shots of the show, the façade, a bird’s eye of the crowd if you can manage it, and well, selfies too with your fave cars and models, and friends. I’m sure you can post on your social media platforms while you’re at it.

Finally, just enjoy the show and have a good time. Make sure to back up your photo and video files from your phone as soon as you can to free it up of space, and so your content is safe too. Happy shooting!