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Into best light.Into best light.

Into best light.

6 min reading time

How to photograph cars.

Photographer Frederick Unflath explains how to present a vehicle in the best light.

30 March 2021

Be it for your photo album, the Instagram community or simply because it’s fun: photographing your car is part and parcel of being a petrolhead. But it’s not always as easy as it looks. Despite sophisticated technology and modern software, the final picture is often not the one you had in mind when you pressed the shutter release. Photographer and BMW M connoisseur Frederick Unflath has been a fan of fast cars and perfect camera angles since childhood. He tells us what it is about cars that fascinates him and gives some tips about how to get the most from your photos.

BMW M3 Competition Sedan:
CO2 emissions combined in g/km 224–223 (WLTP)
Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km 9.8 (WLTP)
BMW M5 CSBMW M5 CS
BMW M5 CS; ISO 50, focal length 85 mm, aperture f/8, exposure time 1.00 s.

How did you come to specialize in photographing cars?

That began early on. I grew up with cars, thanks to my father who works at ABT Sportsline. I actually started with film rather than photography. We were a small freestyle ski crew and I started shooting our days in the mountains to make little films for the Internet. Later on I trained as a graphic designer and after a few stops along the way, including studying business administration, I came to photography through my work at BMW M.

BMW M3 HeritageBMW M3 Heritage
BMW M3 Heritage; ISO 100, focal length 49 mm, aperture f/10, multiple exposure times.
Cars trigger emotions. I see them as works of art.

One of your favourite shoots?

The BMW M5 LCI, the current facelift of the M5 in the daylight studio. That was spontaneous, it was really meant for my private portfolio. INMOTION Studios asked me if I’d like to try out their studio after a visit.

BMW M5 CompetitionBMW M5 Competition
ISO 100, focal length 24 mm, aperture f/4, exposure time 0.60 s.
You shouldn’t bury your creativity in classic camera angles. At the end of the day, it’s also about how you want to interpret the vehicle.
BMW M8 Competition CoupéBMW M8 Competition Coupé
BMW M8 Competition Coupé; ISO 200, focal length 40 mm, aperture f/4, exposure time: 1/50 s.

What about paintwork reflections: What should one look out for here?

They’re often made out to be worse than they are. But if the reflection masks an important detail or destroys the optical form, you should think about positioning the car differently.

BMW M2 by FUTURA 2000BMW M2 by FUTURA 2000
BMW M2 by FUTURA 2000; ISO 100, focal length 52 mm, aperture f/8, exposure time 1.60 s with multiple POL settings.

Bothersome reflections on paintwork, how do you get rid of them? On location with a polarizing filter for example or later on with editing software?

A mix of both. The polarizing filter can make editing much easier afterwards. And Photoshop of course has that great Clone Stamp tool - a lot of fun!

BMW M4 GT3BMW M4 GT3
BMW M4 GT3; ISO 50, focal length 25 mm, aperture f/8, exposure time 1/320 s.
Frederick UnflathFrederick Unflath

So we could say: petrolhead yes, adrenalin junkie no?

Yes, you could say that, but of course 100 km/h in an open boot can also be pretty exciting. I love cars, but I always see the design first and then the performance and the technology behind it.

BMW M4 CoupéBMW M4 Coupé
BMW M4 Coupé; ISO 50, focal length 55 mm, aperture f/5.6, exposure time 1.00 s.
Frederick UnflathFrederick Unflath
Use the camera you feel most comfortable with.
BMW M8 HeritageBMW M8 Heritage
BMW M8 Heritage: SO 100, focal length 52 mm, f/8, multiple exposures.

How would you describe your style?

Graphic, colourful, moody. But I also love black and white. Generally speaking, playing with shadows is my thing. I like both hard and soft shading. Depending on the atmosphere I want the pictures to have.

Trend question: portrait or landscape?

As we say in German: Fährst du quer, siehst du mehr, which more or less means landscape will give you more to look at. For what I do, the good old landscape format is better and I’m better at it too.

BMW M8 Competition CoupéBMW M8 Competition Coupé
BMW M8 Competition Coupé; ISO 100 – focal length 70 mm, f/4, exposure time 1.00 s.
BMW M3 Competition Sedan:
CO2 emissions combined in g/km 224–223 (WLTP)
Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km 9.8 (WLTP)
BMW M4 Coupé:
CO2 emissions combined in g/km 230–226 (WLTP)
Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km 10.1–10.0 (WLTP)
BMW M4 Competition Coupé:
CO2 emissions combined in g/km 223–219 (WLTP)
Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km 9.9–9.7 (WLTP)
BMW M5 Competition:
CO2 emissions combined in g/km 259 (NEDC) / 259-253 (WLTP)
Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km 11.3 (NEDC) / 11.3-11.1 (WLTP)
BMW M8 Competition Coupé:
CO2 emissions combined in g/km 260–251 (WLTP)
Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km 11.4–11.0 (WLTP)

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