This isn't so much a step by step on how to get amazing cars to look amazing. You don't really need to try if I am honest. They already look bonkers wild and require little work on your end to really shine.
No, this is more a "How do I get to the position where I can easily do such shoots" kind of thing.
Now I know you're sitting there thinking "Wait a minute, don't you just have to go up and ask them?" and you know what, that is a perfectly reasonable question. You would assume that owners of such cars wouldn't care, that they would happily whore out their car for a few pictures but the truth is that sometimes they aren't, sometimes they don't care to, sometimes they just don't think you're good enough to do it and don't want their time wasted (I got that more then a few times when I started out).
My first shoot was nothing but pure luck and maybe even a tiny amount of pity. Before the Viper ACR pictured, I had done rice rockets and drift cars and generally stuff that I had no genuine passion to be taking photos of. Its a blunt assessment but honestly, I had not a care in the world for such cars. I thought I was above it all.
It is true that you need some passion for what you shoot, how else can you expect to produce the best work that you possibly could? Part of it was just being around such cars, as a still 12 year old child these kinds of cars are what excited me. They are what I had on my bedroom wall (still) and those were the things I were passionate about.
But you don't get to build up a name chasing high end clients. If only that actually worked, but it doesn't. I realized that I had to build up a solid client base and build up a name through doing a variety of photography related things; cars or otherwise. Crummy events, gatherings, receptions, plebeian cars; anything to build up my name and improve my skills.
My lucky break came with this Mustang. A Police Department Mustang. A promotional car used at the track encouraging drivers to take their high speed antics to the track in a safe environment. Not only was this something I was passionate about but it was particularly high profile and since it was used in everything from online to print I got a fair amount of recognition for it. It sort of pushed me to that next level in terms of what I could go after and it gave me some credibility. I was no longer some fly by night amateur who picked up a camera and decided he was a pro, being able to do this one shoot allowed me to have a stable platform and it validated all the hard work I had put in.
Nearly a year after shooting that ACR I found myself speaking with a man from Lamborghini themselves, cracking wise and unexpectedly finding myself being introduced to people in the city who had the kind of things I wanted to shoot. I'm not naive, I knew there was a fair amount of wonderful toys in my town but I was a little shocked at just how much there was that I had never seen, in the hands of people who I would've never expected.
Some things led to more things and I found myself finally shooting the cars I wanted to ever since I started. I'm still a little in awe that in just over a year I've managed to improve in such meaningful amounts and made the contacts that I have.
Where I once struggled to have anyone take me seriously, now I just need to call someone up and arrange a proper date to get it done. Persistence I think is what I'm trying to say, I never gave up.
There were plenty of times where I genuinely wanted to throw this whole photography nonsense aside. It was difficult, it was time consuming, sometimes it was just disheartening because I wasn't doing as good as I knew I should be. For the longest time I wasn't improving, I stagnated and figured this will just be another hobby I give up on.
A boon and a curse. Something like this, something where I don't rely on to make a living from; it is something I can walk away from. Yet at the same time I don't know if I would want to walk away from it.
This innocent little hobby has not only given me something that lets me burn hours a day on, its opened so many doors that I never expected. Personally and professionally, I've had access to opportunities that otherwise would've taken me years to get to. I am not ashamed to say that I found a way to play the game of life better than some people can, I regret nothing in that aspect.
At the end of the day I still have this one major upside to everything I do; I get to keep the 12 year old in me giggling like a child. At the end, I stubbornly worked my way to the position I dreamed of obtaining. I could walk away happily and not regret it because it has paid off in some capacity.
All this rambling, its why I rarely write, but its a monument to just working hard at anything, persevering through all the crap that comes your way and ignoring all the haters you do come across on the journey towards success.
Update: Some people asked for my equipment and general tips. That is a tough one because this entire field is so subjective. Anything I say can be validated by 50% of the population and hated on by the other 50%. It is what makes the entire thing so entertaining because while there are some agreed upon DONTs there is a larger field of DOs that may or may not apply to you.
Basics, to the best of my ability;
Location: Doesn't really matter where for me, so long as I can get the most out of it. That F12 was done in a crescent that had average homes and average scenery. I banked on the fact that the car would just overpower everything else and to a large part it does, though deep down I want to get proper footage at a track but that can happen later.
I always try to have a handful of reliable spots. Forestry, back roads, empty parking lots; always great places to start and maybe even stick with. Sometimes I'll just drive around some obscure part of town and see if there is anything that catches my eye. Go exploring, you'll be amazed at what you can find.
Shooting: For cars, since that is all I really can do to a effective degree, always try to go during sunset. That so called "Golden Hour" is just beneficial for you. Exceptionally soft and even light, brings out the best in any location and in any car. I try and plan all my shots around 830-9 during the summer just to get the most amount of decent light.
Overcast works great too personally, but the possibility of rain prevents me from ever doing too many in that kind of weather. So long as you're not shooting in hard mid-day light, you'll be fine. Hard light is a PITA to deal with in post and causes far more headaches than it does benefits so I'd avoid anything in the afternoon. If you're totally nuts, go shooting in the morning. sunrises are several orders of epic but I can't drag myself out of bed much less convince anyone else to join me at 5 in the morning.
Camera settings: Hard to say. This just depends on what you want and how you want it done. I use a tripod a lot, more due to a camera limitation, but you don't have to. A good body paired with a fast lens will let you shoot handheld for practically every angle or position you can dream of. Rolling shots are fun, but tricky. You either need to build up a killer (yet simple) shooting rig to attach to the car or you need to get a driver and hang out the window/trunk to do it. Nothing hard about it, I just don't do enough to give a solid answer to the proper method of doing it.
The Equipment: I use a very old and beaten T1i. It has served me well. It sucks in low light and thats an issue when I want to do interior shots without any sort of studio lighting or flash, I either need to whip out the tripod for properly lit shots or I just give up and move on. I've hit the upper limit of my camera, so I'm going to a 5D/6D purely for the better low light performance and speedier captures (I've started doing more track days too).
For still shots and auto shows, do yourself a favour and get a very wide angle lens. 10-22mm is the favourite for most people, those with deep pockets of course can go into the L series of lenses for ultimate fun. I generally use a 50mm f/1.4 for proper location shots, 18-55mm kit for auto shows (but thats painful these days) and sometimes I get to use a 24-70 f/2.8L II, that is a dream but since it lacks IS I just need to have steady hands.
Play around with lenses and bodies and find something that works right for you, especially if you're a beginner. No need to go for broke when you're starting out, heck I didn't purchase the 50mm till this year even. Once you feel like you've hit some barrier on the camera, go with a new lens. You'll be amazed at how big a difference will show up in your work. For me I just hit that barrier with my cameras low light abilities, its been 4 years and I think I've given the thing enough abuse. Yes, that is a Instagram of what used to be my massive bag of toys at one point.
In all honesty, its just hard to put down in words what advice I would like to give; my writing abilities are not good enough for me to properly convey all the little nuances I'd like to share with you all.
I'll just add this in for clarification: I know I'm not THAT good and I know I have flaws that need work on before I can ever really call myself a pro and even attempt to teach anyone anything. Its a process, a hard one, I'm just thankful of where I've come and anxious to see where I can go with it.
Every time I find a flaw in how I shoot, I try and fix it and the next time discover that I'm doing something else wrong or it gets pointed out to me. I try not to get mad at that, I'm only here to learn as much as I can about what I've grown to love doing.