How to photograph a Porsche
A Porsche photographer tells you how to get the best out of your car photos
Image of Taycan in a camera viewfinder
Whether it’s to post on Instagram, share with friends or as a hobby, photographing cars is a popular pastime. But it’s never as easy as it looks. Porsche photographer Sebastian Kubatz shares his valuable tips to get the most out of your car shots
Scroll through Instagram and you’re sure to see countless car photos. But, as the many beautiful images that Porsche post show, there’s an art to getting the best car shots. So, how can you improve your car photography skills? There’s no better person to ask how to photograph a Porsche properly than Sebastian Kubatz. Sebastian has worked for Porsche for nearly 10 years, originally starting out as an intern at the Leipzig factory in 2012. Today he is behind many of the striking images you see on the Porsche website, in model brochures and on its social media accounts.1 What equipment should I use?“The best camera that you have is always the one with you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a DLSR camera [professional-quality cameras with interchangeable lenses] or a ‘point and shoot’, a phone or even a film camera. Where do we see most of the content that we create nowadays? On a smartphone, tablet, or a computer. If you’re just a private individual taking pictures of your car then they are probably not going to end up printing them big, let alone seeing them on a billboard.”
Man leans against rear of Taycan in Leipzig at sunset
Photographer Sebastian Kubatz has been taking photos for Porsche for nearly 10 years | PHOTO: Kubatz/Porsche
2 Leave the lights on“I think I’ve seen almost every Porsche car in existence. So, when it comes to a new car, I always try to look for the differences with older models – like the rear wing on the new GT3 for example. Things that look really interesting. For the 911 (992), it may the big wraparound rear light cluster, where you can get some really nice photographs if you underexpose the whole image, so you basically only see the light bar. As you will soon discover, there are countless ways to shoot a Porsche.“Talking of lights, I almost always like to leave on a car’s exterior lights. Designers take a lot of time to design them. They can really dictate how a car looks, so if you leave them off you erase a lot of the design of the whole car. It would be like taking pictures of a person with their eyes closed. With people, we want to see their eyes open. And for me, it’s the same with cars – even if it’s just leaving on the daytime running lights.”
Porsche Taycan at night, lights on, in a parking lot
The lights on a Porsche are works of art in their own right so Sebastian prefers to leave them on | PHOTO: Kubatz/Porsche
3 Get to know the car that you’re shooting“Walk around the car and look at its details. One of the best ways of how to shoot a Porsche is to get to know as much about as the car as possible. If it’s your car you may be used to seeing it from the driver’s side. Open the passenger door and shoot from there perhaps. Look for another point of view on your car which can be interesting. When thinking about unique angles, maybe consider a top shot – from a ladder, the first floor of a building or a parking lot. And drones are now very accessible too, although check on the legality of using them in your country first.”
Man kneels down and shoots a Porsche Taycan from rear
Experiment with different angles and lower the height at which you shoot for more dramatic results | PHOTO: Kubatz/Porsche
4 Location“Having a limited scope to where you photograph your car creates a challenge. In the city, for example, you probably don’t want to park your car somewhere people will walk past, or near other cars, trams, or stuff like that. And there’s a safety aspect to where you park a car, too. Don’t block people in either as they can freak out! That said, there are times when having someone walk in the background or having another focus can help vary your images. If you are on a road trip, show people what that trip was really like. Maybe park your car in front of a café and sit outside it and shoot over your coffee table, with a coffee on it, but with your car in the background.“There is a saying among German photographers, ‘Vordergrund macht Bild gesund.’ Which means ‘The foreground makes for a healthy picture.’ So how to shoot a Porsche one way would be to focus on something in the foreground, so you can only see the silhouette of the car in the background. It makes for more interesting pictures. In urban locations, brick walls, like at a factory, or even graffiti-sprayed walls, can be a nice contrast to a modern car like the Taycan.”
Table with coffee cup and camera on, Taycan in background
Mix things up by shooting non-car items in focus in the foreground, with the car behind | PHOTO: Kubatz/Porsche
5 Morning, noon, and night“Try to avoid shooting a car at noon on a sunny day at any cost because the high sun causes the colours on your car to look flat and most of its lines will lose their shape. When I took photographs for the Taycan in Leipzig recently I had to shoot at noon because we had limited time, so I tried to find shadier places, like buildings that throw shade on the car, which can help accentuate the body, or a tree so that its leaves throw a nice shadow on the bonnet, perhaps. The best time to shoot is always late afternoon/early evening – especially in the summertime. Maybe about six in the evening, when the light is starting to get a bit more yellowish or maybe orange. The lower the sun gets, the softer the light gets. Sunrise or sunset would be my go-to times to take pictures.“At night, when you are more likely to be using a proper camera rather than a phone, a tripod always helps when it comes to how to photograph a Porsche. For more advanced photographers, you might try different exposures then put them back together using Photoshop afterwards. Shoot using an exposure of 30 seconds, even up to two minutes, depending on how dark the environment is. Although with some smartphones, like the iPhone Night Mode, you can achieve some pretty amazing things. And always try to have the sun at your back. It’s a lot easier especially if you are using your phone to take pictures. You can also use light from the side or back light, but never shoot straight into the light – unless it’s very early in the morning or late in the evening.”
Shadow of tree’s branches on the bonnet of a Taycan
Shooting in direct sunlight can wash out colours and detail so use shadow to create an interesting effect | PHOTO: Kubatz/Porsche
6 Lens choice“Even with a camera phone, there are so many lens choices. If you are using a wide-angle lens, it’s important to not get too close to the car because it will distort all its lines. Car designers spend years on designing a car’s perfect shapes. Step back two or three steps to get in the whole surroundings. But if you don’t have a nice location, use a telephoto lens, so you can separate the car a lot better from the surroundings.”7 Filter or no filter?“I would always shoot without filters – especially the ones on a smartphone – in order to get as close to the original scenery as possible. Try and use black and white mode too. There may be colours that you don’t like in the image, or it’s too bright. Even in bright daylight, black and white photography works as different colours can be blown out by the sun, and it allows you to use a higher contrast. But other than that, I wouldn’t use any filters when shooting with a camera phone, and that includes the High Dynamic Range (HDR) filters on a smartphone. I prefer to keep it natural but, of course, when it comes to how to photograph a Porsche, it’s down to personal choice.”
It’s important to vary the height you shoot from, especially with sports cars. I get down on my knees, so the camera height is the same level as the headlights. The car looks a lot more dynamic, more aggressive and way more sporting
Sebastian Kubatz | Porsche photographer
8 Work the angles“Think about the angle you can shoot a car from and vary it. For a Porsche with a big rear wing, like a Cup car or the GT3, it’s always helpful to put an emphasis on that, so take pictures from the rear – like the rear three-quarters [where you photograph the car from an angle of around 45° or 135°, for example]. It’s also important to vary the height from which you shoot from as well, especially with sports cars. I like to photograph from a low angle. I get down on my knees, so the camera height is about the same level as the headlights, because then the car looks a lot more dynamic, more aggressive and way more sporting. For non-sports cars, if you go too low you can see under the car, so just vary the height you shoot at a little, to get a slightly lower perspective than normal.”
Taycan on cobbles, old brick industrial building behind it
Car photo sweet spot: shot from lower down, from an intriguing angle, and juxtaposing a modern Porsche with an old building | PHOTO: Kubatz/Porsche
9 Shooting a moving car“Taking great images of moving cars [known in the industry as ‘panning’ shots] is the Holy Grail of automotive photography as it takes a lot of practice to get right. For this, you really need to know your camera inside out, so you don’t lose time sorting out the settings. But whatever the camera you're using, you need a slower shutter speed. A lot of people ask me ‘I’m trying to do panning shots, but I can’t get them right – what shutter speeds are you using?’ And that’s not easy to answer. How fast is the car is going, how far are you away, what lens are you using? So it’s really difficult to say. Once you practice you will know to what shutter speed you need for how to photograph a Porsche.“When it comes to the angle you shoot a moving car from, a 90° angle with a tele lens is quite easy to do. But if you’re standing on the inside of a corner as a car goes past, you have to move the whole upper body with the camera and at the same speed as the car. Focus on the front of the car as that way the front is sharp and the rear blurs out because of the movement. It’s like taking pictures of people – you always try to get faces sharp. You can always slow down the shutter speed, get the driver to drive slower, and get the same effect as shooting a faster car.”
Porsche Taycan corners on elevated roadway in Leipzig
Shooting a moving vehicle is perhaps the most difficult aspect of car photography | PHOTO: Kubatz/Porsche
10 Shooting in different weather“Weather, of course, can have a big effect on how you take pictures – especially when shooting in snow. Sun with snow really works as it can make the paintwork ping. However, when we shoot in winter for Porsche up in Finland, a cloudy day makes everything looks grey. You can’t even tell the difference between the sky and the snow. When it’s a normal temperature, I don’t usually have a problem shooting when it’s partly cloudy, especially if there are big clouds, for a great backdrop. Those heavy clouds you get just before a summer storm can lend a really nice feeling to the image.”11 Shot selection“If you’re shooting for personal use, try to not take too many pictures. You won’t look through all of them anyway, and you’re probably never going to show 50 or 100 pictures of your road trip to many other people. Go for variations on a theme, with three or four shots per location or time of day, for example. I was given a film camera to use, and it really taught me to cut down on how many shots and time that you take. And I brought that to my professional work – to think a lot more about framing. I like to take pictures, whatever camera I use, without the zoom lens. It means I walk around the car and look through the viewfinder. Make sure you walk around the car and not just stand there in the same position, zooming in and out.
Man on stairs takes a photo of Taycan from above
Shooting a car from above can give your photography a whole new perspective says Sebastian | PHOTO: Kubatz/Porsche
12 How to shoot a Porsche: the final ‘rule’“When it comes to how to photograph a Porsche, despite all these rules and tips on shooting a car, perhaps my last rule is to break all the rules whenever you feel like it! Ignore them, go crazy and, most of all, enjoy what you are doing.”
iPhone showing rear of Taycan on its screen
Taycan rear lights, camera, action! | PHOTO: Kubatz/Porsche