How to Take Pictures of Cars at Night

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Night photography is an art that involves setting exposure, finding light sources, and much more. You should learn how to take pictures of cars at night to get the most out of it. It involves experimenting at various angles before getting the best shot.

How to Take Pictures of Cars at Night

Car photography at night requires a blend of settings, lighting, and a flair for creativity. The biggest hurdle here is a light source but you can tune your camera to adjust the exposure. Try to capture motion and lights while shooting your car for the best effects.

Photo of a car at night

Exposure Setting

Any photography during low light (or night) conditions has to take care of exposure settings. This refers to the exposure triangle which includes ISO levels, shutter speed, and aperture. You need to find an optimum balance between the three to get the perfect shot.

Iso Levels

ISO levels refer to the sensitivity of your camera towards light. High ISO levels allow you to capture more light. Hence, keeping your camera at high ISO levels during nighttime photography allows you to capture images in low light.

However, if you keep them too high, it can lead to a lot of noise. Therefore, keep ISO levels below 500 to avoid over exposure.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the speed by which the shutter of the camera closes. A low shutter speed between 2-10 seconds would allow more light to enter the camera and allow you to capture a good image of your car at night. However, a slower shutter speed can result in motion blur if the camera is moved.

Hence, in these situations, you need additional equipment such as tripods and shutter cables. Tripods will help you keep the camera still and is ideal for shooting car pictures because you do not have to move around a lot.

Another thing you can use is shutter cables. These allow you to press the shutter remotely without touching the camera. Hence, this keeps the camera absolutely still.


Using a wide aperture would allow you to get better exposure at night. Ideal aperture settings for car night photography should be between f/2 and f/10 apertures. However, using a very wide aperture might result in unclear images.

Light Painting

This refers to using a moving light source to modify an image when you are trying to capture a long exposure shot. Hence when there is no source of light during your photography session, you can use a small flashlight or your smartphone to create one yourself.

This will help illuminate your car at night. You can use this to capture the car from any side but do make sure that the light does not reflect from the car’s surface and creates a blob of light in the picture.

Capturing Motion

Another good idea for nighttime car photography is to capture the car’s motion. You can arrange this on a well-lit street which is less crowded. Make sure that your car’s headlight is on during this.

You can go about this in two ways. You can either use a slower shutter speed of around 2-10 seconds or capture the motion. This will capture it in kind of a blur but there will be a unique blend of lights all around. If your car’s headlights are of a different color, it will make for a good photo.

Another idea is to use a faster shutter speed of below 1/10 seconds. This will allow you to capture the car while it is driving fast across the street. It will capture a clear picture of the car with street lights in the background. During this you can show motion another way for example by the dust the car kicks up.


Another way to capture motion is panning. This way you can capture motion blur in the background. You need to position your camera to follow a moving car. With a slow shutter speed (anything above 3 seconds), the background’s motion will be captured while keeping the car still.

This would mean capturing the motion of the lights of a street in kind of a motion while your car is focused. It helps capture the speed of your car and the aesthetics of motion blur.

This would make it even more beautiful if two cars were captured side by side. The car’s headlights and any street lamps would create a beautiful effect. Although it would take some effort and a high-quality camera to capture both of them clearly it would make for a beautiful effect.

Photo of a car at night

Another Car

While we are on the topic of another car, you can use it to capture your own car’s picture. Shooting from another car would decrease the need to pan while still capturing the motion blur of the background at night. You can capture this from the side or the back.

For this, you will need two drivers. One to drive your own car and the other to drive the car you are trying to capture. Make sure they both know what to do beforehand.

Take Care of the Background

When you are capturing your car at night, the background can mean everything. A great place would be to capture it on a cliff with a lighted background. You will need a small light source to lighten your car and show the lightened background for great effect.

Besides the normal roadside shots, you can get your car to interreact with nature. This involves capturing alongside a forest or a mountain. While that might be difficult considering there would not be much light, you can always make your own light source using your phone, flashlight, or something else.

Get on the inside

Getting inside the car can give you a lot to shoot at. One of the most popular ideas is to shoot the interior. You can capture your car’s steering wheel while also capturing the background through the windshield. This would especially be aesthetic considering the interior light up at night.

Another way to capture motion is to use the car’s side mirrors while driving. It might sound dangerous but the person sitting on the passenger seat can do it too. This helps capture the lights and the car’s body through the side mirrors.

Open That Sunroof

Moreover, if your car has a sunroof then you are in luck! Firstly, you can open the shade to capture the night sky along with your car. It helps if you are in the countryside and the sky is full of stars.

Also, you can get out of the sunroof and capture your car’s front side and backside. This would capture beautiful effects if the car was moving (again you can capture motion blur through the sunroof too).


The bokeh effect involves de-focusing your background. A wide aperture of around f/4 allows you to use a fast shutter speed (below 0 seconds). At night the Bokeh effect is illuminated with lights in the background making the picture look amazing.

Capture From Above

Another great angle is shooting from above. You can get on a balcony or a terrace and shoot your car from there, making sure that your car is in a well-lit place. However, if you have access to a drone then all the better. Use that to get an upper angle shot.


When you are capturing at night, it is a great idea to position the light source behind your car, or simply park your car in front of a light source. If your car has a well built body then capturing its silhouette in front of a light source can create a dramatic effect.

An image on how to take pictures of cars at night

Black and White

One of the go-to effects in low light conditions is capturing in black and white. You can try this with your car at night too. Make sure that the color of the car blends in well with the background.

Try keeping a contrast, that is a light background if you have a dark-colored car and vice versa. Another thing you can do is during editing, choose selective colors to add color to your car while keeping everything else black and white.

Additional Tips

Car photography at night must be done with great precision. While we are on the topic about how to take pictures of your car at night, you must keep the following tips in mind:

  • Make sure that any light source you are using is not reflecting off the car’s surface. It is, therefore, better to keep auto flash off because it can ruin an otherwise great photo.
  • Wash your car before the shoot. The car could be dusty or rugged which would not look good in a picture. Even though you are capturing during the night, make sure your car is sparkling clean and shiny before the shoot.
  • Do not shoot at eye level. Shooting at eye level is the least flattering angle of your car. It does not get a good background either.
  • Make sure you edit your pictures at the end to fix all the shortcomings.


Capturing cars at night requires the right amount of exposure. You can capture Bokeh, motion blur, and light painting while taking pictures of your car at night for aesthetic effects. You should experiment at all angles to get the best picture.