Five Pro Tips on Taking Car Selfies

PHOTOEDITING-1_edited-1Now that GM EFI Magazine is six months old, the amount of emails we receive everyday from readers wanting to get their cars featured in our digital publication continues to grow. Being at the forefront of everything high-performance, late-model GM, we’re happy to oblige with an eclectic array of vehicles to highlight. Whether you own a Cobalt SS or a C7 Z06, GM EFI has you covered!

Naturally, we’re somewhat picky in what we choose to feature. We want to cover the best hardware we can find, but we also rely on the owners to not only supply as much information as possible about their ride, but the photos themselves when it comes to our Reader’s Rides (RR) submissions. Full-on features are, naturally, shot by the GM EFI team, however.

The downside to having our readers supply the photography for RR, is the fact that most of them aren’t professional photographers. We understand this and we don’t expect you to be. But it doesn’t hurt to have a better understanding of what we’re looking for in terms of photos. We can’t count how many times we were excited about a Reader’s Rides submission, based on the vehicle’s specs, only to see that the attached photos were completely unusable – talk about a letdown! What might work OK on a Facebook newsfeed may not be in line with the standards of a major publication.

To clarify what we’re looking for, or to at least steer you away from getting your photos submitted into our Trash folder, we’ve put together a cheat sheet of how to make your car much more presentable to not only us, but to your Facebook and Instagram followers, too! Oh, and to even make it more fair, we’re basing our examples on photos taken with a simple smartphone – no professional-grade camera equipment, required!

We also want to point out that most of these tips apply to video, too, just for reference.

1.) Smartphone Angle:

Yes, we put this one at the top of the list – for good reason. If there’s one thing we strongly dislike is when someone shoots a photo of their car with the phone vertical, rather than horizontal. We understand that cameras on cellphones date back to a time when everyone had a flip phone and some are just stuck in this habit, but things change.


Whenever you shoot a video or a photo of anything that isn’t a selfie of yourself standing in front of a full-length mirror, you’ll want to use the horizontal feature on your phone. Before you say, “it doesn’t matter,” we’ll just stop you right there and tell you that it does. Have you ever watched a YouTube video with black bars on the either side of the footage? Remember how annoying that was? That’s because the “filmmaker” held their phone the wrong way.

It’s much the same story with photos, too. In order for us to use the photos shot vertically, we would have to crop them accordingly and then we’re left with a tiny photo that’s not worthy of publishing. Yes, we can make them larger after they’re cropped but what we’re left with is a grainy, sub par photo that we wouldn’t even post on Instagram, much less in an article.

Keep this in mind the next time you grab a shot of your 1200 hp, Fabberge twin-turbo Corvette’s engine bay. Impressive engine or not, the shots will get deleted out of our inbox – we can’t use them!

2.) Time of Day/Lighting:

The best time to shoot your car is early in the morning at sunrise or in the late afternoon around sunset. Taking photos mid-day only provides photos that are typically too bright and washed-out, and require the help of Photoshop editing to even make them relatively usable. We understand this may not always be convenient for you, but do take this tip into consideration the next time you want to showcase the 6LE “Sunoco hood” you just bolted up to your 4th-gen Camaro.

When you do take a photo outside, no matter the time of day, it’s also highly recommended to have the sun facing your car, not towards you or to the left or right. Doing this only provides odd shadows that brings the quality way down. Remember, we want to see as much of your car as possible! The two shots below were taken just two minutes apart from each other, at the very same location – all we did was change the vehicle position so the sun faced the car. Big difference, no?

3.) Angles/Vehicle Position:

When we ask for Reader’s Rides photos, we always (and only) ask for a rear three-quarter, front three-quarter and engine shot of the vehicle. We don’t need to see a close up of your anti-Ford sticker, chrome skull tire stem covers or the massive collection of speeding tickets you’ve acquired since you’ve purchased your car. One of the formulas for Reader’s Rides includes formatting and consistency. We don’t have it if one or two of the cars have shots likePHOTOEDITING-99 this, and the others don’t.

There are a few things you need to pay attention to when you snap a few photos of your car, including location. We’ll get to that in a second, but there are one or two details we need to iron out before we get to that. The first is tire angle. There’s nothing more boring than taking an angle shot of a car if the wheels are straight; it just looks dull and bland. We don’t want to see the tire tread facing the camera, either – it just looks awkward in the photo.

Step it up by turning the face of the front wheels towards the camera, so we can see the car with those brand new, black-anodized Weld RT-S’ in all of their glory! Trust us, you’ll thank us later.

PHOTOEDITING-98_edited-1Don’t be afraid to get creative with your photos; stooping down and taking lower angle shots make your car look more impressive – and aggressive! It literally takes only a few extra seconds to do and it’s totally worth it. Keep in mind, your car is going to be seen by people all over the world (seriously, even people as far away as Botswana read GM EFI, apparently), so you’ll want to put in the extra effort.

Also, make sure that 100% of whatever side you’re shooting is in the photograph. We can’t even count how many times otherwise perfect photos were ruined by the photographer, by submitting a shot to us with the rear half of the quarter panel cut off – it was actually heartbreaking.

4.) Location:

This one sort of coincides with Angles/Vehicle Position, but definitely deserves its own category. The first and biggest mistake we see include cars shot on the grass – even by so-called “professionals.” It’s an automotive photography no-no. Your Trans Am may “mow down” Mustangs and imports on a daily basis, but the last we checked, it wasn’t a product of John-Deere. As a result, the last place it should be photographed is on the grass.


Instead, try taking your ride down to your local park or find a scenic place in your area – even an urban area with graffiti in the background. It may be a bit clichĂ©, but it’s a lot better than seeing a shot of weeds creeping up into your aforementioned Welds.

Make sure when you shoot it that you don’t have any obstructions in front of your car or poking up behind it, like a trash can, a person or a telephone pool. It detracts from what you want people to see and brings your quality way down. Shooting a car with a lamp-post or stop sign in sight makes it look like it’s poking out of the roof, so pay attention to that.

5.) Cleanliness:

This one should be obvious, but every now and then we receive photos of cars from readers who look like their vehicle has never seen soap and water – in a bad way. Presentation is everything, so if your GTO looks like it has spent the weekend off-roading in the Amazon, you might want to wipe it down with some quick detailer before you send us photos.

Of course we’re exaggerating, but you catch our drift. Sure, we get that a lot of our reader’s weekend warriors double as their daily driver but if you’re trying to get national exposure for your CTS-V, you need to show her gleaming. Remember, just because your car may be a RR submission doesn’t mean we won’t actually grant it a full feature article later on! So shine her up and shoot away!

Share this post