Learning the Ropes of Successful Car Show Photography

While I actually began shooting car shows in 2011 as a hobby, as more people came to learn of my photography from various car shows around the gulf coast, we began to have requests from vehicle owners to do private photo shoots and requests to attend and shoot specific car shows. As of this blog post, since we launched Deep South Focus Photography in 2012, we have photographed well over 100 automotive events from the central gulf coast, to Key West and up to Virginia, plus numerous private shoots. We have had our automotive photography featured in several national publications, including Modern Mopar magazine, Corvette Magazine, and Chrysler Power magazine.

It has been a learning experience for us along the way. Over time, we learned a key to maximize sales is to be able to capture images of the vehicles as they enter the event, especially if a nice, memorable backdrop with no distractions such as crowds of people is used.

This is easy to do when setting up a private photo shoots for individuals or for car clubs, such as the example below of a Dodge Magnum R/T from a shoot at Fort Pickens at Pensacola Beach, FL.

Some car show venues work out well too. Below is an image of a Dodge Viper ACR captured at the 2012 Mopars at the Battleship, in Mobile, AL. This was the first show we shot in which every vehicle passed through a specific area to have their pictures taken.

A second part of success for our event photography has been the ability to provide instant gratification. Allowing vehicle owners to take prints home with them the day of the event provides a huge boost in sales. Posting the images in an online gallery in hopes of selling prints after the show is not very lucrative. While most people have good intentions of visiting the website the following week to look at the images and place an order, the fact is, life gets in the way. People are busy and have limited time and attention spans. Unless they purchase onsite, the day of the show, they are not likely to purchase at all.

For onsite printing, we first started with a 4x6 photo printer. We sold a lot of prints, but prints of that size can only generate a little revenue, and some folks would still comment that they would purchase larger prints from our website. Large prints from these events still did not sell well online.

With this in mind, we invested in a professional grade large format fine art photo printer that we took to events. With a printer like this, we could provide prints up to 16x20 or even 12x36. While transporting and setting up a115lb printer was a chore, it proved very successful. As a matter of fact, the first event we had this printer on hand was a car show that had one of the smallest turn-outs of any that we had ever participated in, yet the event ended up being our highest grossing event to date at that point in time.

All this said, we still post event images in online galleries. Some event photographers I have communicated with say that doing so is a total waste of time. I disagree though. Uploading the images to our website doesn’t take that much effort. Plus we have learned of an added benefit of posting the event images online; over the holidays, we have numerous online sales of prints from galleries of previous events. I assume these are gifts from the significant others of the vehicle’s owners. If I had not published these galleries, these sales would never have occurred.

As our car show business grew, we found the need to not only purchase additional professional grade large format fine art photo printers to expand capacity, but also the need to have a way to haul all of the equipment around and keep it safe from the elements mother nature can throw at us. in 2013 we invested in an enclosed 24' Intech car hauler. With this trailer, our equipment was always ready to go and customers could come into the comfort of the air-conditioned trailer to view their photos and purchase prints, framing and photo gifts.

Interior photo courtesy of Friend of a Friend Photography

As time went on, getting into some show venues was proving challenging with such a big event trailer, not to mention the DOT hassles with traveling commercially across state lines, so in early 2018, we downsized our mobile print studio into a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. While customers can no longer come inside, and my cashier and I have to work outside in the heat while Julie packages and frames prints in the air-conditioned comfort of the van, traveling and getting around show venues is so much easier.

Until next time, here is a parting shot of a Dodge Charger tearing it up at the Middle Georgia Motor Speedway at an event we shot up in Georgia. Enjoy!