Any digital camera, including your smartphone’s camera, is all you need to submit shots to our Readers’ Rides section. As with any camera, it’s the person behind the lens that makes a great shot—all the camera does is capture it. Follow these tips, and you’ll get superior shots that you’ll be proud to share with your friends–and send in for our Readers’ Rides pages!
Click images to enlarge
No flash can match the sun. That nuclear fusion reactor in the sky puts out the best and most natural light. More light prevents the photo from getting too “grainy” or “noisy,” so your images will be crystal clear. Always shoot outdoors for the sharpest, brightest pics.
On the left, the kitchen counter. Blech. On the right, the same car in the sun. Sunlight delivers brighter colors and sharper shots.
Car in Front of You, Sun Behind You
If the sun and your car are both in front of you, the camera software will expose for the bright sun and your car will look dark or even be reduced to a silhouette. Always position your shot so the sun is behind you when you snap the pic. You may need to position yourself so the sun is off to one side or the other to get the best light on the car, or to prevent your shadow from being visible in the shot, and that’s fine—as long as the sun is anywhere behind you, you’re good.
On the left, we shot with the truck and sun in front of the camera, resulting in a harsh shadow and muted colors. On the right, we turned the truck 180 degrees to put the sun behind us. Much better!
Your photos should not look like what Godzilla sees before he flattens a Corolla. Get low for a greater sense of scale and drama, and to better capture the car’s lines and details. Picture yourself shooting a full size car and frame the car the same way.
“Look down and shoot” gives you a flyover view that’s flat and lifeless, and hides the car’s shape. Get low and the image comes to life–it looks like you could climb right in and go for a ride.
Keep off the Grass
Avoid heavily textured surfaces (grass, gravel, very pebbly pavement…) and cluttered backgrounds that distract from your subject. Best surfaces: smooth dirt, pavement, or concrete. Worst: your bed, the kitchen table, hood of a full-size car, top of the washing machine, etc.
Same car, same light, shot minutes apart. The only difference is the surface. Dirt looks much better!
Show off your car, not the entire front yard. Get close to your subject so it fills the frame. This will ensure maximum image resolution, and it just makes for a better-looking shot. The exception to this rule is when you’ve got a nice, scenic background like a beach, an epic track, the rocks of Moab or something else visually interesting. After you get your close shots, try pulling back for a wider view. This can really bring life to models that are linked to a specific environment—a 4X4 on a trail, a dragster on a drag strip, a truck pulling a boat trailer on a beach…you get the idea.
The only difference between these two shots in the position of the shooter. By getting low and close, a cluttered construction site becomes a dramatic “king of the hill” shot.
Mix It Up
Don’t just pop a side view and call it a day. Try different angles, change the car’s position, get close and pull back, even break some of the rules and see what you get. For every eye-popping shot you see in RC Car Action (or anywhere you see great photos), the photographer threw away at least 20 other versions. The more shots you take, the more likely you are to get that one perfect shot.
Try a variety of angles when you shoot–the “perfect shot” will be in there somewhere!
Well, there you go — a quick lesson in photographing your RC car. If you stick with these tips, you’re virtually guaranteed to get great shots. Share your favorites with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (and Pinterest? That might be more for your girlfriend, but we’re on there…). And definitely send your best stuff to Readers’ Rides—we want to see your machine in the mag.