Shooting old vehicles – 15 tips that will assure you stellar results

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Abandoned or forgotten farm trucks and other old equipment are a huge draw to photographers, both amateur and professional alike. These vehicles are often found sitting forlornly in a field or by an old rickety barn and they tell a story, sometimes an emotional one, that just begs to be explored and photographed. By using these fifteen helpful tips almost any photographer can guarantee themselves good (no, great) results when shooting the subject mentioned here.

We have a passion for old things and we thought it would be good to share these incredible photography tips with others who like to do the same as us.

Old broken down truck
Needs work !!!! by aussiegall on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

These simple techniques can be applied whether your have a high end DSLR or a cheapy little pocket camera. The former, of course, offers a wider range of options and abilities, but in the end it's not the camera that makes a good picture, it's the passion of the person shooting it. Learn the passion and grow the passion and your shots will show the passion.

While the theme here is old vehicles, trucks in particular, these tips can be applied to any other subject as well. Farms are often home to many interesting things worthy of photographing and this includes decrepit old buildings, other rusting machinery and so much else. A farm is a photographer's playground!

The trucks shown here were found in Saskatchewan Canada, however in the prairies, whether in the US or Canada, one need not travel too far to find great subjects. Nearly every farm yard has a back lot full of old vehicles and machinery - farmers rarely throw things away it seems and that's to our advantage. Of importance however is to be sure to get permission before snapping away. You do not want to surprise or alarm anyone. Anyway, often the farmer can tell you the history of what you are shooting and this further adds to the interest.

Old Dodge Truck
Old Dodge Truck by jeffweese on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

15 shooting tips...

  1. Tell a STORY. How does the photo make you feel? How does your subject fit in its environment? This is the most important a long shot. You want your viewers to feel what you feel. If the subject is sad and melancholy, and old trucks often are, be sure this comes across well.

  2. Get in close, but again not too close. Make sure the intended subject is the subject the viewer sees. Too far away and it may not be clear what the focus of your composition is. Coming in too close and the overall story might get lost in the clutter.

    Old Truck
    Old Truck by katsrcool on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

  3. Watch the backgrounds closely and compose them as carefully as you do your main subject. Empty fields, old buildings, other old machinery can all help round out your image. Or they can destroy it. Just make sure that what's behind is not overly cluttered or busy and taking away from what you wish to say.

  4. Always show two or three sides. Rarely does a vehicle shoot best head-on so experiment with three quarter angles, reverse angles and that sort of thing.

  5. Use the foreground, the mid ground and the background to give your image great depth. Often these old vehicles are in open area and you can use these broad expanses to your advantage.

  6. Decide if your subject shoots well from an alternate or unusual angle. These perspectives often can produce amazing and interesting results with very little work.

  7. Move around and continuously play with composition. Take picture after picture, study, play, feel, experiment. The more you shoot the better the odds you'll get that special drop-dead gorgeous shot.

  8. Walk around your subject, get a different point of view. Study, study, study and study some more and get to know what you are shooting. It sounds corny but become one with your camera and subject.

    1949 Diamond T - "The Cadillac of Trucks"
    1949 Diamond T - "The Cadillac of Trucks" by Matt McGee on flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

  9. Shoot at the maximum image size and quality setting. This goes without saying, but often one finds others are shooting at less than their optimal setting. It's not like storage is an issue so there is really no reason. A large picture allows for more flexibility when editing and if you need smaller pictures, just do this in post.

  10. For best results shoot one to two f-stops below wide open. Most lens are at their sharpest when set accordingly. A crisp image puts you one step closer to great image and it's the little things like this that make a huge difference.

  11. A tripod is your friend and even in daylight it's a useful additional to your gear bag. It will allow you precise alignment and assures the sharpest and cleanest possible image.

  12. Post production or photo shopping is not a swear word – use it but don't abuse it. There is no need to over-process but if you need to tweak things it's a great tool. If an image needs retouching or perhaps you wish to convert a picture to black and white, here is where a suitable photo manipulation program can come in handy. There are even good free programs out there and one need not spend too much money here.

    Flamer - old truck in field
    Flamer by aussiegall on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

  13. Get permission to enter a property. It was mentioned before and it's important you do not trespass. Ask the home owner if it's okay to shot and respect their decision if that answer is no. Or shoot from a public spot if you can. And watch for dogs! Farms always have dogs.

  14. Danger! If playing around junk it could be easy to get hurt. Watch for sharp things and hidden objects you may trip over.

  15. Oh, and there is one last thing, have a ball! Make shooting fun and you'll look forward to it and will produce your best work.

Old farm trucks

About the Author

Chris "BIGDoer" Doering is a well known outdoor enthusiast from Alberta Canada and he writes numerous articles on hiking, scrambling and other wilderness pursuits. He also combines this with his love of history and can often be seen poking around forgotten and abandoned out-of-the-way places with his best friend Connie.

You can follow his outdoor adventures by visiting his website. Contact Chris at

Written by Guest

December 17th, 2012 at 10:11 am

One Response to “Shooting old vehicles – 15 tips that will assure you stellar results”

  1. Richard says:

    Thanks for sharing your tips. Looking forward to enhancing my skills and exploring another time

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