Tips On How To Photograph Hot Wheels

So much about an interactive wiki such as this depends on images of relatively small vehicles, which - if they are clear and sharp - will show off their tiny details for others to see and study. If you've seen pictures on here that make Hot Wheels vehicles look almost life-like, don't be intimidated. Maybe your pictures don't quite turn out as good or look as nice, but with this article, you can learn some easy tips to take better pictures of your Hot Wheels and diecast vehicles in general. Some of these tips are what professionals use themselves, so don't feel that you can't match their efforts. With simple explanations, the methods they use to get good pictures can be unmasked and seem quite easy to recreate yourself. So, get your camera ready and read on.

Good Images

The Hot Wheels Wiki works better when the images used to illustrate the descriptions are easy to see, with lots of detail, color and clarity. If you've seen pictures on here like these, then you'll know what looks and works best for the wiki:

Not So Good Images

If your pictures turn out like this, help follows:

Common Photography Mistakes

Most mistakes in photography are easy to correct - if you're aware of them in the first place. As the above images show, there are several things you can do to make your images better from the very start. The first thing you can do is invest in an inexpensive tripod to place your camera on, and use it for every picture. Camera shake, which results in blurred images, is probably the most common mistake and the easiest corrected. With a stable mount for your camera, pictures will have a better chance of being clear. Another tip that can make a big difference is the background you use for your image. If there are too many other elements vying for attention in the frame, attention is drawn away from the car - and it should be the only thing of importance and the "focus" of your picture. When using digital cameras, the images you take are transferred to your computer. Once there, you can do much more than simply upload them. Open the images up in your favorite digital editing program, such as Adobe Photoshop or whatever you like, and study your pictures closely:

  • Are they sharply focused?
  • Are there dust specks on your sensor that leave dark spots on your image?
  • Is the car reasonably centered in the frame?
  • Can you see important features of the car?
  • Is it exposed correctly?

You should be aware of most of these things before snapping the picture, but you can edit out dust spots and crop images so that the car is more centered after the image is taken.

Depth Of Field

A very important thing to keep in mind when photographing tiny cars is that you want the whole vehicle to be sharply focused. The trick that professionals use is to employ "depth of field." Simply put, depth of field is the range of the image that is in sharp focus. This image will illustrate it best:


Depth of field.

Now, in every image there will be a certain amount of it just in front and just beyond the focal point that is also in focus. This is what is known as "depth of field." There are settings on most cameras that allow you to adjust the amount of area around the focal point so that more of it is sharp. This would be different f/stop settings. If you've seen f/5.6, f/13 or f24 on your camera, that is what these are - f/stops. F/5.6 is a much larger shutter opening and allows more light in, but at the expense of focus. F/24 is a much smaller opening, so the lighting will have to be greater or the exposure length longer. This series of pictures will show why the larger f/stop is more preferable:

Another trick that professionals use and it works quite nicely and is hardly noticeable if it is done correctly. When photographing cars almost head on so that it's impossible to get the front and back end of it in sharp focus at the same time, you can employ what is known as "stitching." Stitching is where you take multiple pictures of the same subject, but adjusting the focus on different areas in a series of pictures. It is critical that you have your camera mounted on a tripod and the settings are adjusted so that they can be the same for every exposure. You will start by focusing on the front half of your vehicle and taking a picture of it. Then adjust your camera, without moving it, so that the back part is sharply focused and take another picture. When both focused halves are blended together with your digital editing software, it won't even be apparent that you started with two or more different images. This picture was "stitched," and I'll bet you can't tell where the join is:

Cadillac V-16 Concept - 0086ef

A "stitched" photograph.

With practice, you'll be able to take photographs with stitching techniques that allow you to expand your depth of field. And the more of your image that is in sharp focus, the easier it will be to study it and the better it will show off detail.


Another very important aspect of any good image is how well it is lit. A good, bright image shows more details than a dark, murky image. Which style of lighting you choose is entirely up to you, but here are the three main types of lighting methods:

Direct lighting is probably the easiest because it involves mainly using the flash attached to your camera. It is simple and effective but does have it's drawbacks in that it leaves harsh, glaring shadows. Overhead lighting can offer a more smooth, softened light for your vehicle, what is called diffused light. But, it too can leave visible shadows under your car. If you don't mind a few shadows, this technique is quite good for brightening up your pictures. The best light you can use would be to simulate the method that professional portrait photographers use. They place multiple lights all around the subject so that no visible shadows will show. Of course this is very expensive and complicated when employing this method yourself, so the trick is to simulate lighting from multiple sources. The third picture above was photographed using this method. A bright light source above the image was on, but a cover placed over the car so that it didn't shine directly on the vehicle itself. The camera is placed on a tripod and a long exposure, from 10 to 30 seconds is good, is used. While the camera is taking the picture, two sheets of ordinary printer paper are used to reflect the light from above all around and on the car itself. This lends it the soft, "diffused" look, the kind of lighting portrait photographers are famous for. If you wish to try this method, a little practice and you'll be having perfectly exposed pictures in no time! It's all about choosing the correct exposure length that will allow you to use the biggest number of f/stop available on your camera. That's why an f/stop of f/36 might need 30 full seconds of exposure time, where a setting of f/20 might only need 15 seconds. Experimentation will allow you to find the best results for your setup. Another thing to keep in mind when using this method is that the lower the ISO setting you can use, the better. Images photographed at ISO 100 display less "grain" than the same image taken at ISO 800. Less grain allows more detail to come through and more detail is what works best.

Advanced Images

Once you have mastered all the above tricks so that they come more easily to you, you might want to expand your photography talents to include "posed" or "action" shots. These are really quite easy to take, they just take a little more thought and some handy props to use for backgrounds. The picture below was taken with a plastic building prop that was purchased at the local dollar store for only $2! It even came with a semi and trailer and two vehicles. Add in a picture of asphalt, printed on printer paper to place the car upon and you have this "posed" scene below that displays your car quite nicely:


A $2 background prop.

If that doesn't get your brain to working at high speed to come up with some posed shots of your own, here are some more from the Hot Wheels Wiki:

So, keep your camera working you'll see how much fun it can be taking pictures of Hot Wheels. Great pictures that will serve a good purpose and be part of a guide that anybody in the world can reference!

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