How to Photograph a Vehicle for Bring a Trailer—a Pro Photographer Explains

1962 volkswagen beetle cabriolet supercharged
How to Photograph a Vehicle for Bring a TrailerTeddy Pieper

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What's the process for photographing a car for a Bring A Trailer listing? And what kind of gear do photographers use to get the job done? To find out, we met up with one of BaT's go-to shooters, Teddy Pieper, owner of Velocity Concepts LLC.

In this conversation, Teddy shares his techniques, tips, and favorite gear for shooting show-stopping photographs that elevate your classic or collector car listing on Bring A Trailer, Hearst Autos' digital vehicle auction platform and car enthusiast community.

a light painting photograph of a ruby red 1970 volvo 1800e taken by bring a trailer photographer teddy pieper
1970 Volvo 1800E Ruby Red - 1800E record holder at $65K - Tarlton Vintage Autos / BaTTeddy Pieper

R&T: How did you first become involved with Bring a Trailer?

Teddy: I followed Bring a Trailer even before it was an auction site, when Randy [Nonnenberg] ran it as just a blog. When it became an auction company, I had been photographing cars for RM Sotheby's, Mecum, and other auction houses for a few years.

I applied to be a photographer for Bring a Trailer, and when they started their White Glove premium service I got my first assignment. I eventually started photographing "white glove" vehicles for my personal clients as well.

Walk us through your creative process. What elements are you looking for in order to make a car stand out?

Around 90 percent of all cars I shoot are for sale or going to be. For this reason, it's important the car stands by itself with the background not being too busy. I avoid having other cars in the background. Many times, I'm constricted on where I can take the car. Sometimes the owner doesn't want to take the car too far and requests to shoot it at their house. In those cases, I have to make it look good on the spot, often using the driveway as a location.

1975 pontiac grandville brougham
1975 Pontiac Grandville BroughamTheodore Pieper - Car and Driver

A long lens, like the Canon RF 70–200mm F2.8 L IS USM, helps with creating a more narrow background and achieving some compression [where the background is more blurred out than the subject]. Sometimes I have to shoot 15 to 20 cars in a day, so flexibility and adaptability are always at the forefront of my mind.

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In the cases where I have to shoot in bright sunlight, I use a neutral density (ND) filter with a built-in polarizer from Polar Pro. The ND filter ensures I can capture photographs even in the brightest sun by blocking out the light, while the polarizer helps minimize reflections and highlights on unwanted areas, such as the windshield and other reflective elements.

What camera gear and lenses do you typically use for your Bring a Trailer shoots?

I'm a Canon guy; I use an EOS R5 mirrorless body. It doesn't really matter which brand you use, but I prefer Canons for the button layout.

Lenses matter more. I like shooting wide open to blur the background and allow more light in for low-light situations. For exterior shots, I typically use my Canon RF 70–200mm lens. For interiors, I use zoom lenses. I don't shoot with prime lenses [lenses that don't zoom] much. I really like my Canon EF 24–70mm f/2.8L II USM. I honestly think it's one of the best walking-around lenses and is a lens you can easily shoot an entire vehicle with, inside and out.

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How do you choose the right location for a car photo shoot? What other factors do you consider?

For a long time, I've been making sure I shoot in a wide open space. I stay away from forests or parks because of reflections on the car and try to be in as open a setting as possible. Lately, some auction companies have been asking for more lifestyle stuff.

1967 volvo 1800s in tan
1967 Volvo 1800S in Tan—First car ever shot that went on BaT, shot for Tarlton Vintage AutosTeddy Pieper

I've been pushing myself more and more recently to get the background to match the feel of the car. You just gotta go with your gut.

What's your approach to editing and post-processing car photographs? What software do you use and recommend?

I use Photo Mechanic to download and organize them, then I bring them into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. That's where I do most of my editing. I do very light edits for auction cars, since the goal is to represent the car in the most accurate way possible.

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For commercial shoots, I have fun with my editing choices. I've been shooting a lot more video lately as well, which is becoming important for selling cars. I shoot 4K video in Canon Log and color correct in Adobe Premiere.

What specifically should a photographer shoot to capture the details a buyer would be interested in?

You're going to want [to photograph] any special parts custom to a particular vehicle, but generally speaking, there's a shot list of about 200 photos that Bring a Trailer usually has. This list includes headlight close-ups, wheels, mirrors, handles, fenders, quarter panels, bumper, taillights, emblems, the windshield, and the hood.

2022 wayne taylor racing acura arx 05 dpi
2022 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 DPiTeddy Pieper

For the most part, you walk around the car and take all the pictures you can. For auction cars, Bring a Trailer in particular, you should also get any blemishes and add them to the end of the photo set. You want to represent the car exactly as-is to the buyer since they're buying sight unseen.

Who are some of your inspirations for your automotive photography?

From the get-go, when I first started, I always loved the work of Clint Davis. I also really like the work of Josh Bryan (The Image Engine). I know him for his 911r photographs and man, he just hits it out of the park every time with all his stuff.

I also bug Jeremy Cliff and Alex Bellus with questions all the time regarding their work. I'd also be remiss not to mention Darin Schnabel, RM Sotheby's staff photographer.

Where else can we find your work and keep up with your future projects?

If you search "vconceptsllc" on Bring a Trailer, you can see all the different cars I've photographed. I also have a website that's currently being rebuilt, as well as an Instagram account I infrequently post to.

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