A day in the life of a car photographer at an international motorshow

Tim Andrew in action in Giugiaro Brivido Concept car


Ever wondered what happens on a Motor Show press day? The doors open at 7:30am in Geneva – better have your press pass in your hands, or get ready for a long queue. After a 10 minute walk and 25 minute bendy-bus ride from downtown Geneva, photographer Tim Andrew presented his pass and sailed through the turnstyle. First stop was the press room to nab a table, and more importantly, an ethernet cable to upload photos to the client’s server. Excess gear dumped, lightweight necessities grabbed, it was off at a trot to bag the first important “reveal”.

Bendy-bus to the airport after the show

The car manufacturers unveil their cars at 15 minute intervals, so unless you have a team of snappers and journos, it’s impossible to cover them all live. In any case, as a photographer, it’s best to have left the video crews catch the excitement of the covers been whipped off the “world Premieres” and turn up 20 minutes later once the scramble has subsided.
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There’s little chance of catching a “clean” shot of cars and their interiors while industry dignitaries are jostling for the limelight and other photographers are spoiling your shot. There is a tinge of excitement from mixing with the pack and fighting your corner, but after a couple of reveals you are ready for some more considered shots. The idea of having a press day is to allow the press to get near and in the cars without public hindrance, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a public day when you see the swarming mass of media around the latest Lambo launch.

Girls galore on the Volkswagen stand

One tactic is to put your camera on a pole, hold it high up with a remote release and swivel screen. Some take a small step ladder. Next tactic is to plan your route around the show to gather as many photos as possible for an early upload. Tim’s client, Car and Driver magazine, is USA based so there was the luxury of the time difference – it was going to be at least lunchtime before anyone screamed for more photos!

Close shave as journo spills his drink dangerously close to laptop

Tim had a list of 73 cars to cover over two days, which left little time for delicate composition, careful lighting consideration or even use of a tripod. The lighting at car shows has made great progress over the last 20 years, with bright, daylight-balanced floods and spots now being the norm. The most problematic shots are still the very contrasty interiors of the cars, so some fill-in flash is very helpful. Small web friendly JPGs were shot alongside RAWs to save upload time. Meals, or manufacturer’s lunch invites take too long, so a sandwich is munched during the second upload, hopefully avoiding laptop killing drink spills, and bread crumbs. Time vanishes when you are “at the coalface” and the press room closed before the uploads were complete, forcing Tim to find a dinner location with good wifi and power to continue uploading. The end of the second day involved sitting on his luggage using the show wifi while workmen disassembled the press facilities around him, and then a dash for the airport and home. At the end of the two days Tim had shot 2200 photos and uploaded 1900 of them.

Time for a quick natter with fellow snapper


For camera enthusiasts
the equipment used was a Nikon D3 with Nikon 16-35 F4 AFS VR lens, Nikon 28-300 F3.5-5.6 AFS VR lens, Nikon SB800 flash with Lastolite Micro Apollo MKII softbox, for filming GoPro Hero HD, Zoom H1 sound recorder, Manfrotto 560B pole/instant tripod, backup equipment Nikon D7000 + 12-24 F4 AFS


snapping inside Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé

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