Automotive photography with a cell phone

2014 Jaguar F-Type convertible. Shot with a Nokia Lumia 1020, edited with the Nokia Creative Studio app.

2014 Jaguar F-Type convertible. Shot with a Nokia Lumia 1020, edited with the Nokia Creative Studio app.

With camera equipped mobile phones as wide spread as it is, every auto enthusiast has the ability capture uncannily appealing automotive eye candy for themselves. Don’t believe us? Just give this article a quick scroll, then read on to find out how.

2015 Cadillac Escalade. Shot with a Nokia Lumia 1020, edited with the Nokia Creative Studio app.


When it comes to shooting with your phone, having access to a good cameraphone helps; so does having some knowledge of basic photography principals. In this article, we cover both those aspects.

A Great Phone

2014 Infiniti QX70. Shot with a Nokia Lumia 1020, edited with the Nokia Creative Studio app.

Every picture in this story was shot with what is a fairly impressive cameraphone by most accounts. The Nokia Lumia 1020 has a spectacular camera on it–some will even call it a camera with a phone attached. The easy spec to wow over on the 1020 is its 41-megapixels, but what’s truly impressive is its use of high quality lens elements –which there are five of– and an image sensor that’s second to none in the smartphone market at this time.

To allow users the best use of this level of camera quality, the 1020 also comes standard with the ‘Nokia Camera’ app which allows for adjustments of things like ISO, shutter speed, white balance and focus; all of which are crucial for adjusting for varying shooting conditions.

You don’t need a 41-megapixel phone to take good pictures however. Here are things to watch for picking out a capable cameraphone:

– quality of lens elements

– optical image stabilization

– high ISO handling

– size of the sensor

– capability of the image processor

– bundled camera software

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG. Shot with a Nokia Lumia 1020, edited with the Nokia Creative Studio app.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 used for these images comes to us courtesy of Telus Mobility.

Tips for Shooting Cars

The guiding principals of good photography still apply to shooting automotive subjects. Here’s what to watch for:

– Light: Photography is all about understanding light. So take a moment to analyze your surroundings, figure out where your light sources are (sun, street lamps, headlights from other cars, etc.) and position your vehicle accordingly. You can create dynamic images by placing your light source behind your subject, but remember this only works if you have manual control of exposure on your smartphone.

– Keep it steady: Keeping a small smartphone steady can be tough; so use both hands and brace your elbows against your sides. Once you’ve got the composition you want, tap the screen to focus (for most smartphones), take a deep breath and snap your picture. Why a deep breath? It’ll fill up your diaphragm, force your torso to be rigid and allow for a moment of stillness that’ll minimize any possible shake.

– Angle: The side profile of cars usually always look better when shot from a lower angle. The reason? Wheels look bigger when at knee height. Don’t believe it? Take a few shots from different heights and experiment for yourself.

– Reflections: Shiny metal surfaces can often be a challenge to photograph no matter what kind of camera you have. Keep in mind that white reflects the least while darker colours reflect a whole lot more. Wide open spaces make for great shooting areas as there’s likely to be the least distractions reflecting on your shiny metal body panels and windows. So take a moment and stare at your vehicle in its ‘picture perfect’ position the next time you want a shot, figure out what’s being reflected back at you and whether you want it there.

– Editing: No image is perfect right after the snap. Take a moment to put your image through a few post-processing steps with a good photo editing app.

How far can you take a cell phone pic? This is a 2014 Range Rover Supercharged. Shot on a Nokia Lumia 1020, edited on a computer using Photoshop. For a larger resolution look at the image check:


Kanishka Sonnadara can be reached by email at kanishka[at] or on Twitter @autoKsS.


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