Easton Chang Interview: World Renowned Self-Taught Automotive Photographer

Automobile photography is seen almost everywhere these days. But have you ever wondered the science behind this genre of photography?

Let me introduce you to Easton Chang, a world-renowned automotive photographer. His work is regularly seen on magazine covers, advertisements and his clients are Cadillac, Jaguar, Mazda, General Motors, Ford Lexus, Audi, and Porsche just to name a few…

In this short interview, Easton will share some of his views and perceptions about automobile photography with us.

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You are in a photography genre which is rare. How did you get started with automotive photography? What inspired you to choose this uncommon genre of photography?

My love of photography started with my love of cars. Automotive was always
my first passion in high school, before venturing out into photography after.
When I bought my first real car (a 2001 Honda Integra Type R) all I wanted to
do was to take great photos of it. It started out with my family’s own cheap
film camera, and then I bought my own digital camera. I had to learn
Photoshop just in order to make the photos pop!

I see that you are a self-taught photographer. Can you tell us a little about your journey and how you learned photography on your own?

I studied engineering at university whilst developing my hobby as a
photographer. Looking at and observing my favorite work in advertising at
the time, and trying my best to emulate and develop my own look as well.
Once you get the basics down pat, the more specialized knowledge in
shooting cars is all from experience. There is a lot of trial and error.

Even 15 years down the line, I am still learning all the time.

Photographing objects in action is far more challenging than photographing still ones. What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing cars?

The sheer size is what makes everything about shooting them difficult.
Lighting, tracking, following, positioning, placement. It’s like product
photograph except it’s significantly larger than anything most people would fit
in their home studio. So off-the-shelf lighting equipment such as softboxes,
scrims, and reflectors generally aren’t developed in mind of shooting
something as large as a car. Cars also invoke emotion, they’re a lot more to
some than just an inanimate object. So you have to learn to shoot and frame
the car so that it tells a bit of a story. Lighting and exposure are not enough.
People are fussy about the environment a car is embedded in.

As I was going through your website I came across through this photograph… It is mesmerizing. Could you take us behind the scene and tell us the techniques you used to capture this particular shot?

best car photography

This shot of the 918 Spyder was shot for Porsche in 2015 in the Australian
outback. Right after doing a 350km/hr run in (at the time) an unrestricted
section of Stuart Highway. I went up in a helicopter to capture the 918 tearing
up the scorched earth of the Aussie Outback.

I would tend to believe that you would have some favorite equipment(s) for automotive photography? Could you share which equipment would add the most value for an automotive photographer?

I love my Canon 24-70 F2.8 II lens, although any 24-70 zoom works as well.
It forces me to shoot in the range that I like seeing cars in most. Which is
between the 24 – 50mm range. It’s too easy to shoot wider than that, but the
24 zoom forces me to keep some distance and maintain composure of the
car. Shooting at 17mm is sometimes the lazy way out. Manufacturers hate
seeing their cars shot so wide because it hides the proportions the designers
painstakingly finished.

How did you go from shooting just in your local community to shooting cars for major brands?

I went from shooting privately owned cars as a hobby for shooting editorially in Sydney and Melbourne for my favorite magazines. Eventually, the ad
agencies approached me for projects and that’s how I made the move.

Can you share some important tips that a beginner should try while starting out in automotive photography?

The market is quite saturated now compared to before, it’s not enough to
create images that “match” the standards nowhere. But to exceed the
standards and to create new unique looks and styles that lead towards the
next cycle.

best car photography

What are the challenges you and your team usually face when you’re out in the field and how do you overcome those challenges?

The biggest challenges usually come from the production and logistical side
of cars on the field rather than the photography. Camera and lighting
equipment are generally extremely reliable, but getting the car and crew in
place at the right time and location can be teeming with unexpected
problems. Rain, traffic, accidents, anything can happen and often does.

Is there anything else that you love to do besides photography?

Besides shooting cars I love shooting personal artistic photography with
models and other creatives.

You also have a tutorial on Car Photography & Retouching. Do you love
to teach as well?

I enjoyed making the tutorial on car photography and retouching, although I
don’t normally teach as I’m focused on developing my work. Maybe later
down the track, I can look at teaching a little more.

Can you tell us what future plans do you have? Or what are your
upcoming projects?

Right now I’m having to pool some resources towards more video work as it’s
becoming an ever increasingly request from clients. The transition is not as
significant as I anticipated and a lot of what I know from photography has
been applicable to the motion. I’m focusing on having motion work look as
polished as my photography.

best car photography

What advice do you have for somebody who’s picking up a camera for the first time?

Don’t be obsessed with the gear in your kit, cameras, and lighting are far more
developed and cheaper than they have ever been and high-end work is more
achievable on a shoe-string budget than ever before. It’s important to know
the difference between a Photography Enthusiast and a Gear Enthusiast.
Don’t get too caught up in groups and YouTube videos and focus more on
shooting your ideas.

Find out more about Easton Chang photography here!