How to get accurate colors while shooting cars indoors

edited March 2012 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
Hi, (preface) I am by no means a pro photographer I'm actually a designer, but being the only media guy at my work I naturally landed this job.

My work (dealership) just bought this Nikon D3100 brand new today after their D60 needed replacing. I shoot still cars all day long...ALL day long! In and out quick, boom-boom-boom, next car please. They are concerned about quantity, not a degree that is.

I have no idea what settings fit this atmosphere best and I need your advice here is a link to the room we use now (we are about to upgrade into a much cleaner more lit room) notice the's horrible and it kills the color of black and white cars. Black becomes espresso, and white-pearl diamond becomes cream-ivory. Any suggestions? I know using the flash makes it look terrible so these are all w/o flash. Thanks!

This dealership is owned by a fortune 500 company. They are very picky about the order the shots are taken in...explanation: no creativity. They have an order they like, so until we get our new room and real photo lighting this is what I'm working with. I have to work within the confines of my I said quick. I'll shoot 15-40 cars a day


  • @mhossey - Okie dokie, let's dive in. The color issues you're experiencing are related to White Balance. When the white balance is set to Auto, the D3100 will do a pretty decent job of obtaining an accurate white balance while shooting outside, but the moment you step indoors everything goes haywire.

    To get control of colors while shooting indoors, you'll need to adjust the white balance to one of the available presets (Incandescent, Fluorescent, etc...) or set a custom white balance yourself. Setting a custom white balance is the best option, especially if you need to capture accurate hues. All you have to do is select 'Preset Manual' in the list of white balance options and follow the onscreen instructions. You'll basically point the D3100 towards a white wall, press the shutter and the D3100 will measure and correct the white balance.

    Now onto settings...when capturing cars, you'll want to control the depth of field to get everything from the front bumper to the back bumper in focus. To do this, just enable Aperture priority (A on the mode dial) and select an f-number around f/5.6 (rotate the small command dial).

    For interior shots, I would go with the lowest available aperture which will be determined by the lens and current focal length. If you've got the 18-55mm kit lens, you can go down to f/3.5 when shooting towards the wide-end (18mm) and f/5.6 towards the long-end (55mm).

    As for the ISO, I would leave this set to Auto to ensure you get an accurate exposure. You can activate Auto ISO by accessing the 'Menu' and adjusting the ISO sensitivity settings.

    That should get you going in the right direction. Happy shooting! :)
  • edited March 2012
    Awesome! Great stuff very helpful. One problem, I need to keep my settings the exact the same.

    I got the exterior down. I enabled Program mode and used a white balance of white fluorescent (I'm going to try my own white balance on Monday) and bumped up the exposure a bit.

    I need to find a good setting for the interior which is what I'm aiming for monday also. So far I've had bad luck with my Aperture priority setting when using a high f-stop it either takes 15-30 seconds for the shutter to release, or its too dark, with a f/3.5 its cake though.

    I need these settings to be saved the exact same and right now when I shut the camera off/switch settings on the mode dial I lose the previous settings. Basically keep one setting for exterior and one setting for interior. My room never changes and neither does the lighting. Is their a function on the camera for saving presets?

    Another side note, the D60 I was shooting with before (auto mode) made the interior of the cars very warm, nice on the eyes-even though it was a bit of a stretch at times on how the actual vinyl/leather looked.

    The D3100 (auto mode & trying a few others) is a lot colder or way too much. I've played with a number of settings, but cant seem to replicate it like I would like. Just differences in the cameras? The D3100 is a lot cleaner, and my colors on the exterior blow the D60 away, but the interior shots are leaving me wanting...more

    You know, I never thought I would be on the shooting end of photos...a bit like a programmer trying to work photoshop, except this example is one that should never happen. Programmers that is. ;)
  • @mhossey - I know this might sound a little strange, but you might try enabling 'Night Portrait' mode while shooting interiors. This will enable the flash and also lengthen the shutter speed a bit, to allow for more ambient light.

    As for exteriors, Program mode (P on the mode dial) will get you an accurate exposure every time. In fact, it might be best to stick with Program mode until you have a good understanding of how aperture, shutter speed and ISO work together.

    In regards to your Aperture priority experiment...when shooting indoors or in low light, you don't want to use f-numbers above f/5.6 without a tripod. Doing so, will result in a bunch of blurry shots.

    As for switching back and forth between modes...if you end up liking 'Night Portrait' mode for your interior shots, then you'll be able to switch back and forth without affecting your custom white balance settings applied to Program mode.

    So for start out taking shots of the exterior using Program mode with a custom white balance. Once you're done with the exterior shots, simply rotate the mode dial to 'Night Portrait' and take some shots of the interior. Once you're done with that car, rotate the mode dial back to Program mode and your custom white balance settings should still be in place.

    Let me know how it all shakes out. Happy shooting! :)
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