Trawling through used-car listings online, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had just hit the ‘I’m not a robot’ button on a website’s sign-in page. It’s just a compilation of random, blurry pictures.
When the time comes to sell your car, it’s easy to think all the bases are covered by listing the kilometres and saying how it has always been serviced on time. Go out to the driveway, point, shoot and upload. Done. There’ll be a flurry of “Is this available?” messages within the hour.
There’s an old saying about a picture saying a thousand words. Photos sell, too.
Certainly that’s the case for Michael Briguglio.
Michael’s day job is in information technology, but the rest of the time he’s taking photos of cars. He used to detail them, but then his wife put a DSLR camera in his hands in 2011 and he started on the path to professional car photography.
He’s taken to Instagram as a way to reach local car enthusiasts and collectors with stunning images of everything from Ferraris to Mitsubishis posing by some of Canberra’s landmark buildings and landscapes.
The local BMW dealership even approached Michael earlier this year with a simple brief: Canberra.
He was given eight cars and artfully wrapped them in with Telstra Tower, the National Library of Australia and the International Flag Display, to name a few locations.
The results are… well, they’re hanging off the walls at Canberra BMW. That’s how good they are.
I meet with Michael to find out more about what goes into these shots, and if an amateur with an iPhone, like me, can replicate them.
The model is a 2021 Kia Stinger GT and the first thing he asks me is, “What colour is it?”
A lot of the time, Michael chooses his locations based on contrast and it turns out, radioactive orange will suit the stark and wintry surrounds of Pialligo boat ramp.
Parliament House and the War Memorial are two conspicuous absentees from his list of favourite locations because permission from the National Capital Authority (NCA) must be secured for commercial photography around these locations.
The NCA can also be a little finicky about a few other spots, too.
“Just be considerate” is Michael’s advice.
Location isn’t everything anyway.
“An empty car park works just fine, too,” he says.
That’s what we’re in as he directs me into position before circling the car, choosing how best to attack it with the camera.
The difference between an amateur and a professional photographer is that an amateur will see a nice car and a nice background, but not really know how to put them together. Michael says this comes with time, but sticking by a few basic rules helps.
He begins every shoot with what he dubs ‘banker shots’.
“These include all the basic angles,” says Michael. “If the light doesn’t cooperate after that, I know at least I have a few good shots.”
He says the number one mistake people make is aiming from too high.
“When you take photos of kids, you get down to their level,” says Michael. “It’s the same with cars. I try to have the camera at the same height as the door mirrors.”
The rest is a game of lines.
The ‘rule of thirds’ sees the photo divided into a 3×3 grid, with the car placed along a line or one of the intersection points.
“That’s great for showing the car in the environment,” says Michael.
That said, he isn’t averse to putting the car smack-bang in the middle of the frame, either – something usually considered a faux pas in photography circles.
The edge of a road, a wall or a row of lights can all form ‘leading lines’, drawing the eye into the car. Symmetry, such as that found on buildings or in reflections, also pleases the eyes, and is one of the reasons Michael keeps going back to the National Library and its Parthenon-inspired columns.
Once the banker shots are in, he’ll then hone in on any details. In the case of the Kia Stinger, it’s the two bonnet vents.
Michael goes through the results in his home office, chooses the best shots and begins some basic editing. Pricing for a shoot such as this varies massively, but he admits he is on the more expensive side.
He loves the work, and like any side hustle, dreams of the day it’s his full-time job. Not only the photography itself, but the opportunity it provides to meet fellow car enthusiasts.
“A huge part of why I love car culture is most people can understand the love each owner has for their car,” says Michael. “It brings us all together and allows us to share the passion.”