Photos - Do's and Don'ts


Well-Known Member
Let me first say that I am not a professional photographer - I have taken some classes and have played around with photography but by no means do I claim to be an expert. That said I see a lot of really nice trucks that do not get the full "shine" they deserve because of simple and easily fixable mistakes by the photographers do not display them at their full glory.

This is something that has bothered me for a while and it recently came to light in the last Truck of the Month competition on RC Truck Stop. There was a really nice Clod in the competition and it was blown out of the water by the other trucks. I don't think the other trucks were that much better than it, but the photo of the truck was not very good and it really took away from the Clod's appearance.

Below is a simple list of items that if followed can greatly enhance your ability to take good pictures of all your sweet rides.

First three rules of photography, lighting, lighting, and lighting!

This is a tricky one and this is the main reason why outdoor photos generally speaking turn out so much better than indoor. If shooting indoor, you need a ton of light. You don't want direct "spot" light (which creates bright spots and wash outs), but rather reflected or indirect lighting that fills the area being shot. Backgrounds that brighten up the subject are helpful as well.

Another tip is if your camera has an ISO setting, use it! This setting is for shooting indoors under low light conditions. You want to avoid using the flash if possible. the flash will create bright spots and wash outs as well, but if you have to use the flash if you can angle it so it fires above your subject rather than straight on it. If you can't angle your flash, use a white business card to reflect it up and over your subject.

Finally if you have a tripod, they are great for shooting indoor under low light. It will allow the camera to be stable and prevent blurring due to slow shutter speed that most camera will adjust to when under low light conditions. If you don't have a tripod you can use something else to stabilize the camera - I remember using a footstool many times before I got my tripod. You can get a mini-tripod (perfect for shooting RC related items) at most any large store like Meijer or Walmart for less than $20.

If shooting outdoors, one a sunny day don't shoot into the sun. Many people will tell you to keep the sun at your back, but sun to the side can create many different effects and moods for a picture. I took a picture of my son's baseball team this summer and the sun was to my left. It was late in the day after an all day tournament and the long shadows the sun created at that time of day reflected that. Time of day and position of the sun can also create different effects of the same shot.

Watch your backgrounds!

This is a biggie. I have seen a LOT of really nice trucks that have had something goofy in the background that totally distracts you from the truck. I remember I took a picture of my rusty Stampede in my driveway and was really happy with the result - until I looked at it on the computer and saw the old guy across the street was walking around the corner of his house shirtless right when I snapped the photo. Needless to say that one was re-taken.

There are times when you are trying to capture a background in conjunction with the truck, other times when the background is nothing more than the backdrop for your truck. In either instance be aware of what is in the photo. If your truck is sweet but in the upper right hand of the picture there is a shirtless old man, where do you think the viewer's eyes will be drawn?

If the background is not of consequence, and you want to make your truck pop a little something extra, use the portrait mode on your camera if it has one or a soft background setting. This will blur the background slightly while your subject is in clear focus. It really helps keep the viewer's eyes where they should be - on your sweet ride!

Also, on a related subject - give careful consideration to your setting. If you are selling a set of gears and a motor, then you can shoot that most anywhere. If you are going to show off your ride, consider carefully where the shot will take place. Generally speaking vehicles look best in their natural environment - outdoors on the surface they are to be run or the pavement. Don't think that plopping the truck down in the middle of the yard will make a good shot though, still be mindful of your backgrounds and if there is a 8" tall weed next to your truck, it will show up in the picture and it will make your truck look goofy! If you have to shoot indoors, generally speaking the kitchen counter isn't the best backdrop.

Get up close and personal - with a bit of perspective.

Something else that can ruin a photo is if the subject is too small to be viewed and enjoyed. How many pictures have you seen of a very small truck in the middle of a huge photo? Don't be afraid to fill the view finder with your truck! Unless there is a strategic background your truck is the subject of the photo, so make sure it is there in it's full glory.

Also, perspective can make a huge difference in the quality of a photo and the looks of your truck. Don't be afraid to lay down on the ground, set the truck up higher, and shoot 360 degrees around the truck. Same truck, same setting, different perspective can make the difference between so-so and incredible!

Play with your camera settings and take pictures!

With digital photography there is no excuse to play around with the settings on your camera and get familiar with them. Read the manual, do some experiments, and shoot, shoot, shoot! I shoot the photos for my son's baseball team, and generally speaking after a game I'll have 200-300 photos from the game - of which 90-120 are good, useable pictures. A friend of mine that is a professional photographer told me once, "You know how you take 10 good pictures? Shoot 20." The point is even the pros do not take good pictures on every single shot. Of course my friend's standards are much higher than mine, so out of his 20, I think his 20 pictures look amazing.

The last time I took a truck out for pictures I went to 4 different locations and shot just under 50 pictures total. In there I think I used 4 different camera settings to compare and contrast what worked and what didn't. Of that 50 I was really happy with about 10. With digital photography it was free to take that many, and I had a lot to choose from to find "that one."

You also should be familiar with the different settings for different situations - action/sports mode, ISO mode, portrait, auto, and even the manual settings are good to get familiar with.

Focus, Young Jedi

This should go without saying but there are a lot of truck pictures out there that are out of focus. If you don't do anything else above, at least get the truck in focus. :)

Lights, camera, action?

Without a serious high end lens/camera and some good lighting, it's hard to get good action shots indoors - they will tend to turn out blurry or dark. One method is to pan the camera with the subject as you shoot it. So as the truck rolls by, center it in the viewfinder, move the camera to match the speed of the truck. Continue to move the camera at the speed of the subject as you shoot. If your shutter speed is good for the lighting but too slow to capture action without blurring, this method - if done correctly - will capture the truck in focus and blur the background instead. I used to shoot motocross and used this method a lot, especially when my son was racing. It really made him appear like he was going blazing fast. :D

Outdoors it's much easier to get good action shots due to lighting. Use the sports/action mode on the camera and snap away!


Pretty dry read...I know. In the end if you follow the simple steps of choosing a good setting, watching your backgrounds, and shooting with adequate light - you've conquered 90% of the battle for good pictures.

Here are some photo examples of "do's" and "don'ts" that I have collected around the web. All these trucks are awesome trucks, but because of the photography some are not displayed to their full potential while others are enhanced by the photography.

HawnMT's MLB Bigfoot:

This is a GREAT example of perspective. Both photos are good - well lit, in focus, and the truck fills the viewing area without background clutter. The difference though in shooting from above and on the ground is stark. One photo would make a lot of people double take to see if it was real, the other photo makes it clear you are looking at an RC but shows the paint job off beautifully. Also love the "tilted" camera on the ground shot - very cool!

RC Crawler Jeeps:

First of all these are amazing builds. I think they could have been shot inside a dumpster and they would still look awesome. What takes them over the top amazing is the use of lighting and backgrounds. First, the top Jeep with the shadow effect does a couple things - it makes the taillights pop, and also give you the feel that it's late in the day - like they have been out on the trail all day. Also the sky peeking through at the top of the hill let's you know they are climbing a serious hill. Maybe they have been out there all day and the trail run is culminating with the arrival at the summit? Maybe I've done too many drugs and I read way too far into RC car pictures? :D The second beach picture is equally as amazing. Long shadows indicate the end of the day, the way the sun makes the passenger side color pop and the angle puts the tailgate in a shaded area...awesome photography. I also get the feel from this picture that maybe summer is coming to a close...again, probably reading way too far into toy car pictures. Sand on the tires is a nice touch and the soft background really makes the Jeep pop.

Nice use of backgrounds:

Gavyn's Digger being displayed on the real deal is a great use of utilizing backgrounds to enhance your subject, as does the HPI Bounty Hunter picture. Both pictures accomplish the same thing but in very different methods. Gavyn's picture has both subjects in focus highlighting the RC near the center of the viewfinder. US flag blowing in the breeze is a nice touch, intentional or not. :) The HPI picture highlights the RC while displaying the 1:1 truck in soft focus in the background. Because the Savage is in focus and the 1:1 is not, it really jumps out at you while maintaining the function of the 1:1 in the background.

Indoor Shots:

The top shot - incredible truck and a great indoor shot - perfectly lit, no clutter - just an amazing truck and an amazing photo. This truck just won last months ROM on RC Truck Stop and it's hard not to see why. Had he shot this truck with a old man shirtless in the background (sorry to keep going back to that everyone) well he probably still would have won but I'm not sure the truck would grab your attention like it does now. The picture really makes you take notice of this truck. The bottom photo - much different than the top. Definitely a sweet ride, no doubt - however not exactly a studio set up. That said I'm not hating it - while the lighting could be better it's not too dark nor is it blown out from use of a flash. No clutter in the background, in focus, overall it works and gets the job done! Nothing fancy needed!
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Well-Known Member
How backgrounds can affect a picture:

I really like this truck. I really like this picture...except for that red roof on the building behind it. Your eyes are drawn to that red roof and it really detracts from the truck. Everything else about the picture is incredible. Great truck, great location, great perspective, it's lighted well and in focus...but that roof keeps glaring back at me as if it's screaming, "LOOK AT ME!!!! OVER HERE!!!! SEE ME???? I'M RIGHT HERE!!!!" :(

I think this is a sweet Clod and had the photo been better I think it would have really done well in voting. As it stands there is a lot wrong with the photo. First is the background - your eyes have a hard time knowing where to focus. "Nice truck, that chassi...wait, is that Samuel Adams? Yeah baby! Anyway, this truck is cool becaus...hey, wait, what is in that basket?" The flash also creates a lot of hot spots on the truck. Like I said, I love this truck but the photo doesn't display it to it's fullest potential.

Ah, the dreaded hood shot. Again, awesome ride, love the scale accessories (alligator skin FTW!), monster cars are ALWAYS cool, IMO -but a monster Nomad? Off the charts cool. Unfortunately the backgrounds on this photo don't do the Nomad justice. Again, your eye is drawn away from the subject. "Hey, I own two flower pots just like that!" (no, seriously, I do). Also the hood shots - I don't get them. Unless you are also displaying the 1:1 vehicle in the shot (see Gavyn's Grave Digger above) you are better off not shooting on a hood or any part of a 1:1 for that matter.

With my recent Stampede fetish I love this truck - the owner has a few Pedes and all of them are built real nice. Very practical builds without a lot of gaudy excess. This picture though just does not do this truck any justice at all. Setting, background, focus...there is a lot working against the truck in this shot. It's unfortunate too because like I said it's a sweet truck and one of my favorite Pede builds I've seen.


The truck could be bigger in this picture but overall it's a cool action shot. The truck is in focus which is 70% of the battle when shooting action.

Hopefully this helps if you're looking to take better pictures or even some ideas for new pictures!


Mod Wrapper
great write up John glad you did that :) ill throw in a few pics to help the point :cool


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Mod Wrapper
i stickied this John and in my opinion some great info , again thanks for the write up :emot112:


Mod Wrapper
ok i just wanted to say on my non action shots most of the time im 20-30 feet away from the trucks, now i dont have an expensive camera its a cannon point and shoot i paid 225 bucks for :D

that is my point for the ride of the month photos.. we are showcasing our work so to have the best settings and outdoor light goes soooooo far

bench shots dinning room shots are good for the info of the board ,but to showcase the truck should be a little bit more effort

ok im done lol..


Active Member
:)So i shouldnt take any in the driveway or on the kitchen table or on the work bench. This read has helped me a great deal. Now i know what to look for when taken photos. thanks.:)


Well-Known Member
:)So i shouldnt take any in the driveway or on the kitchen table or on the work bench. This read has helped me a great deal. Now i know what to look for when taken photos. thanks.:)
Well, if you put the table on the hood of a car with the neighbor's dog taking a dump in the background, then I think that would be an epic win in the photo department. :D:D:D:D

Glad you found it informative - hope it helps!