A great car rig shot can take your car photography to the next level, showing off the car in action with a relatively simple setup. It’s worth noting that rig shots can be a risky undertaking. Setting it up and carrying it out could put you, other people, your photography equipment, or your car in danger. With that said, taking care to set up your rig correctly, and using proper safety precautions throughout the whole process, is an absolute must. Rig shots definitely aren’t for beginners, but for experienced amateur photographers with a passion for car & automotive photography, it’s a great way to get pro-quality action shots that definitely impress.

Create An Atmosphere of Speed and Motion

When you see an impressive action shot of a car, it’s almost always a rig shot. Rig shots basically consist of a large pole, or “boom,” fixed to the car. The end of the boom holds a camera. That way, images can be taken while the car is in motion, capturing the Audi’s power and speed. The rig itself must be lightweight, yet strong enough to hold up the camera. Its attachment to the car itself must be completely secure as well. High-end car rigs are generally out of reach for most hobbyists, but it’s possible to build one yourself. It takes a bit of monetary investment, but higher quality materials are imperative.

This method of using a rig for action shots is almost as old as car photography itself, but it’s not as simple as it looks. If a suction cup comes off, or a clamp loses its grip, the results can be disastrous. It’s important to use the right high-quality equipment, and to make sure everything is securely attached. Otherwise, you could be facing scratched paint, suction cup marks on the car, or irreparable damage to your expensive DSLR camera.

What You’ll Need to Pull It Off

If you’re going to attempt a rig shot of your car, you need the right equipment. This isn’t a place to scrimp and save: you’ll need to invest some money if you want to do it right. Cheap or improper equipment can be downright unsafe.

Here’s a basic rundown of what you’re going to need.
The Boom
The boom is generally constructed from several sections of sturdy pipe, with strong couplers holding them together. You can put one together using a couple pieces of aluminum pipe held together with couplers. To fix the boom onto your car, you’ll want suction cups.

Suction Cups
Don’t go cheap on the suction cups. If they fail, your expensive camera will get dragged along the ground. If possible, affix them to one of the windows. Believe it or not, the layered glass used on modern car windows is actually stronger and better suited for this than the metal body. Plus, suction cups can scratch up your flawless paint job.

The Magic Arm
It’s not cheap, but the Manfrotto Magic Arm is a great tool for the job. This piece of high-end photography equipment is a rotating ball head mount designed for flexible camera and light positioning in professional studios. Lightweight but strong, you can clamp it into your rig and adjust for the perfect angle.

Tips for Getting the Perfect Shot

Once you’ve set up a secure rig, it’s time to get that perfect shot. Your speed, the lighting that’s available, the road you’re on, and other factors will affect how the final images look. These useful tips can help you get a breathtaking magazine-worthy action shot that shows off the full potential of your Audi.

1) Push the car
A great rig shot conveys a sense of speed and dynamic motion & usually the car is barely moving. I don’t recommend turning the engine on & driving the car but instead get the gear in its Neutral state and push the car, turning the engine on will only cause more undesired shakes.

2) Slow your shutter speed.
A motion blur effect creates an unmistakable aura of motion, and for a rig shot, you’ll want to adjust your shutter speed appropriately. Fast shutter speeds “freeze” action, creating a still and motionless image frozen in time. When you slow down the shutter speed, objects in the picture will look blurred in the direction of motion. This is an age-old standby in automotive photography.

3) Use a wide angle lens.
Lenses with a long focal length will show more vibration in the camera, messing up your images. A wide lens is also ideal to show surroundings!

4) Use a polarizing filter.
Car windows are notoriously reflective, and for a great rig shot, you’ll want to mitigate the presence of reflections on your Audi. A polarizing filter can help. Light reflecting from a non-metallic surface becomes polarized, creating glare from roads and bodies of water on shiny surfaces like auto glass. A polarizing filter changes the balance of light in the photograph, suppressing glare and repressing reflections. It can also enhance the surrouding scenery, increasing the contrast between clouds and sky and improving the color of foliage.

5) If you want to do multi-second exposures, use a neutral density filter.
A neutral density (ND) filter helps block light from reaching your camera’s sensor. This prevents the images from looking overexposed. A variable ND filter will allow you to adjust the amount of light you want to remove.

6) Try doing an exposure while turning a corner.
A low front angle while taking a corner creates a dramatic image. The motion blur takes on a circular directionality, creating an interesting effect that enhances the sense of action and velocity in the image.

7) Practice makes perfect.
Car rig shots aren’t easy for beginners, and even if you’re a pretty good amateur photographer, it can take a while to get the hang of it. But once you do, you’ll be thrilled with the results.