5 tips for taking amazing photos from the passenger seat

  • how to take photos on the go tutorial by Nina Mingioni

5 tips for taking amazing photos from the passenger seat

As a family, we frequently find ourselves on the road. Our boys are very rambunctious, and every weekend involves at least one prolonged car trip to a fun destination.

During those, I am usually a passenger, free to gape outside the window, absorbing my surroundings. When I first read Elle Walker’s drive-by photography tutorial here on CM blog, I was amazed at how much she’s been able to capture without leaving her car. This was the push that I needed to see what surrounds me with a new set of eyes. Being on the road provides many great angles and new perspectives. I’d like to share my drive-by images, with tips I learned along the way that helped me capture them.

Please drive safely and only do this when you are a passenger!

1. Slow down your shutter speed to capture movement.

Closing your aperture will help you create better focus and, of course, will be necessary for daytime shooting at such low shutter speeds. During this rainy drive, I loved seeing the leading lines on the wet road. This was captured at an aperture of f/16 and shutter speed 1/10 second. I rested my camera on the dashboard to stabilize it and minimize the camera shake. Keep in mind that at smaller apertures, every piece of dirt and raindrop on the windshield, and every fleck of dust on your camera’s sensor, will be visible on the image – plan to spend some time in post-processing, looking at your image at 1:1 magnification and cleaning it up.

how to take photos on the go tutorial by Nina Mingioni

2. Being on an elevated highway will give you one-of-a-kind vantage point.

Keep your eyes open for interesting elements. If it’s a drive you take frequently and you missed an opportunity to capture something, taking mental (or actual) notes helps to keep you prepared the next time. This photo was taken along the stretch of I-95 that we drive every other week when we visit my in-laws. I always found those colorful houses visually interesting, and was ready to capture them on this bright sunny day.

how to take photos on the go tutorial by Nina Mingioni

3. Using a zoom lens will help you to rapidly change your perspective.

While I mostly shoot prime lenses, I do own a 24-105mm f/4L lens that lends itself beautifully as a very versatile lens for drive-by photography. These two photos were shot within minutes of each other, each capturing a different aspect of the surrounding landscape (while my husband was driving at 65mph).

how to take photos on the go tutorial by Nina Mingioni
105mm

how to take photos on the go tutorial by Nina Mingioni
65mm

4. Don’t overexpose the sky.

In landscape photography, the sky frequently will be a big component of an image, and one of your most expressive subjects. While driving, scenery changes quickly, and you will frequently notice only compositional elements on the ground and not the sky. Look for a busy sky with lots of clouds to help you tell your story. Expose to preserve the sky, making sure no elements were lost. In post-processing, use the clarity slider in Lightroom and Photoshop’s high pass filter to enhance the texture.

how to take photos on the go tutorial by Nina Mingioni

how to take photos on the go tutorial by Nina Mingioni

how to take photos on the go tutorial by Nina Mingioni

5. Use a creative lens to make unusual images.

As you’ve probably guessed by the tell-tell blur, many of the images above, too, were shot with a Lensbaby lens, with either the sweet 35 or Edge 80 optics.

how to take photos on the go tutorial by Nina Mingioni

Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 35 optic

how to take photos on the go tutorial by Nina Mingioni

Lensbaby Coposer Pro with Edge 80 optic

About the Author:

Nina is a hobbyist photographer who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She loves many genres, including street, urban, macro, and nature photography, and, of course, capturing the details in lives of her two boys. She shoots mostly prime lenses, but never leaves her house without one of her Lensbaby lenses. In imagery, she is drawn to lines, patterns, details, textures, and light – and capturing the geometry, order, and beauty these elements bring into the chaos of life. Visit Nina Mingioni online.
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20 Comments

  1. Carrie Apr 30 2014 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    Beautiful! We take upwards of 6 road trips every year (not counting the weekend ones we do when we’re bored) and I love these ideas and tips! Do you find you often roll down your window to avoid shooting through dirty glass (or do you clean your windows? LOL!)?

    • Nina Apr 30 2014 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Carrie! Yes, in the summer I frequently will shoot with windows down. Lots of above images were taken last November/December, and my boys minded those windows down 😉 I do find that unless my apertures are fairly small (smaller than 1/8 or so), the window dirt is not a distraction.

  2. Kate Apr 30 2014 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the tips, Nina.

  3. Megan Apr 30 2014 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    Loved this, Nina! Definitely going to be trying some of these tips 🙂

  4. Rain Klepper Apr 30 2014 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Nina, for a fantastic tutorial…I will be putting these tips into action this week!

  5. Lucy May 01 2014 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Hey, I know those houses on I-95! 🙂 Love the bright colors!! Great tutorial Nina! <3

    • Nina Mingioni May 01 2014 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      thanks, Luc! i love that “charismatic” stretch of 95 🙂

  6. Anna VanDemark May 01 2014 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the inspiration, Nina! I will be taking your tips to heart and trying them out soon!

  7. Jo May 01 2014 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    I love these shots, Nina! <3

  8. nuzhat May 02 2014 at 11:52 am - Reply

    Wonderful Nina! I recognize the colorful houses 🙂 I think you have a great and a very specific and unique eye. I love your images.

  9. Terri May 02 2014 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    Great shots, Nina! 🙂

  10. Melissa Stottmann May 02 2014 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Great post and tips, Nina!

  11. Kim Peterson May 05 2014 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Amazing tips, Nina!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  12. Stacey V. Jan 06 2015 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous! One of my current favorites is a “through the windshield” shot. I feel validated, you do them so beautifully.

  13. Liz Sep 25 2015 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    What an awesome tutorial- I can’t wait to be a passenger and try these out!! Stunning images too!

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