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Photographing Readers Rigs - Ford F150 - Fire At Will

Posted in Features on January 1, 2007
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So you want your rig in our Readers' Rigs section? Great! We want to put it there. Without a doubt, the key to a killer Readers' Rig feature begins with an eye-catching photo. After all, you want your rig to catch people's eyes, not avert them. But how do you get that killer photo? Actually, it's easy if you remember that a good Four Wheeler Readers' Rig photo is the sum of the correct composition, lighting, and action. Once you apply these three things, you'll have a photo you'll be proud to trot out in front of hundreds of thousands of other readers. Let's look at these three areas.

Here you can see the wrong and right way to compose a Readers' Rig photo. Wrong: the truck is not centered in the photo, there are other distracting vehicles, only the side of the truck is visible, the truck is on pavement, and it's too far away. Right: the truck fills the frame, the front and side are both visible, and the photo was taken from a squatting position so portions of the suspension are visible.

How you compose your photo is critical. The idea is to show as much of your truck as possible in the photo. After all, Readers' Rigs only offers space for one photo of each rig, so the perfect photo will contain a substantial amount of visual information at a glance. The most common angle is to position yourself so you can see the front and side of the vehicle. This is what we call a "front three-quarter shot." Of course, this angle should be utilized on a case-by-case basis. If your rig has more mods to the tail end than the front, then use the same formula-but photograph it from the rear. This is aptly called a "rear three-quarter shot." Also take into account the height at which you shoot. If your rig has a visually strong front axle, let's say, then squat down a bit so it will show more clearly in the photos. Make sure you fill the viewfinder with the vehicle, but don't hack off portions of the vehicle by getting too close. After you position yourself at the correct angle and distance, look behind your rig. Is the background cluttered? Buildings, people, and-worst of all-other vehicles will create a "busy" image that will draw the eye away from your rig. Another important thing: Four Wheeler is a magazine dedicated to off-highway travel; thus rigs should not be pictured on cement or blacktop. Those surfaces are for other, less adventurous magazines.

The reality is that composition and lighting are both equally important when it comes to a good Readers' Rig photo. You can compose the perfect image, but if the lighting is poor, the photo will be poor too. The first rule is to not shoot in the direction of the sun. If you do, chances are your camera's light meter will be freaked out by all of the backlight and it will underexpose the image, creating a terribly dark subject. Avoid shooting at midday because the sun is high in the sky and this results in colorless, drab photos. The prime time for shooting a Readers' Rig photo is in the early morning or late in the day. With the sun at your back, the rich light will make your rig's color "pop," and even dark-colored trucks can look good-dents and all. One more thing related to lighting: Whenever possible, light-colored trucks should be placed against darker backgrounds and dark-colored trucks should be placed against lighter backgrounds. This will effectively silhouette the rig and define its edges, thus creating a more pleasing photo.

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Some of the best Readers' Rigs photos are trucks shown in action. They draw the eye of 'wheelers and they tend to validate the capabilities of the rig. Naturally, action photography will require a bit more planning, and a camera-savvy assistant, since it's a little tough to drive and shoot at the same time. The key here is to apply the previously covered composition and lighting tips to a moving vehicle instead of one on static display. A slow event like rockcrawling is easy to shoot, but a rig blasting through mud can be a bit more challenging. One thing that can help you shoot this successfully is to practice ahead of time by following moving cars with your camera. Since staring one-eyed through a hole isn't natural (unless you're a Peeping Tom), you have to train yourself to feel comfortable looking through a viewfinder one-eyed. Concentrate on centering the truck in the viewfinder and follow the action without hacking off portions of the rig. It's also a good idea not to get run over in the process. One more thing: No good photo ever got taken with the camera dangling around your neck, so keep it up to your eye throughout the whole action process.

Of all the Readers' Rigs photos we receive, over 90 percent of them are digital images, and we're cool with that. Digital photography poses two unique challenges, however. First, the file size you send us is critically important. We must receive a file no smaller than 4x6 inches (approximately 1200 x 1800 pixels) at 300 dpi. The best (and easiest) course of action is to photograph your rig at the camera's highest resolution setting and send us that image without resizing it. We cannot use small, low-resolution 72dpi photos from a Web site. Second, it's important to ensure that the image is in focus and sharp. You should be able to easily check these two areas using your computer's photo management software using the "show actual pixels" (or similar) command. Some cameras even allow you to fully enlarge the image on the LCD monitor on the back of the camera. Either way, this will give you an up-close view of the image so you can determine whether it's sharp or not. Remember, digital images don't cost anything to speak of (except battery wear), so feel free to take lots of photos.

If you feel the need to put a bandanna-shod, sunglass-wearing Fido in the driver seat, then go for it. But please do not send us images of your significant other draped suggestively over the truck. We can't run 'em. Also, when you write out a technical overview of your rig, please be detailed. For instance, if you regeared the differentials, tell us what ratio gears you installed, and so on. The more information you give us, the more information we can integrate into your Readers' Rigs feature.

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