Lamborghini abstract by ERIC KIM

What Photographers Can Learn From Car Design

Lamborghini abstract by ERIC KIM
Lamborghini abstract by ERIC KIM

I’ve always been a car nut, since I was 15 years old — when I bought my first car (with my own money): a 4-door 1991 Nissan Sentra XE (1.6 liter, 5 speed).


sentra se-r b13
sentra se-r b13

As an American, I’ve always seen the car as a symbol of freedom. I could go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Not my car, Sentra SE-R b13

My dream car which I bought when I was 18 years old: 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R (with legendary SR20DE engine).

SE-R engine
Sr20ve engine
Sr20ve engine

Design stolen from BMW e30

Anyways, now I’m on the road, and to be frank, I don’t really care to drive or own a car anymore. I prefer to take Uber and walk.

But, I still love and find inspiration in car design, and car photography.

I love the angles, shapes, forms, and curves of cars — whenever I’m walking on the streets, I’m mostly looking at cars.

I don’t care to own a fancy sports car anymore, but I can appreciate it like sculpture. I don’t even need to own it to appreciate it.

I’ve been studying a lot of design from Lamborghini and McLaren, and love the design, shapes, forms, and photos:


1. When taking pictures of cars or any objects, seek to integrate diagonals, clean backgrounds, and unique perspectives (high Perspective looking down):

2. Simple pop of color

To advertise, make sure it passes the “small thumbnail test” — most people are going to be looking at the pictures on a small phone. Can they see the colors, and abstract shapes and forms?

Simple lesson: simple clean white background, with a pop of color, with simple geometric forms.

3. Proportions

Good car design is all about proportions. Apparently Aston Martin uses the Golden proportion when designing their cars.

4. Curves

When do you integrate curves, instead of diagonals?

I think the ideal car design is a combination of curves and straight lines.

In photography, try to integrate both curves and straight diagonal lines.

5. Color combinations

Color theory:

  • Red and black (symbolic of power)
  • Blue: more calm, relaxed
  • Yellow: bright and loud, like a bumblebee
  • Lime green: screams for attention — look at me! (We don’t really see the lime green color in nature much — thus it is unusual)
  • Orange: bright and juicy, like orange fruit.
  • Black: dark and mysterious
  • White: clean, pristine and pure.

6. Car Design

My favorite designs:

  • Porsche: Classic, timeless // subtle iterative design over time. More subtle evolution of design — but stays mostly the same, like Leica and Ricoh
  • Rolls Royce: big, boxy, and powerful.
  • Lamborghini: egotistic, obnoxious, and not embarrassed to say it
  • McLaren: racing DNA, light, fast.

7. Why cars?

Ultimately, the way car companies are able to sell us expensive cars is because they are selling us a FANTASY — a fantasy of freedom, exploration, power, and wealth.

But unfortunately — no car is going to make you more masculine, powerful, or add inches to your… ahem.

Also, a lesson I’ve learned shooting all the expensive cameras out there:

All cameras are more similar than dissimilar.

With sports cars, I’m sure Top Gear guys know:

All cars are more similar than dissimilar.

It is a psychological problem we have — we exaggerate differences more than amplify commonalities.

8. Lessons

Ultimately I still appreciate cars, and car design — for the designs, proportion, marketing language, the symbolism of them. I like cars like sculpture.

Don’t get suckered to wanting to buy expensive cars, to think it will make you “happy”. I have more fun sketching cars and appreciating their aesthetics, instead of owning them:

9. Ideas

To study more design, look at classic car design, like Rolls Royce and see how their designs have evolved over the years. Look at the long body designs in the Great Gatsby era of the 1920s— the long hood bonnets, and the curvaceous designs. A lot of sexy cars, probably have the same proportions as sexy curvaceous women.


Cross pollinate in your photography — find inspiration for composition and design anywhere and everywhere.

Rolls-Royce Torpedo
Photo: James Lipman /

Rolls-Royce at Parade Concorso D’Eleganza Villa D’Este, May 2014
Photograph: James Lipman //

black on black on black lamborghini

Lamborghini Trace.

Lamborghini by Eric Kim


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