Automotive Photography: An Interview with Thomas Jamieson

Classic F1 car at Bicester Classic Auto Show
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Leamington Spa-based pro Tom Jamieson is the lead photographer at Thomas J Photography. His passion for photography has been burning fiercely for over 10 years now, but his interest in cameras was first piqued as a child when he was given a DSLR by his dad at just age 6.

Today, Tom’s work is split directly between three different genres, wedding photography, corporate portraits and automotive photography – which we’ll be focusing on today.  

How Tom Got Started in Automotive Photography

Although Tom’s career as a professional photographer began primarily with shooting weddings and work for corporate clients, in recent years he’s been able to branch out very successfully into automotive photography, shooting for well-known manufacturers such as Triumph Motorcycles. This is a development that has thrilled Tom, as he’s been interested in all things automotive from a young age.

“I’ve been an automotive sort of kid since I was very young. The game to keep me quiet on long journeys as a child was to name the make and model of vehicles in front of us…More often than not I could tell what make and trim it was by just a corner or other small details.”

Tom Jamieson
Triumph Bobber in Black and White

Tom’s first breakthrough into the automotive world was working with a friend on a project for Triumph Motorcycles, as the rider on the Triumph Bobber Black.

This led to working on another project with the same friend in Madrid for petrolicious.com, a leading automotive lifestyle brand. His task while there was to photograph people and their interactions, however this second experience lit a fire under Tom and he became determined to learn all he could about automotive photography.

“I stayed up all night researching every car photographer under the sun, the previous two weeks had been the same.”

Tom Jamieson
Triumph Moto2 in on the factory floor

Tom’s first big break as an automotive photographer however was working directly for Triumph, shooting the new Triumph Moto2 in their Hinckley Factory. He also describes it as one of his proudest moments as a photographer. It was the first time Tom had shot a motorbike in studio, and his photos were to be used in press releases and on billboards at the Silverstone Moto GP for Triumph’s return to the Moto GP 2 stage – so the pressure was really on!

Working alongside two of Triumph’s employees from the shop floor, one brand manager and two directors, they took the bike to the other side of the factory for the shoot. Thanks to careful planning, a strong initial creative concept and Tom’s ability to connect and work with the team around him, the shoot was a massive success. His imagery has now been circulated around the world via social media and he still works with Triumph to this day.

Tom’s Most Memorable Experience

Perhaps Tom’s most memorable experience was the first piece of work he did as an official pitch to Aston Martin, as it was the first time he was leading the whole procedure himself.

Aston Martin DB11 in the Cotswolds Front-Right View

Step one was to acquire an Aston Martin to shoot, which proved to be the easy bit! The car chosen was a beautiful DB11 belonging to one of Tom’s friends, which he had as a company car. Scouting the location took over a day on-site, as well as an evening finding the perfect area that suited the story Tom wanted to tell with his pitch. He describes it as truly like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but the experience was completely worth it:

“I remember it being so exciting, the apprehension and going into the unknown, but still being determined to deliver the very best to the industry standard.”

Tom Jamieson

Part and parcel of the creative process in this shoot was briefing his team, as well as scouting the right locations to take shots of the car, such as turns that would not only be safe for the driver but also not too time-consuming to photograph. An important thing to remember when shooting in public or on public roads is the ability to time and predict traffic or footfall to get clear shots. Tom said the whole experience really was a “great buzz that got my heart racing.”

Aston Martin DB11 side-view in the Cotswolds

Tom’s Advice to Beginners in Automotive Photography

Above all; make the shot interesting, make the shot interesting, make the shot interesting!

Tom Jamieson
MG car internal

To Tom, automotive photography at its core should be considered just like any other style of photography. The photographer’s goal is always to tell a story in one frame. The viewer needs to be interested in the photograph and the tale it’s trying to tell, not just because of a single element such as them being fans of the make or model of car. Bring different elements into the foreground and background, experiment with colours to see what does and doesn’t work with the vehicle’s interior and exterior. These are all things that your clients will want you to bring to the table when pitching to them to try to help make their vision a reality.

Be sure to have fun with your work, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Play with colours, angles, focus, motion…all of these are tools at the photographer’s disposal. After all, nobody wants to see something they’ve seen a thousand times before.

Key Equipment & Advice for Automotive Photography

If you’ve been inspired to try your hand at automotive photography, there are a few key pieces of kit Tom recommends.

The first piece of equipment which is an absolute must is a polarising filter, or even an ND filter, as these will help take away the glare from the metallic surfaces on the vehicles. Being mobile is also very important as you’ll often have to be changing locations or of course shooting moving objects: so get some good gear to attach your cameras, batteries and lenses to yourself!

Classic F1 Car at Bicester

Tom’s next piece of advice comes from fellow photography professional Amy Shore: stick to two fixed-style focal lengths to develop your own style so that your clients know what they’re going to get. Tom says that while he doesn’t stick to this 100% of the time himself as certain locations and tasks have demanded different techniques, it’s still important to maintain a core of work in your own style. Another advantage is that sticking to these focal lengths allows you to create different angles as you try to move around to your focal length instead of just zooming in and out. This allows your shots to maintain just that little bit more interest.

“I always think that in life it’s about those small percentage gains and this helps with that.”

Tom Jamieson
Rear of Classic Sports Car at Bicester

Tom’s Future Plans and Ambitions for his Automotive Photography

Tom’s love for all things automotive has inspired him to think big. A dream project for him would be to work with a major manufacturer on the launch of a new model, creating all of their assets as part of a large team.

My main aim as an automotive photographer is to have my own large studio capable of big shoot ideas and working with a creative team for the enjoyment of bouncing ideas and producing the best of the best.

Tom Jamieson

To find out more about Tom and his work, visit his website or take a look at his Instagram.

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