At high-speed or on the street, Richmond photographer Wayne Hunter captures the unique aspects of each car in his lens.
The sun begins to set on I-95, one of Richmond’s busiest highways. Colors of gold and amber cascade onto the pavement as a black Subaru contrasts the scene, carefully staying out of the way of cars making their way home. Photographer Wayne Hunter doesn’t have much time left, as his light slowly disappears. He leans out of a second Subaru adjacent to the photo’s subject car, hood scoop and minimal decals in frame, and snaps a rolling photo of the automobile in its natural environment. For this Richmond photographer, getting the perfect shot means catching the car at its best; wherever and however that may be.
As car enthusiasts fix up and modify their vehicles to perfection, often spending thousands to get it just right, photographers like Hunter bring in a new level of admiration by capturing each driver’s masterpiece. For Hunter, falling into the specialty of car photography came by accident.
“We were taking pictures of all our cars,” Hunter said, “and [a friend] started teaching me a few things.” He decided to pick up a camera for himself, and started playing around with new ideas in photography. “I ended up picking up a camera from Best Buy a year or two later — just an entry-level Canon — which I still use a lot.” It sparked the beginning of a talent he carries into today’s car culture in Richmond.
Car photographers can learn and develop in the local environment, with a thriving community that dominates Richmond’s roads and parking lots. Within the ever-growing groups, photographers have ample opportunities to take stunning photos of many types of cars. But as the community increases in numbers every year, sometimes there’s only room for photographers with the right style of talent.
“There has been a huge influx of photographers. Cameras have gotten cheaper, even brand new entry-level [models],” Hunter said. “Everybody’s trying to get into it; it’s been a very competitive market if you’re actually trying to make decent money from it. My thing is that you have to value the work, value the equipment — everything costs money. Everything takes a lot of time as well.”
For most freelance photographers, the best-case scenario is making a somewhat decent wage while working unique schedules and hours. An increased public interest in car photography brings more eyes onto the work, and Hunter’s photo shoots have brought him attention at car events. After a few years of hard work and dedication, he’s been given the opportunity to be the official photographer for one of the East Coast’s largest car shows.
“The biggest [car show] I have coming up is Spring Fest,” Hunter said. “Before that, I show a local car show in Lynchburg for charity.” Although Spring Fest would have taken place in Ocean City, MD this year, it has been postponed due to Covid-19.
Hunter noted that, as far as individuals interacting with photographers at car meet-ups, he’s seen a slight difference since quarantine began.
“I still have a couple of shoots coming up. I’ve only had one cancellation, but as far as the car meets, the work has been a little slow,” he said.
Even as groups are banned from gathering and individuals stay home, Hunter is still finding ways to continue doing what he loves. As photography is already a socially-distant activity, he’s focused on many kinds of shoots, and he chases opportunities to get back out there. When it comes to the photos he loves to capture, there are a few aspects he looks for in makes and models of cars to capture his eye the most.
“I enjoy the cars that have a lot of customization,” Hunter said. “I like to get a lot of the little details, and things like that. I prefer a lot of the [cars] you don’t see in the States, like [Nissan] Skylines.” With a variety of importers at work in the Richmond area, cars like these show up on local highways more often than you might expect.
Car photography is a niche subject. It’s often a difficult type to shoot, but for Hunter, the reactions from the people make it worthwhile. His favorite elements about working with drivers is to keep them involved even after their photo shoot is over.
“I try to work with them as much as possible,” he said. “I try to have a one-week turnaround once I start editing, and I’ll keep them involved in the process.”
Knowing the tough nature of competitive photography in the area, many photographers are expanding their horizons, including Hunter.
“I don’t want to be pigeonholed into just being a car photographer. I love doing portraits,” Hunter said. “That’s another aspect I’m trying to get into, doing some other creative stuff. Maybe even getting more into composites, or superimposing a subject or car from one photo and putting it onto a background from another location. It can sometimes be hard to stand out, so you don’t want to end up getting stuck with the only thing you can count on.”
Although he started off shooting cars and modified vehicles after a day with friends in the past, he noted that being well-rounded as a photographer could be beneficial as he looks to expand his opportunities.
“I want to continue to progress, and probably invest in some lenses. You have to learn that it increases the quality of your finished result,” Hunter said. “I would like to grow more with car photography, but I don’t want to just be a car photographer.”
Photography is not only important work for the car community to get the word out about events and meet-ups, but for the individuals that want to showcase their vehicles that took months of hard work and dedication to complete. As long as Richmond’s car community keeps growing, and as long as people are interested in modifying vehicles, niche photographers will always have something unique to bring to each driver.