One of the unique things about the modified car scene is the way it champions creativity. Whether it’s applauding someone who’s stanced an unusual car – a 1960s Porsche 911, a Ferrari 348 and a Lamborghini Huracán have all famously been bagged in recent times – appreciating a cool wrap, or championing the work of the legions of modified car photographers, creativity in the scene is almost as important as the cars themselves.
One scene photographer who’s busy making a name for himself throughout Europe is Belgian Mike Crawat. The 28-year-old from Bruges has been shooting cars since 2011, and has now become one of the scene’s most in-demand shooters. We spoke to Mike to get his advice on how you out there can get involved in the world of modified car photography.
If you want to get into automotive photography, just thinking about shooting cars isn’t going to help much, says Mike. His advice is to grab that camera, hit the streets and start taking shots.“As soon as I bought my first ever DSLR, a Nikon D60, I gave car shooting a try,” says Mike. “The first cars I placed in front of my lens were a Volkswagen Golf MkIII GTI and a MkV GTI. I think this was somewhere in 2011 or 2012. At first, I did a lot of sports car shoots, then I came in contact with some guys who owned a static car, and since then, I’ve only shot modified cars.”
Go to events and make contacts
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, as the old saying goes, and that rings especially true in the modified car world. It’s a real community, meaning that if you seal yourself off and don’t get out there and meet people, making a career from your love of shooting is going to be hard…“My first Wörthersee [the famous modified car meet in Austria] was 2015 and not many people knew who I was, so I didn’t do that much shooting,” says Mike. “But at the end of 2015, I got to know [apparel company] FLGNTLT, a big name in the car scene. I asked them if I could get a shirt to do some promoting for them in Belgium. They told me they’d ship me some merch and asked if I wanted to join the crew. I didn’t have to think twice!
I went from being not that popular to getting well knownMike Crawat”Then 2016 was a big year for me – I really made some steps that year. I did Wörthersee again in May, and had some dope projects in front of my lens during that event. When I dropped some online, Olivier Fourcade, the owner of Eurotuner magazine, asked to use the shoot I did with Lexy Roxx and her Liberty Walk Lamborghini Huracán. That’s how I got my first magazine feature – and it was the cover! I also did some work with FLGNTLT, and a lot of shoots beside that. Many car owners were contacting me to see if I was interested in shooting their car. I don’t know how, but my name went from being not that popular to getting well known.”
Be inspired by other people’s work
No artist can ever claim to be 100 percent original, and a good way to work out your own style – especially early on in your shooting career – is to look for other photographers you admire and analyse their shots.“Everybody has their own style and potential,” says Mike, “so if you want to shoot cars, just do it and learn by looking at others’ work. For me personally, I got to know Webb Bland of Notbland fame, and his work is just amazing. The first moment I saw his shot of a Dodge Challenger under a freeway, I was like, ‘Wow’.”
So you want to become a car photographer, but can’t afford to go to night classes or college to learn the craft? No worries! History is filled with autodidacts, from Jimi Hendrix to Henry Ford, and Mike is emphatic that you don’t need schooling to become a great photographer – especially now that 99 percent of photography is done digitally.“I didn’t do training, or study photography at school,” says Mike. “Everything I do today, I taught myself. I think if you learn everything by yourself, you can create your own style and pay more attention to the things you like.”
Keep at it and keep getting better
As with any project that you start, doubts can creep in and commitment can waiver. But if making it as a car photographer is your goal, says Mike, stay focused on that and don’t let anyone throw you off course.“The level I’ve reached today is because I never gave up when it wasn’t going great – I just kept shooting and shooting,” he says. “Never be happy with your pictures, so you keep improving what you do. And don’t forget to keep doing it with passion. Get motivated and just go out and try. Never give up, and remember why you started doing car photography. When you create your own style, that’s the day you’ll never forget. But most of all, never be happy with the work you’ve made – it can always be better.”