I take a lot of road trips each year to explore different places. There's something exciting about exploring and seeing not just tourist destinations but all those spots in between. Unfortunately taking photos through the window of a moving car is among the most challenging shots to take but with a few quick tips, you can make sure that your shots look great!
Don't Snap and Drive
You know that you shouldn't text and drive, but snapping and driving is just as bad. First of all, it's a major distraction that removes your eyes from the road, but also your shots simply aren't going to come out right. So if there's something amazing that you just have to have a picture of, ask a passenger to help out. If you don't, the police just might have to do it for you.
Keep Your Windows Clean
Even if your camera has the right settings, a bug splatter on your window can ruin the greatest shot of your life. Just imagine that perfect sunset shot with a big white blob in the middle or in this case a row of date palms. While you should always keep your windows clean for your own benefit, it's impossible to constantly keep them spotless without some help. That's why it is important that you always keep your windshield wiper fluid reservoir full and use a high-quality fluid such as Prestone's Bug Wash.
While most other wiper fluids are designed to simply assist the wipers in clearing debris from the windshield, Prestone Bug Wash is formulated specifically to breakdown the toughest residues and form a protective barrier to help stop bugs, road grime, and other gunk from sticking to the windshield in the future.
While most people probably just think that the "blue stuff" that your oil change guy uses to top things off is "good enough", I like Prestone's Bug Wash. It performed well getting rid of road grime and bug marks when I used it as part of my "spring cleaning" (and even better with the fresh wipers I installed afterwards!) Unlike other windshield wiper fluid, Prestone Bug Was is specifically designed to remove up to 99% of bugs and it also has an advanced beading technology that helps repel rain on your windshield for a streak-free experience in any weather.
Set Your Phone (or Camera) to Sport Mode
This is the easiest quick fix to help make your photos look great. Most of the time when shooting shots out the window the subject is actually moving pretty rapidly in relation to the camera. This can be confusing initially but the quick solution is to set your camera to sport mode so it snaps the photo quickly and reduces motion blur. Motion blur is especially likely if you are taking photos of something moving rapidly in a direction other than how you are traveling i.e. a bird, train, or another car. However, depending on the speed of your vehicle - even close objects can cause issues unless you use a fast shutter speed.
Remember to Track as Well as Steady Your Shots
While out in a field taking a photo a bird or at the beach taking pictures of surfers, you instinctively understand to track with the action. This helps reduce motion blur, distortion, and allows sport mode to function even better. This is the same for shots you take through your car's window too. It may take some practice but try taking a photo of a road sign during your next trip. On your first attempt, just snap it like you would normally from a non-moving object. The second time you do the shot, track the sign before you press the shutter button and follow through. You'll notice that the image is MUCH cleaner with less distortion.
Along with this, don't forget that you are in a moving object that may be bouncing so don't forget that while trying to take a shot since this turbulence may also result in blur.
Make Sure to Focus On the Subject Outside
Sometimes, your camera will actually focus on the glass or objects inside the vehicle instead of the subject outside - you don't want that. This can be especially true if you have a dirty windshield but you can adjust for this by either putting the camera right up to the glass or potentially even setting the focus point manually by tapping on your phone's screen.
Don't Be Afraid to Stick Your Arm Out the Window (when it's safe!)
Hanging your hand out the window or shooting through the sun roof can make for interesting angles without fear of catching a reflection so don't be afraid to experiment - but only when it's safe. You should also do this only when the car is not moving quickly as you could easily lose your phone or potentially get injured due to a fast moving object hitting your hand.
It's OK to Pull Over
All of the tips for taking photos through your windshield that I've listed above assume that you are riding in a moving car. However, there's absolutely nothing wrong with pulling over and rolling down the window so that you can to capture something beautiful or just observe an interesting object on the side of the road more carefully. Just make sure to do so safely and in a well marked area where you can easily get back up to speed to continue your journey.