The fourth automotive photographer to join Limited100 as a supplier, Niall Julian has been a petrolhead for as long as he can remember. Cars, in particular classics, have always held a deep fascination, which has over the years combined with his background in photography, film and digital media. All of these came together in 2015 when Niall founded the award-winning classic car blog Take to the Road. Since then the site has grown to become one of the UK’s leading automotive blogs. As a freelance photojournalist, Niall attends many of the UK’s top Concours shows, always with a camera in hand.
In this article, Niall answers some questions so you can find out more about how he creates such stunning automotive photography.
How did you get into photography?
As a kid I was always fascinated by cameras. Looking through the viewfinder of the compact Kodak my parents owned, pressing the shutter button and then waiting weeks for the prints to come back in the post… it was exciting. Then in secondary school I joined the photography club and started developing black and white films in our small photo lab. It was very cool and I eventually saved up enough pocket money to buy an Olympus OM10, which I still have. So that’s where it all started really.
Have you always been a petrolhead?
Ha yes I certainly have! In addition to photography, I was car mad as a kid and used to drive my parents crazy talking about cars. This was of course long before the days of the internet so car magazines were the main source of information. I just loved reading the specifications lists and seeing what the performance figures were and the engineering principles and their designs. I used to spend hours drawing cars and most of them were two seat sports cars with pop up headlights.
Pictured: Niall Julian interviewing Mike Brewer; watch here.
What is the key to taking a great photo?
Most of the photography advice out there tells you about the rule of thirds, which is a great place to start. Understanding this is essential, along with framing up the shot so that it looks and feels right to you. I tend to look at images from a film perspective, kind of like how it would look in a movie. So I always look out for interesting angles and objects that can help to increase depth of field, or draw the viewer's attention to a specific part or feature on a car.
What’s the most interesting car photoshoot you’ve ever commissioned for a client?
It is hard to pick a favourite as most cars I’ve shot are of personal interest to me. One very interesting car I have photographed was the 1969 Alpine A110 Works Rally car which was driven by Jean-Claude Andruet in the 1969 Tour de France Automobile. The A110 is a beautiful car and to get to spend time with a genuine factory rally car was pretty special. I also recently shot a Jaguar XJR-15 race car, one that’s been converted to road use. Again this is a very attractive race car and one that hasn’t received a huge amount of attention, despite the fact it is a 6.0ltr V12. Spending time with cars of this calibre is very special and photographing their key design elements helps to bring you closer to the pen strokes of the car's designer.
What is your dream three-car garage and why?
Oh this is a tough one as it changes so often. My No. 1 pick has to be the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale. That’s my all-time dream car so that will always be at the top of the list. One of my favourite cars growing up was the VW Golf GTi Mk1. So that would have to be in the garage as well. And the 3rd would be an Iso Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada. I’ve always loved the combination of Italian styling with American V8 muscle and the 5300 GT Strada ticks all of those boxes. But to be honest, if I had the means, my dream garage could easily have 10-20 cars in it.
Pictured: '1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza' by Niall Julian
How important is the editing in getting that perfect shot?
Shooting in RAW means you can really play with an image and editing the shot can either make it special, or make it look a bit rubbish and cheesy. If the lighting wasn’t quite right at the moment you pressed the shutter button, editing can help to tweak it and make it more bright, or more moody, depending on what style you are going for. And of course if you are a whiz with Photoshop or Lightroom, then there are lots and lots of ways to manipulate the image to make it really pop. At the end of the day it depends what style you are looking for. Sometimes over-editing can really ruin an image, so if you feel the shot looks great as it is, then you and the camera have taken a great shot.
Do you have any tips for aspiring automotive photographers?
Practice is key. Just get out there and shoot cars as much as you can, either at shows or events. Or just practice on your driveway with your own car or your parent(')s(') car(s). Always stand and look at a car to admire its shape and profile. That way its signature details will stand out and you can then photograph those. Follow your eye and your gut and you will do fine.
Are there any contacts in the automotive industry who really inspire you?
My taste in cars very much leans towards the 1950s/60s and early 70s, with a heavy emphasis on Italian car design. So the designers of those eras are the ones that really stand out. The likes of Ercole Spada, Nuccio Bertone, Giotto Bizzarrini, Giovanni Michelotti, Marcello Gandini, Giorgetto Giugiaro… their designs really inspire me and the cars penned by them are the ones that I love photographing the most.
Pictured: '1992 Jaguar XJ220' by Niall Julian
Which other services can you offer car enthusiasts?
Along with photography I am also a film producer, so I can provide the full package of filming, editing and production. I also have 21 years' experience in Digital Media so I am very experienced with web design and social media and the online environment in general.
Where do you see yourself in three years’ time?
Since I started my automotive photography journey, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot some fascinating cars and I’ve gotten to meet some interesting owners as well. In three years' time I expect to have raised the bar even more and be photographing some of the rarest and most collectable cars on the planet. And maybe even get to drive some of them as well. Now that would be something!