Based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas, Jack Santage stands as a testament to the power of passion and serendipity in shaping a career. His story is one of a spontaneous journey from a car enthusiast to a sought-after automotive photographer. Jack's interest in cars was not just a passing fancy but a part of his upbringing, influenced by family and early experiences. This foundation laid the groundwork for what was initially a casual hobby of capturing cars on his phone. Unbeknownst to him, this casual interest would evolve into a professional pursuit, fueled by connections within the automotive community and a growing Instagram following.
In 2021, Jack's path began with the purchase of his first camera, signaling a phase in his life as an automotive photographer. This journey, fueled by a lifelong love for cars, transformed him from a casual hobbyist to a skilled professional, adept at capturing the elegance and allure of cars. Today, he finds himself photographing some of the world's most unique and exceptional cars, turning his passion into a captivating visual journey.
For our interview, we'll take a closer look at Jack's creative process. What goes into capturing the perfect shot of a car that's as much a work of art as it is a machine? How does he approach a new project, and what challenges does he face in this highly specialized field? Jack will share his tips and tricks, offering valuable insights for anyone looking to break into automotive photography.
To check out more of Jack Santage's work, please check out his Instagram here.
I’ve always had a passion for cars throughout my entire life. I grew up around cars with my dad and he always showed me things on his 1967 Chevelle SS that he’s had since he was 17. He sparked my interest in cars, and then we would go to car shows together. I went from as young as the age of 9, but took a small break for a few years because of sports.
I picked it back up in 2020 going to car meets and took photos on my phone for fun. Never anything serious, never even had the idea of becoming a photographer. I started to meet a few people and started a car Instagram for fun to post my photos of cars I saw for my friends to see. Surely enough as more time went on and I got to meeting more people, I picked up my first camera in March of 2021, and started shooting from there. I don’t look back or regret a single thing ever since I started.
To make an automotive stand out to me there has to be a lot of different aspects and creative elements that go into the photo. I’m huge on creativity and enjoying when others try new things to stand out or be different. I really enjoy light painting photos because I know how hard it is to create and perfect that craft. To make a single photo stand out to me, I like to see nice composition used with a nice environment.
One of the biggest things I like to see in photos is when a photographer can outline details of a car and really capture body lines and small details of a car. That’s what stands out to me the most. In ways of what looks best for automotive photography, I prefer to shoot at sunrise/sunset or at night in a well lit area. I’ve never been one to shoot in broad daylight but it’s growing on me as I learn how to work around lighting. I think that diffused light or gas station lighting really can make some of the best photos for automotive photography.
A few of my specific favorite angles are when a car has its front wheel turned at an angle, I like to angle my camera with the wheel and use foreground of the front bumper to create a nice depth of field. If I had to describe my photography style as of where it stands right now, it’s actually not as easy as I think it is! I would say it’s between a lot of night stuff and vibrant photos. I like to incorporate lots of colors within my photos, night or daytime. I used to have a very desaturated look to my photos but not as much anymore. I’ve found fun in using colors, using tone curves and color curves, and playing around with new color grading.
One of the most challenging shoots I’ve done recently was of a 992 GT3 MR. The car is painted in a very pretty Viola purple, but in the right lighting it can look black at times. When we shot the car, it was around sunset but the light just wasn’t hitting the paint as I thought it would. I shot as I normally did and took them home to my laptop. It took edits upon edits to try and get the color right. I probably spent an hour alone on one photo to try and get the purple to pop out and shine like how it does in person.
Eventually, I was able to get my colors down and get the right look I was going for. I was very happy with how the photos came out. I told myself after I got frustrated time and time again trying to get the photos right “it will be okay”. I’ve learned that if I can’t edit perfectly the first time, I’ll come back to it after a small break. The shoot wasn’t hard to coordinate at all or wasn’t hard to shoot at all, it was all in the editing.
If I had to live without one piece of gear, it would be my tripod. Surprisingly enough I’ve grown to use my tripod less and less because I’m able to stabilize my hands better at night and when shooting in low light. I don’t use much of it because I don’t light paint as much as I’d like to, so I feel like that’s the one piece of gear I could go without. In terms of gear I CAN'T live without, it would be my new 24-70 lens. It’s so versatile and such a sharp lens.
To keep my work innovative and keep a unique edge and style to my work, I always try to improve. I like the photos I produce, but I always want better for myself. I want more and I want to reach a certain level of perfection to my photos. That’s what keeps me going and what keeps my work innovative. Trying new things and thinking of ideas people don’t think of normally!
I couldn’t agree more when saying automotive photography is a field with lots of intense competition. I think one way I try to stay fresh and stay “trending” to my followers is trying new things and trying to bring new aspects to my work. I think one major think to keep my work fresh is trying new color schemes and combinations, shooting new cars, shooting all types of cars, and bringing variety to my page. Not strictly shooting exotics, muscle cars, Euro, JDM, etc. etc. I try to mix all of them together on my feed to give something for everyone to enjoy and look at.
There is a very big competitive element within photography in the automotive industry, but I feel like it’s all about who you surround yourself with. To me, I do this because it is what I love and it is a true passion of mine. I love working with amazing cars and amazing people. I’m all about getting to meet new people, sharing opportunities and trying to help others get started or get on their feet with it because I was in their same position not even 2 years ago, and I know I would’ve wanted people to help me or even give me a small nudge in the right direction
If I had to give advice to 15 year old Jack who started this account in November of 2020, I would tell him to keep doing what he was doing and to not be afraid to talk to people. I would encourage him to go and talk to as many people as possible because it doesn’t hurt to have connections. Most of my shoots now are because of connections or people I’ve talked to within the community. Connections are key and it is what has lead me to be where I’m at today.
One of my favorite photos I’ve taken is of a blue Carrera GT Oceanside in Monterey, California. It was a shoot me and my friend lined up during car week, and I had the perfect shot lined up. Blue Carrera GT next to the ocean perfectly parallel with each other. The bright sun made for some nice lighting and it was one of my personal favorites I’ve ever taken. This photo is so special because it was one of my first major shoots at my first car week, and I couldn’t have been happier with how it came out and how much people supported the set I posted.
A dream shoot with 3 cars of any kind would be as follows:
3 of my favorite all time cars, all being very unique in their own respective ways have always stood out to me. The Agera RS has been a dream car of mine since I was a kid, Need for Speed the movie was a huge hit for me and was one of the best car movies I’ve personally seen. I saw my first one this past August at car week and I flipped out like a little kid on Christmas. The LaFerrari being my favorite holy trinity car is also one of my favorite all around cars ever made. A screaming V12 with body lines like none other, what more could someone want? The CLK GTR has just always been so unique to me. You see it and go “that’s a Mercedes??” I’ve yet to see me in person but I know the day I will I won’t miss a chance to take some photos. Camera or on my phone!
We're grateful to Jack Santage for taking the time to discuss his journey and perspectives in automotive photography with us. Jack's path, marked by enthusiasm and expertise, is not only inspiring but also rich with knowledge. His talent in capturing the allure and dynamism of cars through his lens is remarkable. We value the insights he has shared about his craft and are excited to see his future projects as he continues to make significant contributions to the world of automotive photography.
Check out more of Jack's work and download the TCN app today and immerse yourself in a world where automotive beauty meets high-end technology. Stay tuned for our regular updates, and let's drive into the future of automotive enthusiasm together!