With more than 12,000 Instagram followers, an online store and some of the best pictures we’ve seen of Porsches on the internet, Tom Wheatley is a big name right now in the world of photography. We caught up with him to hear how he got started and what it’s like photographing and retouching some of the world’s best cars.
We are big fans of your Instagram page. Tell us about how you got into photography.
I started off in car photography about 10 years ago, but I’ve been playing around in Photoshop since I was a kid. I do both photography and retouching now. After I’d learnt the photography side of it, I went back into retouching to push the photography as far as I could with some heavy retouching. I’m getting into CGI now for 2020 as my next step.
What are your tips for taking a good photograph?
There are different ways to go about it. I tend to be lazy with the camera. I need to get a good composition to start with but I’m not going to be too picky about lighting and so on. From my point of view, I can make the picture something special in post-production. I’m not expecting to take the perfect shot straight away.
I do the odd project alongside, but my work is 90% cars. My dad’s a big petrolhead so obviously I got the genes from him. I do a lot of Porsche stuff generally, but my dad’s a huge BMW fan so there’s a bit of competitiveness. Since a kid I’ve always been drawing cars. My childhood dream was to be a car designer. I’ve done some design studies with car companies and it’s interesting working with them. But I think my part of the project is pretty good fun. I’ve a trip to Belgium coming up to shoot a classic Le Mans Porsche, which I’m looking forward to.
You live in the South of France. There are some pretty great driving roads where you are. What cars do you drive?
I don’t drive anything at the moment. I mainly use a Brompton in the city and I’ve a 1967 Beetle that’s in pieces at the moment. I don’t really need a car, but when I do, I’ve a great relationship with the local BMW dealer. They’re one of my first clients and as I help them out from time to time, they sometimes give me cars. Recently I had an i3: I drove 1100km in four days in an electric car.
What’s your most memorable project?
I was asked to work on a retouching project for an unofficial design study of a Porsche 908 for a friend who’s a car designer. He’s a real Porsche guy so he designed this reinterpretation of the 908 long tail and wanted me to do the final images. So, someone was producing the CGI renders and I was doing the final retouching in Shanghai. It’s my most special project. I also worked with the Porsche 917 on the streets of Monaco. That was a pretty amazing day out.
It sounds like you’re living the dream!
I am. I’ve taken my hobby and turned it into a profession. I never thought I’d end up doing this. I started because my dad pushed me into it. I was 15/16 and he said I should go to the VolksWorld Show with his camera to see if I liked taking pictures of cars. I put them up on Facebook and a few days later a magazine contacted me asking if they could use them. That was a motivational boost.
What are your tips to make an impact on Instagram?
My tip is to keep the quality as high as you can and keep your visibility up by posting regularly. But I think it’s better to have a smaller, more genuine following with strong engagement. The numbers don’t actually mean much. You see some brands with millions of followers but only 2,000 likes per post so the engagement’s not good. Be genuine about it instead of just going for followers. I try and get my followers to interact with me as well and try not to make it too serious. Most importantly, keep it real.
What was it like meeting Ari Vatanen?
I was invited along by a local BMW dealer to a track and they gave me an M4 to drive up there in, which was fun. When we got to the track there was a small video team taking a film of Ari drifting the new M5 around a mini roundabout. It was a customer’s car and it was already sold but incredibly he lent it out for the track day. There Ari was thrashing the tyres of a new M5 with about 600kms on the clock. And then he took me out for a couple of passenger laps, laughing and joking away and drifting one handed. He’s a fantastic guy. Very easy to get along with.