In The Passenger Seat: Adrianvanq, The Man Behind the Lens

Published by on . Updated on 2 Feb 2021

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq(Photo Credit: @adrianvanq)

If you’re a car enthusiast, you’ve probably seen Adrianvanq’s photos before. In this episode of In the Passenger Seat, we speak to Adrian, who happens to be one of the top car photographers in Singapore.

Adrian is probably the envy of car enthusiasts in Singapore.

Why? That’s because he has the opportunity to capture supercar convoys on a regular basis. He also gets to work with luxury car brands like Bugatti, Ferrari, and Mclaren.

He’s got one of the best jobs a car enthusiast could ever dream of, and he’s soaked up every minute of it as a professional car photographer.

We at Motorist are honoured to feature him on this episode of In the Passenger Seat to hear more about his life behind the lens.

First of all, what’s your name, age, and what do you do?

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 2(Photo Credit: @adrianvanq)

Hey guys! My name is Adrian, often known as Vanq, and I’m 33 this year. My main occupation is an automotive photographer at ZotiqVisuals. I recently opened Palladium Detailing, a car wash/detailing studio at Carros Centre, with a couple of friends. It also doubles as my photography studio.

What was your earliest memory of cars and car photography for you?

I started collecting 1:64 Hot Wheels and Matchbox diecast models when I was very young. Over the years the collection grew, not only in quantity but also in size from 1:64 to 1:18. This played a big part in growing my passion for cars over the years.

Photography only came into my life after I graduated from Poly. Back then, I was quite active in SGForums and there were threads about cars, diecast collections, and the spotting of rare cars on the road.

We only had Nokia and Sony Ericsson camera phones, so taking a photo and uploading it to share online was quite tedious.

I started posting some of my findings on the thread, and along the way, some of the guys suggested that I get a proper DSLR camera and start taking photos of cars. And that’s what I did!

Why did you choose to pursue being an automotive photographer?

Over the years, I established my contacts and met many car owners, most of whom I am still in contact with today. They allowed me to work on many projects, which allowed me to expand my portfolio.

At the same time, my passion for photography grew as well. Since I was self-taught, I decided to take up a degree course in NTU’s Art Design Media school, Majoring in Photography.

I had both passions combined into one, and I couldn’t think of a better job. And like they always say, “do what you’ll love, and you’ll never work another day in your life”.

You’ve worked for many brands throughout your career and shot so many cars. Which was your favourite car to shoot?

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 3 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

That is a tough one. There isn’t a favourite one, because there were really so many nice cars out there. But if you need an answer, I would say the really rare ones definitely get my vote.

What’s the difference in shooting for an Authorised Dealer (AD) compared to a Direct Owner or Car Group?

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 4 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

Photographing an AD requires me to collaborate with the client and the agency, develop creative ideas and plan the schedule in detail.

There is a great deal of planning involved at the pre-production stage and a timeline to work with. Not to mention the weather, which can be quite difficult to predict.

For ADs, tow trucks are booked if location permits are approved. If it rains suddenly, it is always a tough call whether to wait it out or postpone the shoot, which could incur more production costs on the side of the customer.

Things are definitely more serious and, of course, when doing a shoot for an AD, a lot more stress is involved.

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 5 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

When it comes to direct owners, things are more flexible. There is a lot more free play and you have full creative control on how you want the photograph to turn out.

It is also a chance for you to try out different ideas you probably can’t do for an AD shoot.

For the weather, the same goes. If it decides to rain, we can shoot in the rain and get some moody rain shots done. Or we can delay it for another day.

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 6 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

There is plenty of coordination involved in car groups. Set the time and date and everyone clears their schedule for the shoot. If the weather is bad, it may not be the best idea to delay.

You will also have complete creative control over the picture, layout, location, and timing of the car group. I recently shot a big group for Scuderia FSG, a multi-brand supercar club. We had 37 cars in the lineup and a few planes shot in the WingsOverAsia hangar area.

Together with the club’s exco, we planned this out safely with safe distance measures in place. It's not easy to gather 37 cars for one photo, so it was rain or a shine shoot.

First, I came up with three different layouts for the club to choose from. Arrangement of the cars in position took 2 hours and another 2 hours to light up the cars and take a photo. I’ve never done so much work on a single photo before, and I’m really proud of that.

We see that you have done many overseas shoots as well. Where did you have the best time doing a shoot? Any memorable stories?

Before COVID-19, I was doing quite a bit of shooting around the Asian region. There were quite a few memorable ones that I can remember: Porsche Macan in Melbourne, Rolls-Royce Dawn in Seoul, Mitsubishi in Japan, Porsche 919 Hybrid in Bangkok and many in Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit.

As interesting as the rest of the countries sound, I think my best experience of all would be in the Sepang International Circuit of Malaysia. I’ve done many gigs in Sepang over the years, and every shoot is always one to look forward to, because photographing on a race track doesn’t have any rules.

You can do whatever you want, but you still have to think about safety first.

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 7 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

One of the most memorable shoots was a Porsche 918 Spyder on a rainy night. There is no doubt that the photos turned out to be great under the night lights and wet floors, along with the flames from the exhaust and the glowing brake discs.

But nothing beats having multiple taxi rides in the legendary Porsche Hypercar. That wasn’t something I expected to experience when I touched down in KL.

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 8 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

In another assignment, I flew up to Sepang to take photos of the new Ferrari F8 Tribute, in three different colours. The shots turned out to be fantastic with the great lighting from the rising sun.

I only had 30 minutes to get a variety of shots done before the customer experience program started. Believe it or not, my camera car was a pickup truck with an average of about 40-50 km/h. But it's got the job done.

Before I left the track to catch my flight back to Singapore, my client asked me to take a couple of laps behind the blue F8 Tributo wheel. That’s something I wouldn’t mind missing my flight for.

Every job has its advantages, but that’s definitely not what I was expecting.

What’s your camera set-up at the moment? Does it change depending on the shoot?

I am using a Nikon D5 and D800 with 16-35mm f4, 24-70mm f2.8, 70-200mm f2.8 and a Sigma 35mm f1.4. It is a pretty versatile setup, so I don’t really have to change.

What’s your creative process when it comes to shooting cars? How did you develop it?

That’s a good question. First, I’d like to try to understand more about the car and its features. Spend a little time looking at previous images of it and analyzing how it was taken.

Study the car’s curves and design, walk around it, and try to spot the car's nicer angles when you see the actual car in person.

The location where you shoot the car also plays a role in telling the tale. So all this has to work together for the image to function and convey the message to the viewers.

What’s your advice for people that are starting with car photography? Should they be investing a lot of money on cameras and equipment?

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 9 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

A camera is just a tool in creating the image. If you have a strong concept, composition and a keen eye in photography, a phone camera can capture a good image.

Phone cameras are easily accessible now and the quality is pretty good. There are also plenty of mobile photography editing apps for editing photos available.

Once you have ironed out the fundamental principles of photography, invest in a decent camera to enhance your image quality.

You’ve probably travelled around the entire island. Where are your top shooting locations to take superb pictures of cars?

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 10 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

Singapore is a pretty small place and locations are tough to come by. We would often reuse locations now and then because it would be almost impossible to find new ones.

When I see a new location, I will add it to my existing library to use it in the future.

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 11 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

Many times, I would get questions asking like where is this location etc. So over the years, I learnt a lesson to keep these locations a secret and let the viewers figure it out.

I revealed one location a couple of times and it became so popular that the property’s authorities had to stop any form of shootings or meetings in that area, making it even harder for us to carry out any future shoots in those premises.

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 12 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

To answer your question, I can only say try to figure out what others have done. Alternatively, you can create your own list of locations that catches your attention.

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 13 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

Let me drop a couple of hints with the following photos above! (Do write the locations in the comments below!)

What car are you driving now, and what’s the story behind it?

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 14 (Photo Credit: zotiqvisuals)

I am currently driving a Volkswagen Scirocco 1.4 TSI which I have had for about 1 and a half years. Over the years, I have been asked “what would be my first car”, and I could never answer that question because I don’t know it myself.

Until one day, I thought that it was time to get a car of my own, so I searched for a car within my budget.

I remember driving the Scirocco 2.0 and R back in 2009/2010, and they left quite an impression on me.

Fast forward 10 years later, I decided to get one. I would say it is a pretty fun car with decent performance. It also has plenty of parts available to customise.

What is your dream car and why?

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 15 (Photo Credit: MotorTrend)

My dream car would be an Audi RS6 Avant. I have a thing for wagons, and the RS6 is the perfect family car with a supercar performance.

Your car doesn’t look stock, what mods have you done to it? Could you list it out?

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 16 (Photo Credit: @adrianvanq)

Car: Volkswagen Scirocco 1.4 TSI
Engine: Stage 2 Tuned Engine, Racing Line Intake, R8 Ignition Coil, S3 Intercooler, Wossner Forged Pistons
Suspension: BCV1 Coilover
Exhaust: FOX Quad Exhaust system
Braking: Brembo 4 Pot Brake Kit
External: Roof Bar, Roof Box

Why did you choose to add a roof box at the top of your car?

Motorist In The Passenger Seat Andrianvanq 17 (Photo Credit: @adrianvanq)

I like how roof boxes add on to the character of the car. While deciding on the Scirocco, I looked up online if putting the roof box on a Scirocco was possible.

It seems like there were a few who did it overseas, but in Singapore, I am probably the only one. I recalled getting the Roof Bar was quite an adventure.

Volkswagen Singapore doesn’t carry it in stock anymore. I only wanted to use original VW accessories to be safe, so I found one brand new for sale in the Netherlands.

Instead of paying over $200 to ship it over, I went to pick it up myself during one of my annual Europe road trips and hand-carried it back to Singapore. It showed how much I really want it!

For the box itself, I got it from Malaysia, which was widely available. Instead of just aesthetics, I actually use the box to ferry longer items like equipment, light stands, fishing rod, and other items that tend to smell (fishes, prawn, durian etc.).

What are your thoughts on Singapore’s car scene, and how would you like to see it improve moving forward?

Being in the industry for almost 13 years, I have noticed quite a change in the culture. A big contributing factor is the authorities clamping down on illegal modifications, conducting more patrols and more eyes on the road with almost everyone having a car camera installed. These factors could have caused the car scene to change quite a bit.

Improving it may not be possible. We have to adapt to changes, and over time we will eventually come to terms with it.

*This interview has been edited and condensed.

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