Capturing the Art of the Automobile with Andi Hedrick


Auto Digest recently sat down with Andi Hedrick, an experienced automotive photographer who has spent years in the industry doing projects for the likes of Audi, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, and Ferrari. His beautiful shots have been seen all over magazines, sales displays, and PR pieces put out in the effort to woo customers to a brand by showing them the perfect angle of their new model.

Originally I messaged Andi on Instagram asking to use his images on this site after seeing his content in one of my Car and Driver magazines, but recently realized the opportunity was there to cover what he did as a career.

His interest in photography initially came from the skateboarding and BMX world in high school where he (and these are his words), “wasn’t that great at it, so I would shoot pictures of my friends instead.” This seemed to work for him socially and creatively. Fast forward a bit to his college years where he tried out the regular academic life… studying business at a local college and crunching numbers late into the night. After some time he realized that this idea of the ideal life he was pursuing probably wasn’t for him. As he became more dissatisfied with the usual course load, Andi would spend long hours in the university darkroom developing photos taken in his coveted free time. It was there, alone in that room, just him and the photos… where the rest of the world would fade away ever so briefly.

One of Andi’s first projects was for Rolls Royce out in Jackson Hole, Wyoming back in 2018.

After enough time doing this, he figured it was probably time for a change.

“I remembered calling my parents one day and saying, ‘Hey mom I’m going to drop out of school and change my direction completely.’ They were not excited, but supportive… and that was pretty cool.”

His first proper paid photography job was for a skiing and snowboarding company. At this point, he was making $7.50 an hour doing product shots in the store. It was small but he realized he could make money doing just photography. After this, he spent some time doing fashion photography in Chicago but the startup company he worked for had lost their funding and had to close shop. Startup life!

New Beginnings

After losing his job in the fashion industry, Andi had a couple of weeks to figure things out. The next month he was visiting family back in Detroit and randomly bumped into an automotive photographer (perfect, right?) and reached out to him later on Facebook offering help in any way possible just to get back into the game. This guy must have seen potential, because he invited Andi to tag along on a project shooting 50 Audi TDI models in front of the capital building (right in front of the feds… maybe that obvious display of hubris is what started Diesel Gate).

💡

The best way to get into this industry is finding a photographer you work well with, assisting them, and then network and take on your own clients. That was my initial push. It’s a combination of luck and putting energy into it once you get lucky.

Early on he wasn’t making much money, and lived with his parents for about a year before he got his footing in the industry.

Recent project of his for Ferrari in New York. This model is the Daytona SP3. Notice the improvement in this versus the Rolls-Royce photos.

The Yin and the Yang

Andi made it a point to convey how volatile the automotive photography industry is. He said there are always a lot of false starts along the way that can be discouraging… especially if someone is newer to the game. Traditionally (in other industries) if you get a call from someone and go to an interview they are serious about the project but in the last 2 months Andi said he could count almost 10 jobs that have been “kicked down the road or cancelled.”

On the flip side, when things do work out it is quite rewarding. Andi came from a working-class family that was the same as many of ours… there were a set number of career options that were realistic and frankly photography was not really in that group.

Tracy Morgan in a racecar!

During the interview Andi said he is rarely satisfied with the nuances of his work, and he’s his own biggest critic… but some level of permanent drive for improvement is what customers admire about his work. Whatever he is doing seems to be working out quite well… I mean he took pictures of a multi-million dollar Ferrari SP3 in New York.

“If I deliver work and I’m like okay I did whatever I was supposed to do on a technical level and hand it off and the client is happy, most likely I will still be sitting there looking at it and thinking it could have been better. If you’re always stoked on your own stuff you won’t elevate yourself to the next level.”

Andi commented on the three tiers of automotive photography, with tier 1 being the least profitable while tier 3 makes the big bucks. The experience he’s gained over the years means he is finding himself in the higher tiers lately.

Andi said he often looks at pictures like this, ones he took years ago, and shakes his head knowing how much better he could make the same angles look now.

Who’s your Max Verstappen of Automotive Photography?

That’s one of the questions Andi was asked. He said most people offer unique stylistic elements. However, Marc Urbano stands out to Andi as a mentor in both his career and personal life. He helped Andi become a better photographer and even more so a better person.

“Marc has an amazing family, is an outstanding husband, and people always want to take a picture with him. He operates on the highest level possible and yet is so humble when you talk to him. We go in opposite directions stylistically, but as a photographer and as a human if I hit those marks of what he’s done I’d be very happy. Dude gets to go shoot the Isle of Mann and kind of lived in the industry in its glory days with the travel all over the world.”

Marc seems to be a sort of guiding role model to Mr. Hedrick, and Marc’s work is often seen in Car and Driver magazines also.

Bit Old Fashioned

Social media has changed the game for folks making a living taking pictures of cars. Andi said that anyone can gain an audience now and make a name for themselves. To him though, social media isn’t something he’s passionate about, so he has avoided it for the most part so far (we linked up through Instagram, but he isn’t super active and definitely doesn’t treat it as part of his “business development” or professional duties). When he does us social media, he often likes to post silly and weird shit on there. He doesn’t want to put the same work he does for OEMs on Instagram. He understands it’s a great way to share art and connect with people but thinks it’s unnatural that we’ve made it so that everyone has to be their own self-promoter 100% of the time to tell everyone how great their life is.

This image is the picture that led to this talk. Andi posted it on Instagram and I had to ask if it was AI generated. He said nope.

Andi hides the like counts on all of his posts.

He is confident that he could be an “influencer” if he prioritized it more and showed brands and prospective clients his engagement stats… but he said he’d hate himself if he went in that direction.

Golden Age of the Industry

Specifically speaking to the business side of it, there was a time when if a photographer had the same contracts that Andi had now they would be making millions of dollars a year. Since then, it seems the industry has shifted a bit and budgets have gone down as photographers can do more with technology in less time.

Oh yeah… and AI. It’s inevitable, we had to touch on it. Andi aired his grievances on AI and how he thinks it will change the industry that he loves and turn it inside out. He thinks the agency world will get hit first and he (as an individual) is a bit more insulated from the impacts of AI. It is a generational thing, and Andi thinks that people who grew up with regular (non-AI) photos will always have an appetite for authentic shots.

It’s a wild one, especially when you are working for yourself and you just hope the paychecks keep coming in. It’s a lot to adapt to in a short period of time. (commenting on the effects of AI and tech on his career)

Andi specified that the transition from film to digital was the pinnacle. 2007, 08, and o9 were a great time when film had reached its peak and people were making a lot of money thanks to fat project budgets. Andi believes that the craft was more well respected when things took longer and technology wasn’t the great equalizer. Back then, people would go to small Italian towns and say “This shot looks great but those powerlines look bad. Can we put them underground?” The locals had to of rolled their eyes, but maybe the paycheck eased their pains some.

More from the 2018 photo shoot. He was dating (his now wife) at the time long-distance. He still remembers texting her on this trip.

Having grown up in a blue-collar family, he never needed or got to go on an airplane until he was like 25 years old, but now he flies 70-80 times a year. Hopefully he is enrolled in Sky Miles! This signifies the gravity of the lifestyle shift that photography brought to this midwestern guy’s life. Good pictures go a long way.

Andi also got to brag about the cool cars he gets to drive doing this job (let’s say they are driven in a “spirited” manner). He complained that it’s kind of a struggle to go drive Audi RS7s or Porsches and then get back to the airport parking garage and get in his very reliable, but a bit less enticing, 4Runner.

Thanks for reading until the end of the article. Here’s a goofy picture of the man, the myth, Mr. Andi Hedrick.

To Andi, thank you for taking the time to talk.



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