With curved and straight reflective painted surfaces vehicles are difficult to photograph – especially darker colours and metallic finishes. Thrown into the mix are chrome, glass, leather, carbon fibre and different textured plastics: Everything interacting with light in different ways and all influenced by the locational environment
SUPER SIZE Product Photography
As Tim Salix specialises in product photography his years of experience is applicable to automobiles
If a photographer is doing a photo shoot indoors they will be having to utilise the ambient lighting that is present, which will be an irregular mix of different types of on-site electrical lighting and natural light. They can get variable results in the photos, in particular, colour variations and reflections will show up on paintwork.
However, bringing in their own studio gear the problems of photographing large reflective objects has issues. Generally, the majority of photographers do not have enough power. Even a 1200 watt studio light can be too weak to adequately give consistent coverage to the side of car. So in order to try to get the coverage, the equipment needs to be moved closer to vehicles where it reflects onto the bodywork, which of course shows up in the images. On highly reflective surfaces conventional enclosed softboxes create ugly white hot-spots on the paintwork and glass.
With outdoor photography (putting aside the inconvenience of rain and in Auckland the frequency of) public enemy number one is sunlight causing reflections and high-contrast images. Closely followed by the surroundings and clouds reflecting back onto automobiles and appearing in the photos.
Large Scale Studio Lighting Equipment
The difference Tim Salix makes is to have specialist studio equipment capable of photographing sizeable reflective surface areas in large open spaces. On a vehicle shoot in a photographic studio and depending on a client’s specific requirements he can install anywhere from 10 to 15 studio lights. With other indoor locations and when specified by quote the side of each vehicle will have two Swiss-made Elinchrom studio lights, rated at 2,400 watts, attached to silver-lined 2-metre wide open reflectors firing backwards. Or 4,800 watts are available when running through optional double power packs. And the front (mounted up high) and then the rear of each vehicle will have another 2-metre wide reflector to further assist in achieving consistent lighting. Four of the aforementioned reflectors can be installed to photograph the sides of truck/trailer units or even large buses.
Depending on the indoor location and when specified, behind each vehicle two floor-mounted low-profile softboxes can be used to project light against the background walls. This arrangement helps to separate the vehicle from the background and whenever looking through glass, the viewpoint in the photo is brighter and not underexposed. The interior will have an additional lighting to exposure which otherwise could look gloomy.
For non-studio interior photo shoots, a sizeable open space (so the lighting equipment is well away from paintwork) with a corner area that has two blank walls (to avoid background distractions) is the preferred location. Good natural light is required, but the vehicles should be away from direct sources of overhead light such as from windows, skylights and if possible existing on-site electrical lighting. The studio equipment is best suited for indoor or sheltered outdoor locations and several vehicles need to be provided as the setup/pack-down time does not warrant a single automobile. Otherwise, one only motor vehicle photography assignments will utilise outdoor natural lighting for the exterior and with a flash for the interior.
Unless different by quote images are supplied as photographed in-camera with no post-production retouching.
Qughttps://vimeo.com/366355472es at Economical