One important skill for a commercial photographer is being able to come up with the goods in less than favourable conditions. I’ve had a Golf Cabrio lent to me by Volkswagen to shoot over the last week and had dismal weather so some cloud watching, careful planning and plenty of Photoshop were required! High winds and very damp conditions also meant that minimal lighting could be used. In the 2 days with the least rain I shot this among others:
Here is the before and after Photoshop:
Although to say ‘before and after’ isn’t strictly true here. The final image is actually a combination of three exposures shot from one position from a sturdy locked down tripod. The above left photo is the middle exposure. This allowed me to make the most of the available, rather dull light and brighten highlights while keeping the contrast and not blowing out the sky.
The combination of images was not done with automated HDR methods as I find this doesn’t give me enough control of the processing. Instead the three exposures were layered on top of each other and masked carefully to produce the desired effect. The resulting image was then tidied up and the colour was painted in. Quite a lengthy process but the result works pretty well considering what I had to work with.
The Photoshop work was done on my trusty Mac Mini with 16GB of ram which copes admirably with the massive medium format files. The files themselves had plenty of depth to them but it was the combining of the exposures that really made the difference. Despite the light being poor I was able to shoot at a low ISO (thanks to the tripod) and the final image is rich in contrast and pin sharp, suitable for very large prints including billboards.
I’ve had a Volvo C70 to photograph for the last week and have been trying to shoot it on location. Plans had to be changed several times because of the wet weather. Even when it wasn’t raining, the wet, muddy roads and cow manure on location made it impossible to keep the car clean. The car was thoroughly cleaned three times in two days but I finally got the location images that we originally aimed for as well as some studio shots. Getting the car perfectly clean even in challenging conditions is always important as dirt becomes so much more obvious when you study a still image. The end result is also much better if you do the cleaning beforehand rather in post production in Photoshop. Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty; car photography isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds!
I liked the Volvo C70 it’s an elegant, understated car and the interior is a very pleasant place to be. With automatic everything and very comfortable heated seats you can sit in traffic all day without getting tired.
I shot all of these with the Hasselblad so the image quality is fantastic and the final images are versatile enough to use as big showroom prints, adverts or bill-boards.
It may not have the glamour of a supercar but the humble Fiat 500 has a level of coolness that is envied in the car industry. Its good looks are appreciated by all making it as at home in Monaco as it is in a supermarket car park. It has great build quality and modern equipment wrapped up in the iconic styling of the 60s car of the same name.
I got this one for a week of wet, gloomy weather so plans where changed with some of the city street shots I had been aiming for were swapped for studio lighting. It’s a nice little car; easy to drive, well put together and a character that my wife fell in love with. She’s got her eye on one for the future. I wouldn’t argue. The convertible roof on this one didn’t get much use but is a nice option but I’d avoid the red roof fabric as I’d always be worried about it getting marked by an oily hand or an incontinent pigeon.
Being small and curvy it looks good in photos and the detail shots came out well. I used the Hasselblad which helped control the ambient light with the leaf shutter while picking out amazing detail.
My latest car photography project was shooting the Mazda MX-5 Roadster on location for Convertible Car Magazine. I’ve had the chance to spend a few days with the MX-5 now and it’s a lovely little car. Great fun to drive and rather handsome for a Japanese sports car. The Mazda can easily be overlooked as sports car due to its relatively small and low powered engine but on a windy country road there are few cars more enjoyable to drive. In the real world you can have more fun with this little car than you can in the kind of super-car that will have you breaking speed limits before you’ve even had chance to smile.
I first shot it in the midday sun – normally a photography no-no but with limited time and the forecast of rain for several days I had to take what I could get. Worse still the car was a very dark metallic purple colour which looked black at first glance – attractive but a tricky colour to bring out without a studio. Shooting on hill tops and in the depth of the countryside with fill flash and reflectors to brighten up the shady areas, I was quite pleased with the results. Later in the week I took the opportunity to take some detailed shots in more controlled conditions under evening light and studio strobes.