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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

[Part 6] Taking Stunning Car Photos, Magazine-style

By using an external flash, you can also take stunning car photos just like those that appear in magazines. Let me teach you some camera flash techniques that you can use to shoot cars here in this article. (Reported by: Takayuki Kikuchi)

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[1] Flash techniques that bring out the colour of the interior

When shooting a car’s interior, shots are often taken in the shade. This is done to weaken contrast and allow the light to completely illuminate the interior. Bright interior colours like those in [Interior Photo 1] below are suitable for warm photographs when illuminated with a soft light using ceiling bounce.

[Interior Photo 1]

EOS-1Ds Mark III/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 32mm/ Manual Exposure(f/8, 1/60 sec)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight

How to shoot

Use a clip-on flash as a slave unit. From outside the window of the passenger seat, aim the flash at the interior ceiling so as to use ceiling bounce to illuminate the interior.

A: Camera

B: Flash

C: Ceiling bounce

Interiors in bright colours will be entirely illuminated when ceiling bounce is used. As colour cast can easily occur, do take a few shots to find the best setting.

On the other hand, for rich interior colours like those in [Interior Photo 2] (taken at night), a cool lighting that enhances contrast through direct illumination is perfect. You may want to emphasise the steering wheel, centre console as well as the lettering on the glove compartment.

[Interior Photo 2]

EOS-1Ds Mark III/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 24mm/ Manual Exposure(f/11, 6 sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

How to shoot

Use a clip-on flash as a slave unit for this as well. The light source consists of light from the flash mixed with light from a street lamp at night (the colour temperature is adjusted to match that of the light of the street lamp). As only the illuminated areas are highlighted, contrast is stronger. However, this is good because the mood created matches the richly-coloured interior.

A: Camera

B: Flash

C: Street lamp

Ceiling bounce often does not work for dark interiors. Therefore, from the passenger seat side, point the flash directly onto the area you want to emphasise.

[2] Flash technique to emphasise the design of the wheels

The wheels of a car are also a part of the exterior design and make for a captivating subject. Here, I used a single clip-on flash as a slave unit so as to better bring out the wheel's design. By detaching the clip-on flash from the camera to create a semi-backlight, you can create an image that draws attention to the wheel's complex contours, the exquisite emblem, and the metallic finish of the rim.

EOS-1Ds Mark III/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 85mm/ Manual Exposure(f/8, 1/250 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight

How to shoot

Use a clip-on flash as a slave unit. The flash is placed in a location that creates a semi-backlight relative to the camera. For this shot, I placed the flash directly on the road surface and took the shot by hand. I shot in the shade as I wanted to avoid mixing the light from the flash with the daylight as much as possible. A fully illuminated flash was used here in Manual mode.

A: Camera

B: Flash

I placed the clip-on flash set up as a slave unit in a semi-backlight position relative to the camera. The shot was taken in the shade so that unwanted light would not be captured in the shot.

[3] A flash technique to emphasise the exterior silhouette

As I was drawn by the powerful-looking lines of the fenders, I aimed my camera at the front of the car using impressive lighting. I shot with compact lighting equipment because the location was narrow. Using a single clip-on flash, I took several shots with different lighting angles and later created a composite picture from these shots using Photoshop.

EOS-1Ds Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 105mm/ Manual Exposure(f/11, 1/6 sec)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight

How to shoot

In order to present an impressive image of car body, take several shots using a single clip-on flash as a slave unit. The key point lies in securing the camera to a tripod and ensuring that all the shots are taken from the same position and the same angle of view. Additionally, light up individually the areas of the car you want to brighten up. Create a composite picture by editing the shots in Photoshop.

In these 2 shots, the left and right sides of the car were lit up respectively. Subsequently, the 2 shots were superimposed using Photoshop and the unwanted areas (dark areas) removed with the eraser tool.

Takayuki Kikuchi

Born 1971 in Tochigi Prefecture. He moved to Australia from 1996 – 1999, where he worked in a photo studio in Sydney. After returning to Japan, he became a freelance photographer. Currently, he shoots mainly cars for magazines, advertisements and Web media.

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.

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