Monday, December 1, 2008

Chillin in the white room

Every now and then I get to shoot in the studio, it's a nice change from location shooting, but a frustrating and often long day. When done properly, studio lighting can show the true beauty of a vehicle, it's shape and form without the distractions of a background.

Techniques used are a lot the same as a location shoot, but often the logistics are much more complex, the car needs to be in top condition, as a studio will show every flaw of a vehicle. But things like PC for tethering, food, water, assistants and lighting all need to be organised along with the vehicle itself.

To start the day, the lighting and flagging needs to be setup, this can take the best part of an hour to do depending on the complexity required to get the desired effect. Flagging
is dark fabric used to create a reflected line on the body of the car, the idea is to accentuate the lines of the vehicle to show it's character. Flagging can be placed on the floor or on stands depending on the angle the car is to be shot. The flagging is then modified to suit each angle shot.

Lighting, like flagging is done on a "per angle" basis, depending on the lighting source used this can be a rather simple or more complex task. There are two main types used, Flash and continuous light sources. Flash is faster, more effecient and my preffered way to work, shutter times with 3 x 500Ws heads is around 1/60th @ f8 at ISO100, this allows for handheld shots with a nice solid aperture to maintain clarity. The downside to flash is it is not a "what you see is what you get" situation where the flash output needs to be set via trial and error or light meter. This is where continous has the advantage. Continous, allows for the photographer to take a very controlled and precise look at their lighting in real time, you can see the way the light hit's the vehicle with your own eyes. I really like the control you can have with continous light sources but there are signifigant downsides. First is the shutter speed required, anything up to 10-20 seconds at f8-10 so a Tripod is nessasary. Secondly the heat expelled from a continous light source can become extremely overwhelming especially in a small enclosed studio.
The light is usually bounced, and not fired directly into the car. The studio is a curved white room so light can easily be reflected onto the car, softening it's intensity but maintaining it's spread. The use of Softboxes is often used but can create large hotspots on the vehicle. Large octoboxes are also commonly used. Here you can see the flagging, along with the large sheet used for a softbox above the roof, this is controlled by a motor connected to the roof so it can be adjusted for height.

The vehicles are positioned by using small trolleys called "go-jacks" they allow for the car to be placed in the required shot without marking the delicate white floor. However at the end of the day the floor is repainted ready for the next day of shooting.

When all done correctly, post processing is virtually non-existant. Small increases in saturation and contrast is about all that is required. Blemishes on the vehicle are also cloned and re-touched. In the end the final results are worth the long days work.


woz said...

First comment from me Chris. I felt compelled to after your latest blog (first saw your stuff on OCAU where I am called Wozzajeep). Excellent insight into the studio set up. Had no idea about flagging!, but you can see how it works.

Loved your Golf R32 shoot as well (bit of a fan of the car). Thanks for your open and honest approach in explaning your techniques and those you've learnt. I'm inspired enought to be bidding on various strobes as we speak!


Kieran Bowler said...

Hi Chris, just stumbled onto your blog. I love reading the nitty gritty and how-to's you've gone into detail with here. Awesome shots! *envy*