There are countless ways that I can choose to present a vehicle; do I want a romantic, moody scene with the car driving at the sunset with the roof down? Do I want the same car to lurk from the shadows with minimal lighting? Or perhaps a wild shot of the car quickly drifting on track? When I begin the canvas is blank, and I have the tools, my Sony Alpha A7 III and the imagination to paint the right picture.
The important thing is to always try to tell a story, to provoke reactions and to trigger emotions. I want people to smile, to get excited and to feel the mood of the photo.
Planning a shoot
On the whole, my clients want clean, polished images of their products, but it really depends on the client and the project we are working on. Regardless of the car and the project, setting the scene and choosing a background location is often key to the whole image. The background puts the car in a situation and in an act, so choosing the right one is vital for the end product and for the feel you want your image to have.
I do a lot of location scouting. I travel a lot and I sometimes stop at random locations , take a photo, add them to a Google Maps list and drive off. I also reuse a lot of my locations – choosing different angles, lighting and framing can transform a location to a point where it no longer looks like the same spot.
Getting the shot
I keep my camera kit fairly simple. I use the Alpha 7 III and pair it with the FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS, FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS, 55mm f/1.8 ZA and a Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. This may not seem the most obvious kit for a professional, after all I have chosen the f/4 versions of the zoom lenses, rather than the f/2.8 G Master versions. But to get the sharpest images and the depth of field needed, I usually shoot at f/8 or f/11, so I don’t require the larger apertures that other photographers would require, and when I do, that’s where the FE 85mm f/1.8 comes into play.
There are many different features on the Alpha 7 III that enable me to capture incredible car images. First of all there is the dynamic range of the 24.2 megapixel sensor, which allows me to have a lot of room to play with the exposure in post-production.
The more I shoot, the fewer rules I follow. When I started photographing cars, I was repeatedly told that I should not shoot cars with a wide-angle lens, or that I should not crop a car like that, or that the lighting that I have used was not sufficient. I then came to the realisation that although these were good pieces of advice, they are not universal truths that should be followed blindly. There are certain situations where all these scenarios work perfectly well, you just need to learn how and when to use them.
The type of car and the way I want to present it are the main considerations when choosing the right lighting for an image. I sometimes shoot with available light only, but for most of my images I have used strobes or other artificial light sources. Different types of modifiers are also used – strip boxes, soft boxes, bare strobes, reflectors or a combination of all.
One image where I really love the lighting is a detailed shot of the so-called “Spirit of Ecstasy” bonnet ornament. This image was shot in a poorly lit garage with only 15 minutes available as we were shooting a lot of cars that day. I used a single strobe light that fired into a large 2x1m reflector. That is how I was able to achieve the soft light effect on that very shiny and reflective surface.
When you are starting out taking automatic photos, my advice would always be ’keep shooting and keep experimenting, the best is yet to come’. Take your camera, go out and start creating. You have a very powerful tool in your hands, so the only limit is your imagination.