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Question What's the best lighting for car photography?

Nov 14, 2019
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Obviously not cars in motion or anything. More like, stationary life size cars or model cars. Anything beyond a standard lighting set up? I feel like it shouldn't be terribly complicated but thought I'd ask anyway...
 
Nov 15, 2019
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Not really a connoisseur of automotive photography, but have previously done a few shoots. I used both strobe lighting (below) and persistent lighting in a studio.

The thing you want to try and avoid is hot spots, where the lighting bounces off the vehicle directly down the lens, causing blown highlights. So in that regard, constant lighting is better as you will be able to see and adjust the results before pressing the shutter button.

Strobe lighting can give just as good results though, it just requires a lot of trial and error. Also, you will need powerful strobes to take photos in daylight - so instead, just find somewhere indoors to take the shots. Like a carpark on a Sunday. :)

478680_10152789041745048_503134718_o.jpg
 
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sward

Administrator
Staff member
Nov 7, 2019
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Woah, is it weird that this reminds me of a video game loading screen?
 

rlawton

Staff member
Nov 13, 2019
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The challenge with cars is their size and getting the lighting even and getting the right reflections and 'sheen' off the car's surfaces, so you could try bouncing the light off a large white surface rather than illuminating the car directly. It might be easier to see the effect with continuous lighting from an LED panel, though you'd need a tripod for the longer exposures needed.
 
Nov 15, 2019
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Behind the scenes shot of a car photoshoot using Arri continuous lighting. The results you get from this are far superior to those using strobes, though I'm struggling to find the final shots from this. (Was from 2009!)

7BT8hHr1S0m0606SO9e1vQ.jpg
 
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Nov 19, 2019
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In an ideal world you'd want very large softboxes to give you even reflections across the bodywork - generally the largest one overhead to give top lighting, then two stripboxes to highlight the edges of the car. Then if there are any particular details that need bringing out (detailing on the bodywork or logos) then I'd use a spot just to bring those up a bit. The benefit of having a stationary car as a subject is it's pretty easy to just set up on a tripod and composite your final image, so all you really need is one large soft light source. You can get similar results to a softbox by bouncing through diffusion material (support a piece of diffusion material over the car then bounce a strobe into a silver reflector above it. It's essentially a modified 'book light' from cinema lighting - but needs pretty strong lights to get the final exposure you're looking for, anything over 300-400W should do the trick (or modify exposure in camera if you're comfortable).
 
Dec 12, 2019
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Some interesting replies and all valid.

My personal opinion is never overlook natural light!

All my best car images usually done for friends or acquaintances are taken in the wilds of nature. Luckily I live only a mile from the UK National Park of Dartmoor and some great car shots can be made which natural backdrops. Alternatively I have seen some good images of cars taken in cobbled streets after dark on wet evenings lit with streetlights (remember to white balance). The wet streets and cobbles catch all the lights and provide amazing reflections. If you have the ability to trigger a flash remotely you might place a flash out of sight in the car and perhaps try a few coloured filters on it to produce something spectacular? Consider industrial backgrounds also like docks etc?

The car having a good wax job but with rain beading on it can also look great!
 

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