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Old May 31st, 2007, 05:56 PM   #1
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Hard light or soft light on a Porche?

Hi guys,

I'm shooting a Porsche in a showroom next week, in a mix of daylight and whatever I provide. The thing is, it's not a large showrom and it's not a job as such - the Porsche dealership have kindly agreed to let me grab some shots of a car with my XLH1 for my showreel. So I only want to take one fixture in (two at most) in if I can get away with it. I don't plan to shoot the whole car, just some passing shots of details using a skater dolly.

I have access to Kino Flos, Omnis, a Dedolight and some Fresnels. So there are hard or soft options in there.

Now I'm used to lighting arty scenes of people, usually in dark interiors... and interview shots in office interiors - but always people. I've never shot anything like a glistening car in a showroom before.

So, for those who've done this kind of thing before, should I go with the flouros, some bounced light, a broad hard light, or some focussed hard light?

Any suggestions much appreciated :-)

Last edited by Josh Dahlberg; June 1st, 2007 at 04:21 AM.
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Old May 31st, 2007, 06:40 PM   #2
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The problem with shooting cars is they basically are very reflective and you need very large sources compared to the car to create any kind of shape in the body of the car. If you are only bringing one light it doesn't really matter what kind it is since you not going to be able to add enough highlights to the car from the single source to make much difference. You might want to just bring a hard light to create some sparkles on a small part of the car. Or try bringing as big a light as you have and light up the wall which reflects on the side of the car you see from the camera. Good Luck
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Old May 31st, 2007, 07:47 PM   #3
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Your biggest concern would be matching your lights color temp to the daylight coming in through the big glass windows.
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Old May 31st, 2007, 08:47 PM   #4
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Josh,

If this is for your own showreel, I would not worry about the wider shots. I might try getting close and tight shots using wider angle lenses while using the skater dolly. This will give you some quality material and at the same time, reduce your lighting problems to more manageable ones.

Cheers

WeeHan
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Old June 1st, 2007, 12:14 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Epstein View Post
try bringing as big a light as you have and light up the wall which reflects on the side of the car you see from the camera.
This is exactly correct. When lighting reflective objects like a car, you really want to cast light upon something that will reflect on the surface of the vehicle because you're not going to have light sources large enough. Pointing a single light at the car will not give you the kind of shot you're probably hoping for.

Do a Google image search for cars and find pictures you think look fantastic and professional, then analyze the lighting by looking at the reflections on the paint, windows etc. You'll likely see that there are HUGE sources of soft light being reflected all along the vehicle. These soft sources that are so large that they stretch from the front of the car to the back of the car and maybe even wrap around the corners.

Professional car photography is much harder than people anticipate if they've never done it before and frequently requires facilities and equipment that most people don't have.
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Old June 1st, 2007, 04:20 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by David Garvin View Post
Professional car photography is much harder than people anticipate if they've never done it before and frequently requires facilities and equipment that most people don't have.
Hmm... thanks for all the input guys. At least I know in advance it's going to be difficult. As a couple of you have suggested, I may just go for some very tight shots of small sections of the car. I'm only looking for 5 good seconds to go on the showreel, and at least I'm not dealing with a paying client.

Appreciate your thoughts
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Old June 1st, 2007, 09:00 AM   #7
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A chance?

Hi:

The answer is probably no but is there a chance you could black out the windows around the car for just a few minutes?

You will probably have ugly fluorescents or halogens mixed with daylight streaming through the windows, not exactly a great mix to begin with. Then you will want to be adding tungsten to the mix, echhh, sounds like 2-4 mixed color temps. If the place has a white ceiling or walls, I would hit the ceiling or walls with a the biggest intrument you can get your hands on, a 1k or 2k.

Is it possible to shoot it early in the morning or in the evening at golden hour? Probably could make either of those look somewhat interesting.

What color is the Porsche in question? If it's dark, your job will be much harder because you, your camera, cables, dolly, lights, whatever will be clearly visible in the reflections. Shooting cars effectively is definitely a specialized art. Any chance they could move it outside in front of the showroom at golden hour?

If you can get your paws on an HMI or two, that would help. Most car photography studios have an overhead soft source that is usually 1.5 to 2x the size of the car, you do need huge specular reflections for it to look really cool. If you can bring in a couple of pieces 4 x 8' foamcore with beadboard clamps and some C-stands, you could aim your lights at them and create some decent sized specular highlights.

What you are trying to do is pretty much not do-able to make the car look REALLY great, but you might get a couple of halfway decent shots if you can work with the limitations. Definitely recommend either a dolly or a jib or both.

Best,

Dan
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Old June 1st, 2007, 09:15 AM   #8
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Most car shoots for high-end clients use enormous lights, like this one. This is a "Fisher" light, which is basically a 40-foot-long completely robotic 40,000 watt soft box.

But you can approximate the same thing by using a large white sheet and hitting it with all the light you can muster. I disagree with the other posters about bouncing the light off of walls or ceilings because there are rarely "clean" walls and ceilings in places like car showrooms.

Good luck!

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Old June 1st, 2007, 11:34 AM   #9
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There was an episode on 2nd Unit showing the Fisher lights in use...huge soft light http://2nd-unit.tv/

Is there a professional sign shop in your area? Usually those guys have 8 foot sheets of foam core. You can bounce some light off of a large sheet to create a soft source.

I'd also try some totally still shots with a slow shutter speeds to gather as much light as possible - and some motion shots with slow shutter speeds. Those are always cool. A jib arm would be nice too if you have access to one.

Don't forget to bring a Circular Polarizer too - that way you can minimize reflections. Keep an eye on the windows while spinning the polarizer to dial it in.

Good luck,
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Old June 1st, 2007, 12:35 PM   #10
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Foam core isn't really gonna cut it; I'd get 4 or 5 yards of white fabric at the fabric store, stretch it between 2 C-stands with conduit crossbars, and bounce from that; it's not perfect, but will give you a 54" x 12' -15' soft light. (Put sandbags on the C-stand bases). You can always use the fabric for other projects. I have some long rolls of stretchy white stuff that functions about the same as soft-box front fabric; you can light through it or bounce off it; I'm always making huge softbox rigs with it; nothing beats it for really soft light over a big area... a wall-sized softbox is handy, and easy to setup.
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Old June 2nd, 2007, 12:02 AM   #11
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Hi guys. I very much appreciate all the feedback.

The Porsche dealership were incredibly obliging - they have 15 to 20 cars in a bunch or colours, half in the showroom and half parked outside. I said, "look, I'm making a showreel and I want to insert a shot of a really nice car", and they basically said come in any time and shoot whatever you want.

That said, it will be during business hours and I don't want to outstay my welcome or get in the way too much. As such, some of the ideas - ie: bouncing as much light as possible off sheets/ walls etc - sound like intelligent workarounds, but I don't want to be too imposing.

From some of the ideas you guys have put forward, I think I'll make use of the following:
* a skater dolly (well, a knock off version)
* a jib arm
* a polarizing filter

And shoot some cars in early morning natural light (golden hour catches the yard in shadow unfortunately). I'll also try some slow shutter shots, just to see what happens.

I'm also taking a D80 in so I may take some stills and apply some ken burns type effects in post...

As it's for my own purposes, I don't need to capture an entire car... I'll go for passing shots of some nice details with the dolly, job arm. As Dan said, I'll try and get some "halfway decent shots".

Thanks again for all the thoughful feedback.
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