Studio photography is a phenomenon I had never encountered until today, and whilst the subject matter (a car) has absolutely no appeal to me, the meticulous nature of setting up the continuous lighting to capture all the lines of the car, the attention to detail needed and some of the quirky techniques used I found really fascinating.
This was all thanks to a random tweet I’d spotted from Rip Ripley [known simply as Ripley] who has just started a fine art project photographing racehorses. High end camera maker, Hasselblad, and Ripley teamed up to run a one day course on photographing cars held at the impressive Banbury studios of Junction 11. As the world around us went mad fighting over Christmas shopping bargains on ‘black friday’ I sat quietly at the back of a large white room watching one of the most talented photographers light a Lexus to show off all it’s exterior styling.
The Talented Mr. Ripley At Work
The course was very well attended with probably 30 guys, the majority of whom were professional photographers already photographing cars or looking to emulate Ripley and start shooting for some of the world’s prestige vehicle brands. Much of the morning session was spent setting up the lighting, using some large, very powerful lamps to bounce light of the curved matt white walls to produce defused reflected light on to all the panels of the car. It really was fascinating to sit there and watch how subtle adjustments in the direction of the various lights softened hard bright reflections and accentuated the curves and lines of the car’s design.
One of the things I hadn’t quite appreciated was the amount of post production that is still needed despite shooting in a very controlled environment like a professional studio. With sports photography you need to get as much right in the camera as you possibly can, whereas in the studio whilst you still need to do this it’s not always possible to cater for everything, and post production work is needed.
Separately Lighting & Shooting The Radiator Grille For Post Production Composite
For example Ripley explained that the design of the grille on the Lexus he was shooting made it tricky to light in conjunction with all the other lighting set up, so he lit and shot the grille separately, which would then be cut out and become part of the final composite image, something he’s often had to do in order to generate the perfect image. The wheels were given the same treatment, and were also raised and spun to provide an option for the illusion of movement, using a long exposure time.
Lighting The Wheels Separately
It’s here where the Hasselblad really comes into it’s own. The multi-shot camera model Ripley was shooting with can take 4 or 6 exposures to combine and produce an effective 200 mega-pixel image, providing an incredible amount of detail. This Hasselblad can capture such minute detail that we were asked to keep still and quite whilst the camera fired because it is so sensitive to vibration. These cameras retail at up to £28K, but thankfully you can also rent them more reasonably for those just starting out.
This amount of detail means you can be very creative as well as being able to produce enormous poster size images from your 800mb files. The Hasselblad camera was a key reason I attended the course, and I was curious to see what it was like in the flesh.
The Lexus Shoot Starts To Take Shape
It’s been the most amazing and insightful experience, worth every penny. It’s also inspired me to plan a studio day and try out some of the techniques I’ve learnt today. I just need to decide on some subject matter, so if you have any ideas let me know.
Huge thanks to Hasselblad & Ripley for putting on this course, it’s been truly inspirational.
For more details on both see:
NB: all these images were taken with my D810.