Studio car photographer

photoj87

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Hey guys,

I'm currently the studio car photographer for a dealership and I want to improve our photos the best that I can with a new lighting setup. We're currently running 8 AB800s, each clamped to the frame structure of a studio (see pictures). The photographer before me bought and installed the equipment without putting any sort of diffusion on the lights. They're doing the trick so far, but could look 100x better with soft boxes. I'm not interested in in one giant box like most studios use because that casts dramatic shadows that our customers won't find attractive. I'm thinking of a 5 box setup (see picture) with one light in each end box and two lights in each of the overhead boxes. I'm not sure the boss will want to buy more lights, but I was thinking having a third light in each overhead box may be a good idea. Also, I'm not sure the cheapest place to buy these boxes, who I should have contracted to install them (an electrician?) and what cloth I should have the lights shooting through (bed sheets?). I may have them custom made or if I can find long enough boxes for overhead, I'll have them purchased and installed. Please let me know your thoughts.

http://photobucket.com/tpfphotoj87
 

KmH

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photoj87

photoj87

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Thanks for the post - much appreciated!

I've seen that video - pretty helpful, but not realistic for what I'm doing. I shoot roughly 17 - 20 cars/day from 360 degrees. I'm okay with reflections, as that's part of the game. I also understand angles… My biggest issue is getting the lights to look better than big white blobs I have now. Check out the pictures on our website and you'll see what I'm talking about: Chevrolet Dealer Massillon, OH | New & Used Auto Dealer

My goal is to manipulate the light to look like lines, squares or even a soft glow that's an unrecognizable shape. Hence why I was thinking large soft boxes. I drew a quick sketch of my idea which I posted on photobucket (www.photobucket.com/tpfphotoj87). I know the tradition is a large 10'x20' box hanging a couple foot above the roof of the car, but that'll create a standard dramatic look that I can't have on the side angles. My idea of bringing the soft boxes out and to the side, at an angle, should hopefully keep the car lit on all sides. Hopefully the light should look like a long rectangle instead of the circle/blobs we have now.

I'm hoping someone on this site has experience with large soft boxes in a studio. I'm thinking at least 1'x5' in size for the top three boxes above the car and maybe 2 - 20”x28” standard boxes for the front and rear. Anyone know where to buy the larger rectangular boxes, how to construct them and how they'll manipulate the light coming through? I'm hoping to still shoot around full power on the lights and 200, f/16 ISO 640 with the camera.
 

gsgary

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One large scrim above the car 6 lights fired upward and bounced of a white ceiling, othe 2 lights fired through srims
front and side, had a look at the website it's a shame you have to shoot ugly cars
 

xUnknownSoul

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Diffusion Rolls. 2xWhateveryouneed board. C-Stands. Clamps.

I work with a photographer that mainly shoots automotive. (Subaru, Honda, Toyota)
 
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photoj87

photoj87

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One large scrim above the car 6 lights fired upward and bounced of a white ceiling, othe 2 lights fired through srims
front and side, had a look at the website it's a shame you have to shoot ugly cars

Sadly, the cars do suck 90% of the time. I do get a chance to shoot 'Vettes, Camaros, Chargers and Challengers on a regular basis though. I'll occasionally get a cool used car, like last week we had a Honda Si Mugen, BMW 325i and Bonneville GXP... bit whoopie, I know lol

Here's a cool collage I made of a Challenger:

http://i244.photobucket.com/albums/gg32/nik_kolenich/TPF - photo forum/Challenger.jpg

and an SSR:

http://i244.photobucket.com/albums/gg32/nik_kolenich/TPF - photo forum/SS_R.jpg
 

gsgary

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One large scrim above the car 6 lights fired upward and bounced of a white ceiling, othe 2 lights fired through srims
front and side, had a look at the website it's a shame you have to shoot ugly cars

Sadly, the cars do suck 90% of the time. I do get a chance to shoot 'Vettes, Camaros, Chargers and Challengers on a regular basis though. I'll occasionally get a cool used car, like last week we had a Honda Si Mugen, BMW 325i and Bonneville GXP... bit whoopie, I know lol

Here's a cool collage I made of a Challenger:

http://i244.photobucket.com/albums/gg32/nik_kolenich/TPF - photo forum/Challenger.jpg

and an SSR:

http://i244.photobucket.com/albums/gg32/nik_kolenich/TPF - photo forum/SS_R.jpg


Nice, they are plenty good enough for web use
 

Big Mike

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You probably don't want to go with softboxes. Firstly, the softness of light is determined both by the (relative) size of the light source, but also by it's proximity to the subject (which relates to relative size). In other words, unless you have the softbox close to the car, it doesn't soften the light as much as you may want...and if you put it too close, it may not cover the area you need it to. Plus, if you don't like the reflected white 'blobs' with your unmodified lights, the softbox may just give you an even bigger blob.
Of course, you can do things to alter the shape/size of your lights...using strip lights, for example...to alter how the direct reflections show up. But as first mentioned, it's all about the family of angles.

I think the suggestion to shoot lights up into a white ceiling, is probably a good one, considering that you shoot a high volume and probably can't adjust for each new vehicle.
 
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photoj87

photoj87

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You probably don't want to go with softboxes. Firstly, the softness of light is determined both by the (relative) size of the light source, but also by it's proximity to the subject (which relates to relative size). In other words, unless you have the softbox close to the car, it doesn't soften the light as much as you may want...and if you put it too close, it may not cover the area you need it to. Plus, if you don't like the reflected white 'blobs' with your unmodified lights, the softbox may just give you an even bigger blob.
Of course, you can do things to alter the shape/size of your lights...using strip lights, for example...to alter how the direct reflections show up. But as first mentioned, it's all about the family of angles.

I think the suggestion to shoot lights up into a white ceiling, is probably a good one, considering that you shoot a high volume and probably can't adjust for each new vehicle.

Great post Mike, I appreciate your input! You're absolutely right about the high volume of cars and not being able to adjust for each one - that's the biggest struggle. I would have to call my job "process photography" because I shoot every car roughly the same (exterior 200,f/16; wheels 200 f/14; interior 15 f/8; gauge cluster 15 f/5.6). As for the lighting blobs I'm bitching about, I was thinking about it on my way home and I'm afraid these softboxes might become bigger, more expensive blobs. And if I put them closer, the rocker panels will be too dark and the rims will have cast shadows; too far away and they won't soften the light.... I would shoot into the ceiling, but it's an enormous mechanics shop and I have a 30ft ceilings with metal rafters, etc above me. I thought of putting a white sheet/framework above the photobooth and maybe putting the lights behind that. Sort of like an enormous softbox, but it would be the whole ceiling. Maybe I could angle the lights above a cloth, have it 2ft above the tallest vehicle (i.e. a Power Wagon Dodge RAM) and at full power. In the reflection on the car it may just look like a bright white ceiling... right? Or would you still pick-up highlights of the bright lights behind the cloth, like hot spots in the fabric – or would it diffuse it even through out the entire surface of the cloth? And if this is feasible, what sort of cloth could I buy to stretch over the photo booth at 30'x30'? I'm shooting booth that is a standard metal structure with cloth stretched for the walls… bought from B+H I assume.
 

Big Mike

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I think maybe you're over thinking it.

You might still be able to bounce the lights off of the ceiling and/or walls. That's the easiest way to soften the light. You might have to open the aperture or up the ISO to get enough exposure, but I don't think it should be too much of a problem.
 

Spsilvestri

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I think maybe you're over thinking it.

You might still be able to bounce the lights off of the ceiling and/or walls. That's the easiest way to soften the light. You might have to open the aperture or up the ISO to get enough exposure, but I don't think it should be too much of a problem.

I have the same problem. We are just now building a photo studio right now and I'm trying to convince my boss to put some money into getting the lighting right.

I can't bounce them off the ceiling because they are so high, and there's steel beams and heating ducts and a bunch of water lines up there and stuff. I was considering getting a huge white thin canvas (silk or cotton or something) to drape over the studio so soften the lights. I don't use an SLR camera, but i do have an exposure adjustment that does wonders for me.

Take a look at some of the photo's I'm taking outside on my website....

Haus Auto Group | Pre-owned Dealer | Canfield, Ohio

and here's an Acura MDX that I shot today in the space where we're putting the photo booth....

2008 Acura MDX PREMIUM Canfield, Ohio | Haus Auto Group
I know we need to block off the glass block windows on the wall, and that's going to get done for sure, but right now i have some flourescents hanging in no particular order.... i still gotta work some kinks out, but I'd love some suggestions!

2008 Acura MDX PREMIUM Canfield, Ohio | Haus Auto Group
 

Spsilvestri

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Also, any suggestions on what we should do with the floor? or just clean it? i'd love white but i'm worried about tire marks, as we shoot about 100 cars a month.
 

fmw

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I use a surplus military parachute as a light box and 4 strobe heads to shoot cars and paper for the background including the floor. Shooting cars well is a lot of work.
 

2WheelPhoto

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Reflections will be a major problem with your setup. The basic principles (family of angles) are discussed and illustrated in this inexpensive book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0240812255/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=hdiumds-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399373&creativeASIN=0240812255"]Light Science and Magic, Fourth Edition: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting[/url]

Lighting reflective objects is a lot like shoooting pool - all about the angles.


Diggin' all the profoto gear and the fun they had with it
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