I have been asked to photograph some cars both externally and internally for promotional use in a website and print.

I want these images to look high-end, so getting the lighting and general setup right will go a long way to achieving this.

I want to recreate the look that you see in many car brochures, but have no idea where to start - I particularly like the work of Tim Wallace: http://www.ambientlife.co.uk/

I have 2x studio flashes, and a nikon sb-910 flash gun.

Initially, I am going to shoot the convertible cars (aston, tvr, bentley) but would appreciate advice on both open and closed roof cars.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think the challenging part is to take a picture from outside, keeping the inside lighted and avoiding reflections on the glasses. I'm also interested to learn how they do it! \$\endgroup\$
    – Omne
    Oct 1, 2012 at 11:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, my comment above was about a kind photo that I saw recently, I just checked Tim Wallace's works, they're interesting but not what I was looking for. \$\endgroup\$
    – Omne
    Oct 1, 2012 at 11:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a huge range of techniques in Tim's portfolio from ambient light HDR shots, to outdoor mixed strobe and ambient to minimalist studio lighting, was there any particular effect you wanted to replicate? \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Oct 1, 2012 at 12:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are going to be shooting in a studio (if so what colour backdrops are available?) or a showroom, or outdoors? \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Oct 1, 2012 at 12:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MattGrum - yes indeed there are a lot of different styles in there, i'll try to find an example of what i am after - we are going to be shooting in an empty warehouse, for the industrial grunge Vs expensive metal contrast, as well as some yet-to-decide location shots - i have grey, white and black backdrops available, BUT they are only 3x6m. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 1, 2012 at 12:40

2 Answers 2


Not exactly a photography-specific answer, but I hope this helps.

Tim Wallace seems like a very talented photographer, but I wouldn't underestimate the amount of post-production work that went into some of those photos.

Folks with far more skills can give you pointers on how to get the best photo out of the camera, but in my experience you'll be spending some amount of time in post production. More or less depending on the look you want to go for.

Here's an animated example from photographer John Zhang. He too specializes in automobile photography.

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I'm usually not a fan of this, but you might look into renting some continuous lighting. The light output must be relatively high because you need to cover a large object. Because a car is so big compared to portrait or small product, it will be invaluable to have an accurate visual idea of how your lighting is shaping up. Also look into Kino flo lights to place inside the car to bring up the interior. Unfortunately, this is expensive lighting gear -- even to rent.

The other option is to shoot using ambient light (as the subject is not moving) and bracket. HDR may not get you the effect you want -- you will probably have to do some detail work in post, but it will be worth the effort if you sandwich exposures that are spot on for isolated parts of the image and then brush these in selectively using layer masks.

It's a tough assignment with many options but the key to getting the exterior right is to use a huge light source. That's what recommends ambient lighting. You might be able to use the sb-910 to highlight individual components of the interior on separate exposures, but I recommend you do this with the windows open, if possible. A studio light on a boom might work for the convertibles, but you did want to consider hard-top cars as well.

You'll probably want to try some options out with your own car before going for the real shoot.

Good luck with this.


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