Home Photography Ideas: High end car photography right in your driveway!

Watch Video: Home Photography Ideas – High End Car Photography at Home

You’ve probably spent a lot of time washing your car during the current lockdown, but it’s hard to show your wheels when you can’t leave the house. And unless you live in a mansion, taking a picture of your car parked outside your front door doesn’t show it off.

So here’s a brilliant homemade project that you can shoot right in your driveway and create a high-quality studio look straight out of a car catalog – but without needing to go to a studio or use batteries of complicated studio equipment!

Best camera for car photography (opens in a new tab)

Step into two of an avid photographer’s most transformative tools: Photoshop and flash lighting. By lighting the car with a flash, we are able to overpower natural light so that it plays a minimal role in exposure, giving us the dark, moody look we want.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

Ideally, this would be achieved by using a huge bank of unison flashes, but for most of us that’s just not a realistic option. So that’s where the Photoshop part comes in.

By using a tripod to hold the camera still, we have the freedom to take multiple images and then merge them in Photoshop afterwards. As such, we don’t necessarily need an arsenal of lights at once to achieve the studio look; we can just use one or two and then light up the car one section at a time on a series of shots.

It also means we can create a subtle reflection with a single piece of reflective panel, again by moving it into different positions over a series of shots. Let’s see how it’s done…

Light up the car

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

01 Set an exposure

After setting up the camera on a tripod, composing and focusing on the car, we work out a manual exposure that underexposes natural light, so it barely registers. On an overcast day we had 1/200s here and f/11, ISO100, giving an almost dark image. Shooting at around 35mm will allow you to fit the car to the frame without too much distortion; a 16-35mm zoom will accommodate you no matter how much space you have to work with.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

02 Trigger the flash

Then we install a single studio flash, powered by the mains. The flash is set to optical slave, wirelessly triggered and set to full power (400w). By popping the flash from different angles, we can select different parts of the car and emphasize the flowing lines.

Best Photography Lighting Kits (opens in a new tab)

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

03 Move the flash

Try to light the car from all angles with the flash. Experiment with backlighting from behind the car to emphasize edges and curves. Aim the flash at specific areas such as the wheels and the grille. Take lots of pictures and keep the light high or low.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

04 Capture the reflection

Once we turn on the car, we start thinking. We place two studio lights on either side to illuminate the sides and underside of the car, then take several images, moving the reflective panel between shots to capture a full reflection.

Build the image in Photoshop

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

01 Load in layers

After selecting the frames we want, we open them as a layered document in Photoshop. This can be done by selecting the files in Bridge, then going to Tools>Photoshop>Load to Layers, or in Photoshop using File>Scripts>Load Files to Stack.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

02 Add mask

Pick a plane to use as a base and drag it to the bottom of the stack, then hide everything but the layer above it. Toggle this layer on and off to determine the lighted area of ​​the car you want to blend, then hold down Alt and click the Add Layer Mask icon to hide the layer behind a full black mask.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

03 Reveal Lighting

Grab the brush tool, right click and set the hardness to 0. Press D to set the color to white, then paint over the car to reveal the area of ​​the image you want. Once done, reveal the next layer, then add a full mask again and paint more white. Keep increasing the light.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

04 Building reflection

Then we can reconstruct the reflection, hiding and revealing the pieces of the set until they form a full reflection along the car. The layers will start to rise, so it may be easier to build the reflection separately and then copy it when finished.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

05 Liquefy to set

The gravel driveway here is uneven so the reflection doesn’t match in places. But this is easily solved by moving the pixels with Liquify. Go to Filter > Liquify, then check “Show Backdrop” in the settings and use the Forward Warp tool to adjust the reflections.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

06 Store

To make the background black, select the car (Select >Subject), then invert the selection (Cmd on Mac / Ctrl on PC +Shift+I), create a new layer and fill with black. To fix messy patches, merge a layer (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E), then use the healing tools and the clone tool to tidy up.

Read more:

A day in the life of professional automotive photographer Amy Shore (opens in a new tab)
The best photo lighting kits (opens in a new tab) in 2020: for studio, rental and video
The best dash cam (opens in a new tab) in 2020: constant protection for you and your car

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