Category Archives Photo Shoots

Finally! The wait is over — Football is back, baby!!!! (Whoo Hoo!!) :-)

Tomorrow’s my first shoot of the season (well, the preseason), and I’m off to Nashville to shoot for the Atlanta Falcons in their pre-season game against the Tennessee Titans, and I am trying out a completely new camera set-up (Take a look at my load-out of the game below).

So, last season when I was shooting for the Falcons up in Atlanta, my buddies Michael Benford and Matt Lange (from the Falcons crew) both were shooting the new Canon EOS 1DX, and they kept running over and showing me some shots during breaks in the game because the noise was just so incredibly low (we all have to shoot at around 4,000 or 5,000 ISO in the Dome at night). I’m used to shooting with a camera that does great at high ISO situations, but what I was seeing was still pretty freakin’ amazing, so when a friend at Canon asked if I wanted to try out some of their gear this season, I was all over it (especially since this first game is a night game, so I’d really get to check out the high ISO performance of the 1DX).

Inside My Bag
I’m using pretty much the same lens configuration I was using with my Nikon gear, and I had the option of going wide with my 2nd body lens, but I decided to go back to a 70-200mm f/2.8 for the shots inside the 20-yard-line. I didn’t bring a fisheye, but I might just throw a 16-35mm in there at the last minute for some pre-game and post-game shots.

Above: Here’s a closeup of the EOS-1DX body sitting on top of the my bag (photo by Brad Moore) — one of two I’ll be using tomorrow night (ya gotta have two bodies for football — there’s no time to change lenses during a play).

Setting It Up For Football
I’ve been playing with the 1DX at home at night, just getting used to the feel of it and setting it up for football, and I found an article from sports photography legend Peter Read Miller on his own settings for shooting sports with the 1DX, and if they’re good enough for Peter….well….needless to say, those are the settings I’m using! :-)

A full report on Monday
Check back here on Monday and I’ll have a full report, and lots of photos. Hope you all have an awesome weekend (did I mention football is back?), and GO FALCONS!


P.S. I’ll be in San Jose, California teaching my “Shoot like a Pro” tour on Tuesday. If you’re coming out to the seminar, and you read this blog, make sure you come up and say hi. See you there!

(Above: a 2014 Mercedes Benz CLS 550, in a dark grey with a hint of blue. Thanks to Tony Pinero for the car). 

Ever since I started shooting cars, I’ve wanted to shoot one in a studio, but there have been a couple of obstacles. One being finding a studio with a really large white cove that’s big enough to drive a car into, but the really big obstacle is to find one that has a giant car-sized softbox overhead (like the 10-foot x 30-foot F2X from Chimera, but the price is……the price is…well….see below).

That gives you some idea of why, outside of Detroit, finding a studio with one of these with an affordable rental rate is pretty challenging. Well, it would be for a regular guy, but not for the amazing Brad Moore, who found Studio 75, a commercial rental studio set up for automotive photography, that’s only about 25-minutes from our offices. It’s affordable, the guy seemed really easy to work with, and although they didn’t have the Chimera, they did have a home-made rig that works, so we booked it.

Above: In this behind-the-scenes shot, you can see the cost-effective lighting rig Dan created himself. It’s five 1,000 watt White Lightning strobe heads (bare bulbs), mounted on two long poles, hoisted up with a pulley-system, and then firing through a large 20’x20′ Matthews overhead silk diffusion panel (around $700) mounted to aluminum fence top-rail (you can buy a Matthews 20’x20′ collapsable frame for around $975, but the fence top-rail DIY route would be much cheaper at around $88 for the tubing (Eight 10′ x- 1-3/8″ round inter-connecting rails at Lowes for around $11 each. Then you’d need four 1-3/8″ corner connectors at around $4 or so each).

OK, back to the production still above: To get the right look, I’m nearly at the back of the studio. To get the perspective right, I’m laying down on the floor (not a big fan of that part), and I’m tethered directly into Lightroom so I can see the shots at a very large size as I’m taking them.

Once the lights are in place, you set them to full-power and adjust the f/stop until it looks right, so it’s a pretty straight ahead set-up from above.

Welcome to my World
While you could get a car in the studio without any trouble, maneuvering once inside is quite tricky, but luckily this particular car had a backup camera, which made things easier. However, having Brad Moore giving you directions in that back-up camera…well…just watch the video below (shot by Dan as I was backing the car) and you’ll see what I mean. Welcome to my world.

Above: For shots where the front of the car is visible (like the one you just saw), we used a large softbox to fill-in the shadows. We also used a large black bounce card to help create some shadow areas on the car (more on this in a moment). You can see my low shooting position here (production shots by Brad Moore). It was a bit more comfortable here — sitting on the floor and laying back on the first step of the stairs leading to the studio’s loft.

Above: Sony had loaned me some of their DSLR gear to try out, and I thought this would be a great opportunity since the Sony A99 had a swivel-out LCD monitor, so I could place the camera on the floor (for the lowest possible perspective —- one where the photo would clearly show the rear tire on the far side) and then I could just angle it up a bit and do all the composition using the tilt-up display. This sounds easy, but try it with a sneaker coming out of the front of your head (see above)

It worked even better than I thought (though the electronic viewfinder is kind of…well…kinda weird when you work in a studio environment. It has a special mode for it, and perhaps you would eventually get used to it, but seeing something on screen that looks so different from what you’re going to create really threw me. Maybe it’s just my inexperience with the Sony, so I don’t want to totally trash it, because I know a lot of folks love it, but it would definitely take some getting used to (for me, anyway). So, I shot both my Nikon D4 and the Sony A99 during the four-hour shoot in the studio.

Above: Here’s a two-thirds view, where you can see the side the front. It was the first shot we tried that day. You can really see the black bounce card in the bottom half of the doors. That really made a huge difference.

Above: Here’s the production shot. I’m lying on the floor again, but I did mount the Nikon on my Gitzo tripod but we splayed the legs way out so I could get it just a few inches above the ground. I kind of leaned on my elbow to compose the shot, then I’d lock down the ballhead.

Above: When we were all done, I thought I’d take a shot from up above, from the loft (where the studio’s office is), and I kinda like the angle. Plus, it was a LOT easier because at this high angle, we didn’t have to deal with many reflections that appear on the car (which is what turned out to be the challenge of the day for the rest of the shots).

The Tip of the Day
Before we left the studio, the studio owner, commercial photographer Dan Gaye, told Brad to bring a circular polarizer, and man did that thing absolutely work wonders!!! The lighting part of this is actually pretty straightforward — it’s a bunch of lights aiming straight down from directly above through some material that softens and diffuses them. If you need a fill for one part or another, just add one more strobe with a soft box. That part was surprisingly easy. The real challenge is eliminating reflections in the car.

First, the Polarizer helps darken scene, but more importantly it helps you nearly eliminate the hot-spots and reflections from the strobes above in the windshield and side windows. Without that polarizer, you’d have a serious retouching nightmare. You just rotate the circular polarizer and you can literally see the reflections in the windows disappear. I told Brad — learning that was worth the studio rental right there!

Above: Of course, since I had the car there, I couldn’t help but do a few detail shots, using the standard set-up: a single large strip-bank (we turned the overhead lights off), and shooting at f/22 (hat tip to Tim Wallace), just like always.

It’s not the Lighting that’s hard. It’s managing the reflections
Dan said something that really stuck with me. He said “Cars are like giant mirrors. You see anything in front of it like you’re aiming at a mirror” and he wasn’t just-a-kiddin’. It was amazing to see this in person, because you could see everything from the kitchen in the studio, to Brad’s head, to a blue Kayak mounted up near the ceiling, to beams in the ceiling, light stands, me, paintings on the wall, cables on the floor — EVERYTHING!

I have to give Dan big credit and major love here, because he is a master of hiding all these things using black drop clothes, black seamless paper (we had to bring out a 15-foot wide roll), black 8-foot ball bounce cards, and more. You had to take a shot — zoom in tight and you can’t believe all the stuff you’d see — just like you were looking at a big mirror aiming back at the studio. It took 5 minutes to get the lighting right for the very first shot I posted at the top of the page, and about 50 minutes to minimize the reflections.

Now that I’ve seen the process of dealing with all these reflections, it really is just a trial-and-error case of being a “Reflection Detective” but I could not have pulled this off without Dan’s experience and help (and he was incredibly helpful throughout. Since it’s his studio, he knows every trick in the book).

Above: Here’s another detail shot; this one of the rear of the car, with the name plate and tail light sections.

Above: Here’s the emblem on the trunk, lit with that same single strip bank, held diligently by Mr. Moore.

Above: Thought I’d give you one more look at the overall full-car lighting set-up (and the blue kayak which had to be cloned out of just aobut every shot). This one gives you a great view of the White Lighting strobes and the diffusion silk.

Above: I wanted to include a shot of studio owner and photographer Dan Gaye because he was just an incredible help all day. He designed this inexpensive overhead lighting rig back in 1995 and it still works really well to this day. His system of ropes and pulleys lets him raise/lower/angle the lights and diffusion panel pretty much however you want it.

He was super-helpful and really made me understand the challenges of minimizing reflections and the techniques to hide distracting stuff, which is somewhat of an art unto itself. Needless to say, I learned a lot. So, a big thanks and high-five to Dan, but also thanks to Brad for finding Dan and his studio, and for all his hard work that day, and for all the production stills. Way to go Braddo!

Of course, me being me, I see all sorts of stuff I’d do differently next time
That next time will hopefully be in just a few weeks from now, because I’ve already found another cool car that needs shootin’ and I surely need the practice, but I’m totally OK with that. It was just my first studio automative shoot, but hopefully it’s just the first of many, and you know what they say about practice. :)

Last week on my Facebook and Twitter pages, I posted a link to a Great article on Annie Leibovitz on “Getting the Shot, and the Future of Photography” over at FastCompany (shown below).

I have to say, her new campaign for Disney has made me a Leibovitz fan. Really brilliantly done, and the article has some great insights about shooting portraits. Worth a read (and the Disney photos are seriously very special).

Well, after I posted the link to the article (here’s the link by the way —- definitely worth the read:, a conversation started where some we’re trying to give anyone but Annie the credit for the amazing shots. They wanted it to go to anyone from the set designer to the post production people to the hair and make-up — anyone but her (and yes, it does take all of those folks and more to do something on the scale of what Disney hired her to do).

Anyway, it was our topic this week on “The Grid” and there were lots of great comments from the live audience, and of course, plenty of debate because we took it a lot further than that. The episode is at the top of the page if you’ve got a few minutes to check it out.

Also, the previous week, our in-studio guest was the amazing Peter Hurley, and he was there for our monthly “Blind Photo Critiques” episode and we featured nothing but critiques on portraits. There’s a LOT to learn from him in this episode. Here’ s that episode (below):

Shooting cars!
OK, today I’m in a local photo studio doing my first in-studio automotive shoot with a giant overhead softbox longer than the car. Wish me luck, and while we’re wishing, here’s wishing you a fantastic weekend. See you Monday! :)

First, watch that 60-second (or so) video above from Tim about his online class on shooting close-up detail shots of cars. I’ll wait right here.

[insert mental shot of me waiting].

…see that didn’t take long. Awesome, right? I know!

After I posted some car shots I did a couple of weeks ago here on blog, and on my Facebook, Twitter and G+ pages, I had a lot of questions about the lighting and camera techniques and I wish I could take a lick of credit for any of it, but I learned it ALL from Tim’s online classes. He’s really an amazing teacher and he tells you EVERYTHING — he doesn’t hold anything back, which I totally love about him! (He’s the real deal!)

Anyway, if you’d like to watch Tim’s class, we’ve set it up so that TODAY ONLY you can go and watch Tim’s class on shooting close-up detail shots of cars for free (when you go to the link below, you’ll see a button for Rental. It’s usually $9.99 for a three-day rental (our regular price for any 72-hour rental), but today-only the price is $0.00 — free!). I explain how our online class rentals work below, but basically today you just watch for free. Free, free, free! Whee!!!!!

How This Usually Works
Normally, if you rent one of our online courses, you can watch it as often as you like for three full days (72 hours), from the time of purchase. To access rented courses (like this free one), if you don’t have an account, go ahead and create one (it’s free) and go to your “Account Settings” page and your rental course(s) will be listed. Just click the link to watch it. By the way, I know this goes without saying but to watch an “online” course, you need an Internet connection (and it should be a broadband connection unless you are a very, very, very patient person).

One more thing
Tim has five other online classes on shooting cars on Kelby Training already, so if you’re interested in seeing more of Tim’s training, you can sign up for a month and watch them all (along with hundreds of other classes)! or sign up for a year (you save money — it’s around .54¢ a day — crazy cheap!) and watch his classes to death! LOL!!!  OK, while you’re there check out some of mine, will ya?

OK, I get it…..
Hey, isn’t this all just a fancy way to get me to join Kelby Training Online? Yes. Absolutely. But I promise you this, you’ll love it (and if for any crazy reason you don’t, we offer a 100% money-back guarantee, so there’s really no risk, except that you might watch these classes and want to buy a large stripbank softbox. But that’s a given). ;-)

Have fun and enjoy Tim’s classes.


P.S. This is the first time we’ve tried this particular thing, this particular way. If for some reason the link doesn’t work right at the crack of midnight, or the rental thing is grayed out, or if anything isn’t working perfectly and you can’t get to that class right this very minute…don’t freak out. It’s a one-day deal. You’ve got a whole day to get it. We’ll get the link, button [insert a random problem] here, fixed shortly. Thanks — signed, the Voice of Prior Experience. LOL! ;-)

Here’s the behind-the-scenes video I mentioned on Tuesday from my car shoot at an airplane hangar (as luck would have it, the hanger was the exact same hangar at the airport where my wife flies out of). I used the Priolites again but I also used a new super-lightweight battery pack that let us take one of our Elinchrom studio strobes out on location (I did a quick demo of it on the video above).

Anyway, we were planning on shooting two cars and a plane, and it turned it to a six-car, six-hour long shoot with two Ferraris (an F-430 and a California); a Devon GTX, a Rolls Royce Ghost, a Spyker, and a Audi R8. We were psyched! (Plus, I was finally going to get a full-body shot of the Audi R8 I did the detail shots of last month).

Anyway, I’ll tell the rest in the captions (BTS photos by Brad Moore), but first a big thanks to my buddy David McComas who not only has some amazingly cool cars (and let me shoot them, and borrow his hangar), but he also has friends with more cool cars. Not a bad combination (thanks David!)

Above: This shot is just natural light. We only had a few minutes where the sun had tucked behind the other hangar, but it wasn’t sunset quite yet, so we actually had a decent amount of light, and that’s when I had my crew pull the R8 out in front. I wanted to take a shot that had lots of negative space (the total opposite of the close-up detail shots I took last time).

Above: The Devon GTX. What an insanely cool car (with gull-wing doors, no less). I love how the back has no bumper â” it just go straight from the truck to the rear in one solid piece. The color of the car was pretty monochromatic so I went ahead and took it all the way with a black and white conversion. Again, just natural light near sunset.

Above: Here’s a shot with me standing where the Audi R8 was parked, looking back in toward the Devon in the hangar (now you can see the full-color version).

Above: That little red circle in the back of the hangar. That’s me. 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at ISO 100. I switched to the D800 for this one to get extra resolution.

Above: Here’s the over-the-shoulder view.

Above: here’s the Spiker (the one I showed in Tuesday’s behind the scenes shot). Sick car!!! I only had time to shoot two of the car full-body and this was one of them.

Above: Here’s the lighting set-up for the Spyker. Three lights total. #2 and #2 are Priolites (the same ones I did the Audi R8 with last month), so there’s no power pack or cables â” the battery it built right into the lights (which is pretty sweet!). The #2 light is a bare blub strobe. It was supposed to have a grid on it, but we somehow misplaced it before the shoot and of course didn’t realize it until we were actually at the shoot. That posed quite a challenge because the light was spilling like crazy, but it was what it was. The #3 light is using a large strip bank.

The #1 light (with a large Tim Wallace-style strip bank) is a regular studio strobe — an Elinchrom BRX 500 (my go-to light int he studio), but we were able to take it on location thanks to the brand new lightweight battery pack I talk about in the video (though here’s a direct link to it at B&H Photo).

Above: I love the front grill of the Spyker! 

Above: I’m not a big fan of laying down on the job, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do. That’s Brad Moore holding a Priolite with a large strip bank and that’s how we made the detail shot you just saw. Shooting at f/22 makes the light fall off to black on the edges almost instantly (thank you Tim Wallace — it’s his technique). 

Above: Same lighting, same technique, same settings. It still amazes me how the light falls off to solid black like that. I know it makes sense, but it still makes me smile every time I try it. 

Above: Here’s the distinctive rear-end of the Spyker — same everything as far as lighting and camera settings. 

Above: Yes it was that bright where we were shooting, and yes shooting at f/22 makes it fall off to black like that without having to fake it in Photoshop. I was just as surprised as you are, but son-of-a-gun it works!

Above: The rear emblem and very soft lighting. 

Above: I wish I had the time to really experiment and get the lighting just right on this one, but with six cars to shoot in the absolute stiffling heat, we pretty much had to run and gun all day. Even though it was really cool to have all these cars on hand, I wish we had half as many cars and the same amount of time, because if something didn’t work lighting wise, I didn’t have the time to really make it work — I had to cut my losses and move it if it didn’t come together pretty quickly. 

Above: The Rolls was Amazing. First time I had ever sat in one, and the interior was really something to behold. I could have spent two hours just on it, but I only had about 20 minutes (we spent waaaaayyyy to long on lighting the Spyker), and it caught up with us time wise. 

Above: As the heat took its toll on all of us, I started to lame out and shoot some of the shots from a chair, and that’s the on you saw above. We were beat like you cannot believe. Drenched in sweat, semi-dehydrated (we only brought six bottles of water for the three of us — huge mistake) and though we started at 5:00 pm, none of us got home before midnight.

Above: We had two Ferrari’s but all I had time for were detail shots. I just love the Ferrari nameplate so I spent a while on trying to get the lighting right, but I still had to add a radial gradient in Photoshop to get the look I was trying for. 

Above: I’m a sucker for headlamps.

Above: I had to get an engine shot of the California — just one light — still that Priolite but we switched to a small softbox. We probably should have switched back to a stripbank, but I’m still OK with how it came out. 

Above: In Tim’s online classes for Kelby Training, he talked about splitting the logo with the light, so we spent a few extra minutes trying to get it right on the money. 

Above: This is actually the interior of the Ferrari F-430 and I shot it with a 24-70mm f/2.8 using a technique I learned from Tim when we taped his class for Kelby Training on shooting car interiors (should be coming out soon. Brilliant class  — I learned a ton!). 

Above: Here’s a parting shot of the Ferrari California. 

Wrap up
While I’m getting much more comfortable with lighting and shooting the up-close detail shots, I still need a lot more practice with full body shots, and that’s what I’m going to focus on next. While we were out on location I heard about a studio locally with a huge drive-in cove and a giant overhead softbox made for lighting entire cars, and I got a line on a few other cars to shoot. Brad’s on vacation this coming week, so nothing next week, but when he gets back, it’s time to sweat once again!

Above: OK the lighting is kick of whacked in this shot, but I couldn’t leave without showing you at least one shot with the doors open. Is that car sick or what!!!! 

Thanks to Brad and John for assisting me on the shoot (couldn’t’ have done it without you guys), and thanks to David for rounding up lots of cool cars for us to shoot. Also, thanks to my readers for stopping by and here’s wishing you all a sweat-free weekend and lots of shooting opportunities.


OK, this is NOT a finished shot — just a behind-the-scenes shot from a 6-hour long, six-car shoot in an airplane hangar. I was going to show the finished shots today and include a behind-the-scenes video about a new piece of gear we took out on location, but the video’s not quite out of editing yet. Hoping for Friday.

In the meantime, you can see two of the three lights used in the shoot —- the one in the top left corner is one of those Priolites that we are totally digging on (here’s a link to my Audi R8 shoot video and Prioite demo video), and the long strip bank near the rear of the car is an Elinchrom BXRI 500 (my go-to studio strobe) running off a very cool, very small, very lightweight, and very affordable battery pack (more on it on Friday’s post).

Above: This is an Instagram shot Brad took of four of the six cars we shot that day. Top left: A Ferrari F-430.Top R:  A Devon GTX. Bottom Left a Spyker, and bottom right an Audi R8. 

Lots more to share of course (plus we got to shoot two other cars: A Rolls Royce Ghost  and a Ferrari California), here on the blog on Friday.

But Before We Get to That…
I just wanted to take a moment to give a heartfelt thanks to all the folks who took the time yesterday to leave me a comment with a kind word or a show of support. I was expecting the worst, and was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) to see so many supportive and understanding comments. Very much appreciated. :)

OK, Now We Can Get to That
Here’s wishing you all a great Tuesday, and here’s hoping all your car shots happen in slightly cooler weather than we were shooting in. Cheers, — Scott