Shooting Exotic Sports Cars at the duPont Registry

Above: A Lamborghini Gallardo shot at the duPont Registry Headquarters in Clearwater, Florida.

When I was at Photoshop World in Las Vegas last September, I ran into an old friend, Manuel Obordo (literally, the guy who taught me Photoshop —- if you’ve heard any interviews about how I got started in this business, you’ve heard me tell the story of Manuel).

Manuel is the duPont Registry magazine’s Director of Technology (the duPont Registry is a luxury car and lifestyle magazine that’s hugely popular here in the USA, and I’ve been reading it, and drooling over the cars in it, as long as I can remember). When I saw him I asked if I could come and shoot some of their collection of cars (I had heard they always have all kinds of cool, and man did they ever). So, on Friday Brad and I went and did a location scouting trip out to their headquarters, and then yesterday Brad and I shot there from 2:00 pm to around 5:30 — all with just one strobe (an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra and then when its battery finally ran out from shooting at full power the whole time, a regular ol’ Elinchrom Ranger for the last car), and just one softbox — a 5-foot stripbank. That’s it.)

Above: A detail shot of a Ferrari’s F-430’s wheel.

Above: Here’s the rear of the Ferrari, lit so just the highlights show. It didn’t hurt that the Ferrari was already black. Also, there’s this program called Photoshop that helped here a bit, too).

Above: Here’s a behind-the-scenes shot so you can see the full rig. That’s Brad Moore with our strip bank and flash mounted on a monopod. The Ranger battery back is on the floor. If you’re wondering how the background went so solid black, it’s because I’m using the camera settings and techniques I learned from a class from Award-winning commercial automative photographer Tim Wallace. I used an f/stop (in this case, f/22) and I got the softbox close enough to a very quick fall-off to the light. I used my Nikon D800 for this shoot so I would have loads of detail and file size.

So, while there are rows and banks of florescent lights above us, and through my view finder I can see the stacks of boxes in the background, and I can see right out the large windows, when I fire the flash, it crushes down the ambient light to nothing and only the light from the strobe lights the car. If you watch Tim’s class, you’ll totally get the technique. It doesn’t hurt to have really cool cars to use it on, though.

Above: Same light, but I had Brad move over to the left a bit and place the softbox at an angle to this view of the Ferrari and the engine compartment in the rear. Those highlights are the soft box reflecting in the car’s rear hood and glass.

Above: Here’s a close-up detail shot using a Macro lens; hand held with the same lighting set-up and settings.

Above: Here’s the set up I used for the hood shot, and for headlight detail shots.

Above: The previous five photos use the same everything; we’re just moving around the car. The cars were parked together really tightly and we couldn’t move the cars, so it made it pretty challenging some times (well, for Brad anyway).

Above: They also had a rare Corvette Sting Ray with Split Rear windows and I couldn’t help but get a few shots.

Above: Here’s one of the rear views [stop snicker — I meant the car] — still only that one soft box — the reflections are doing double-duty.

Above: Here’s a Behind-the scenes shot, and Brad is wearing the Elinchrom Quadra Ranger battery pack over his shoulder on the right. This was our first time with the new Lithium Ion battery and we couldn’t believe how light that battery pack was with it. Brad was super-diggin’ it.

Above: They also had a brand new Fisker Karma (first time I’d see one in person up close), so I wanted to shoot it as well. It’s hard shooting a white car, so we warmed up on this car. I only got a handful of shots I liked but at the end of the shoot I got this one I liked.

Above: To get the perspective you saw in the last shot I needed to lay down on the ground, and Brad mounted the softbox on a boom stand and put it just a little bit in front of the car, as seen here. I’m shooting tethered directly into Lightroom for most of the day, but later we were “runnin’ and gunnin’ so I shot directly to the card in my camera. This gives you an idea of how tight the quarters were to get side shots of the cars.

I took a lot more images, including images of a Harley Davidson Sportster and that 1937 Lincoln Zephyr on the left of the Karma I’m shoot, but I’m running out of space here.

My thanks to Tim Wallace — a brilliant teacher, amazing photographer, and terrific guy because I wouldn’t’ be shooting this stuff without learning his techniques first, so if any of them look OK, Tim deserves the credit.

Above: That’s me with Manuel “Manny” Obordo at Photoshop World last year. He’s usually much more smiley than he appears here. He’s a totally cool guy, smart as anything, and you don’t want to play him in golf  — especially for money. 

Also, a big thanks to Tom duPont, all the patient crew at the duPont Registry magazine, and especially my buddy Manuel Obordo (shown with me above) who not only made this shoot happen, but 20-something years ago taught me how to use the Pen tool, which I always felt was the biggest breakthrough I had in learning Photoshop, and the whole Photoshop thing has worked out pretty well for me so far, so although thanks isn’t nearly enough Mannyâ¦thanks!

  1. I can still remember Manny teaching Photoshop 2.0 to the two of us back in your office on Old Coachman back in 1992. I can remember talking to you that night on the phone as we tried to replicate the drop shadow method using channels. Thank God for PS 3.0 and layers because I still can’t do the drop shadow effect using channels. We were very fortunate with the type of friends that we had and still have and we owe a debt of gratitude to Manny and Doug Gornick for their sharing of their knowledge of PS.

  2. What car/cars is on your dream list? Valentine’s Day is coming up, did you drop any hints?
    As always, thanks for sharing, especially when you show the behind the scenes shots.

      1. F 458 Italia +1. I got to ride for 30 minutes exactly this Lamborghini Gallardo, once in a lifetime, such a fun ride! But then, for another 30 minutes, F 458 Italia… a car from another world, it got me calibrated for the rest of my automotive life, now I can die :-) Go for it, Scott, make your dream come true, sure you deserve it ;)

  3. I had a super fun time, but I honestly hate having my photo taken. I’d rather be behind the lens instead of in front! ;-) And @Jim Workman, I remember those days with you, Scott and the guys and everyone at the Mac users group as well. Good times…

  4. Scott, great car pics enhanced by lighting, background settings and composition. However, there seemed to be something missing, something that epitomized a classic car shot. Then, I remembered. On the GRID, you showed us just such a setting. It was the pic of buddy standing beside his 55 Chev in the noonday sun against a pleasant backdrop of trees, eating his lunch. Now, that’s a car pic.

  5. Hey Scott
    Very nice work and good to those techniques being put to such good use mate.
    Really love that rear shot in black, very nice work indeed and very honoured that you have me credit on the techniques but your the guy with the camera so great credit to you too my friend.
    Look forward to being back in the US next month to record some more classes and hopefully inspire a little more. Our very best wishes from a very snowy Switzerland where we are currently working fit the week.

    Kind Regard
    Tim Wallace

    1. Thanks for the kind words Tim, but I never would have even attempted this type of work without your class and techniques, so thanks for being so willing to share. I’m totally jealous of you being in snowy Switzerland — there are worse places to be. Cheers! :-)

      1. Thank you my friend you are very welcome and seeing you out there shooting this sort of stuff and reading others out there doing the same makes it all very worth while.
        Great photography is a journey not a destination and one enjoyed best with good company along the way I feel ….

        Switzerland tonight is quite deep in snow and tomorrow we expect sun and a clear morning as we head out to do a big run skiing from the top of the Alps, personally can’t wait. The sheer beauty up there and silence is breath taking and you feel very small and humbled in such beauty.
        I will of course try not to crash mate as I am looking forward to our US trip too much next month to see you and the guys. ! lol
        I do have the new GoPro however that I will be fixing to the front of one of my skis 😄 for insurance purposes mainly ! lol

      1. I take it we are taking about the ‘Brad stand’ and not the Stingray ! Lol
        But I do hear its a quality item to hand with you so I guess it’s well worth it mate

  6. Really cool shots Scott. I have not watched that particular class on Kelby Training, but I will now. I got most of the way through the new Head Shots class on Saturday. Peter Hurley is amazing, but you already knew that.
    Again Great Shots!

  7. These shots are unbelievably inspiring. I wonder if I could get similar light quality outdoors on a heavily overcast day. Our church’s annual May car show generally pulls 100+ classic cars. I might have to invest in a Vagabond Mini for my B800…

    Is that a 1950’s Willys Wagon sitting next to the Lamborghini? I’m an old Jeep nut, and I can honestly say I never expected to see those two sitting side by side. Rev ’em up & wait for the green light!

    1. Get your lighting right and position and shooting these techniques outside on a ‘cloudy’ day rocks mate, in fact most of my work is shot in just that circumstance but hey I am lucky as I am based in the UK so ‘cloud’ is not too much of a problem. Remember to keep a balance however and don’t throw too much light in there, you want to overpower the ambient light levels without getting too funky or the car will look odd, high sync speeds can help on this if you are shooting medium format
      Good luck with your shooting and enjoy.

    1. Get over to Kelby Mark and check out our training on there, we have 4 classes and even one that expressly deals with techniques on shooting in this way talked through step by step from myself. Enjoy!

  8. Yum. I want to shoot like that for sure. I’ve been watching Tim’s work and dissecting it but always thought one light wasn’t enough. Turns out I just want trying hard enough. Thanks for the inspiration, both of you. I hope to add shots like this to my portfolio soon.

    1. You’ll be amazed with just what you can achieve with one light Ian, the main things to remember most are ‘intensity’ … you need that light close and bright to create a pool of controllable light with out too much fall off contamination of the immediate area and also and this is the big one buddy, ‘POSITION’ this makes a whole heap of difference and a good starting point is 90 degrees.
      Best of luck and enjoy!

  9. Thanks very much for the behinds the scenes look at how you made these car shots Scott. I especially like the F430 rear shot. I actually live in the Tampa Bay area and shoot as many car jobs as I can get, but all those have been mostly outdoors. I will definitely suggest to any future clients doing an indoor shoot, or trying for the type of lighting you did in a shady spot or overcast day. I have used the small aperture, fast shutter speed strobist technique before for portraits & such to create a black background. I like that style of shot a lot.

    In a side note, I met someone at a car show last year who lives in St. Petersburg who has a red 458 Italia (he never got back to me about making photographs of it) and then this past Sunday saw another one driving on Beach Drive in downtown St. Pete. I know a dealership in south Florida currently has a red 458 Spider for sale, just to let you know.

  10. Scott, very inspiring post today! I love shooting old classic cars and you’ve given me so more stuff to think about and try! Man my head is going to explode with all the info I get from you and Matt!!! To be honest … I’ve started keep a log of your info and Matt’s info. I just can’t retain all this stuff!:-) I’m definitely going to check out Tim’s class on Kelby Training. Thanks again for all that you do and pass on to us!!!


  11. This comment is a bit ironic coming on the heels of Lloyd Grace’s, but I’d just like to mention that I really appreciate the fact that there are no scantily clad women draped all over the cars. You’ve proven time and time again that you don’t need to photograph sex to sell a product and I love that. Thanks!

  12. Thanks – great images. So, I bought the D800, couple of lenses, got a Ranger unit… turns out I forgot to buy the supercars that are apparently also needed. Dang!

  13. I’m new to your blog, so maybe there’s an earlier post that addresses this question, but here goes: I’m intrigued by the boom setup you’ve got going with your strip light while photographing the cars. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was, exactly, even after looking at your gear posts. Clearly it’s some sort of Avenger clamp, but what piece does the boom itself consist of? Thank you!

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