How to photograph a car with a harsh sun and yet have no harsh reflections

Good morning!
A few weeks ago we posted a car shoot of a R8 and a little girl.  We were limited on locations to shoot due to not wanting to drive the car too far (required race gas and wasn’t the best in stop/go daily driving.)   Our challenge was, how to take photos of two cars at 11am in Houston — one being a real car, and the other being a toy car with a 1yr old child.  We of course wouldn’t keep the child out in the heat long, so we decided to “paint” the car with light and then Photoshop it together after the shoot was over.   Here is how we did it.

Step 1, Coming prepared
You need a tripod and a remote trigger for your camera to properly “paint” a subject.  This allows your camera to stay in exactly the same position for each and every photo you take.  You also need one or more off-camera strobes.  Off-camera strobes could be either speed lights or remote triggers with powered strobes.  We did the remote triggers & powered strobes with an external power source.  We also brought a ladder just in case we needed a different angle.


Step 2, Have the car clean and then clean it again.
While we set up, he helped spot clean.  Thanks!!  (see above)

Step 3, Test shots
Take a few test shots and then preview how the composition of the image will look.  Also looking at the viewfinder/image inside your car or in a shaded area will help — looking at the viewfinder on your camera in the direct sun does not always give the best results.

Step 4, Paint the subject
With the remote shutter, move the light to a new spot.  set it down and take a photo.  Now move the light to the next spot (few feet over), and take another photo.  Repeat this until you get all the angles you want for the final product.  It helps having a mental image of what you are looking for before you start this task.  Below are a group of shots showing about 28 photos that were needed for this final photo painting.


Step 5, Layer everything together in Photoshop.
Use Photoshop “Layers” and merge each individual photo together until you get the desired result.  I will not go into the Photoshop details, but just know i use a few different methods for adding and subtracting the images to and from each other.  For larger detailed photos, this process should take about 45minutes to an hour in Photoshop.  If you are doing it for the first time and are familiar with Photoshop, earmark about 2 hours since you will end up playing around a bit for what works best for you.  Below is my final result of the Samoa Orange Audi R8.


But wait, didn’t you say something about a child?!!  Yup, keep reading!

Step 6, Adding the child
Now that we have a pretty photo of the car by itself, we need to add the child and her mini R8.  We felt the little one would immediately start moving the mini R8, so we decided to just use one strobe for this shot.  With the camera in the exact same position on the tripod, we started taking photos of her next to the real car — so when you overlay the photos, it is as if she magically appears.


Step 7, Adjusting Photo 1 and Photo 2
While the girl appears next to the shaded R8 (above), we really need the painted R8 in the photo.   So, we have to cut her and her mini R8 out and then paste her into the painted R8 image.  (we had to adjust the color/contrast on the little girls photo to match the r8 final image — same steps for the child as we did when creating the car only image.)  And finally this gives us the final product.


Step 8, Relax!

Thanks for checking this out!

Mila, Sebastian, and the Twins

Money shot better

Sebastian is a father of three who had a great idea. You see, he owns a Samoa Orange Audi R8. He also has a 1-year old baby girl named Mila. So he bought a toy R8 for Mila, but it wasn’t Samoa Orange.

What’s a loving father to do?

Have it painted the same shade of Samoa Orange at a real automotive paint shop with authentic car paint.

And a clear coat ^_^.


It was hot…

Crying with Daddy

…and Mila let us know when she wasn’t feeling it.

Not Happy walking away

But overall she was great! (Don’t worry parents, Mila was cool in mom’s air conditioned truck during setup for each scene.)

Fun shot baby in car Fun Windshield Clouds

Mila and dad looked great together. But next time we’ll have to get mom in there too. Perhaps we’ll need a third R8? ^_^

Wholesome Family shot with cars