Our friend, Leonardo Carrizo, is a multi-media storyteller who travels around the world capturing the story behind the destination. In this stateside 2-part blog entry, Carrizo takes us behind the scenes of a vintage car photo shoot with Canon and Lumopro gear!
This is a follow up post to A Triumph of Triangles – A Magazine-Style Photo Shoot with a 1957 Triumph TR3.
In this post, I’m going to talk about working with light, a reflector and off-camera flash. Also, I changed cameras and now I’m using my Canon 5D Mark III with either a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II or a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II.
According to the camera’s metadata the image below was taken at 12:23 pm so the sunlight is coming from above creating hard – unflattering – light. The arrows show the direction of how the shadows are falling directly below the subjects: car and Morgan. This is not to say that you can’t take great images at noon, you certainly can, but it all depends on the style and mood you are trying to capture.
Tip number one, if you can’t change the direction of natural light falling on the subject than change the position of the subject in relation to the light. I knew I wanted some portraits of Morgan inside the car so I had her enter the car where she was going to be shaded.
The problem now, as you can see in the image on the left, is that she is underexposed (too dark). The image on the right demonstrates that once I exposed for her skin, image car becomes overexposed (too bright). This means there wasn’t a happy medium between her exposure and the car’s surface. I chose to expose for Morgan. Notice that inside the car there are no hard shadows and the sunlight is actually even. I was OK with overexposing the car a bit since the main subject on these images was Morgan and not the car. I was using the Canon 70-200mm lens because I wanted a very shallow depth of field and I wanted to zoom in on her inside the car.
We tried a few other poses of her from that side of the car. You can tell how I had Morgan move her position to make the images. Here are finished images with post-production.
Tip number two, if you can change the direction of natural light falling on the subject, change your position in relation to the light and subject. So, I moved to the other side of the car which changed the lighting condition. I also changed to my Canon 16-35mm wide angle lens to show the entire car as well as more of the interior with Morgan still inside.
From this side of the car, I wanted to expose for the outside to keep the color of the sky which means the inside and Morgan was going to be dark. Consequently, I needed to add light to Morgan. This can be easily accomplished with either a flash unit or a reflector. I chose the reflector option first since it was easier to set up and direct the light back into the car. It’s easier when you have somebody holding the reflector for you, thank you Jesse!
Both images below are examples of using a reflector bouncing light to Morgan. In the image on the left the light was not directed well towards Morgan but you can still see the reflector on her glasses. The image on the right shows the light perfectly directed at Morgan’s face. Notice that since the inside of the car is dark adding light to Morgan creates more contrast and makes her stand out even more from the interior of the car.
Since I’m able to balance the exposure (outside and inside) now I can go back to the other side of the car and keep shooting. I’m exposing for the body of the car and reflecting light back to Morgan so she is not in the shadows underexposed. –notice that I had her move a bit outside of the car. This was not only to change her pose but to make it easier to bounce light towards her. Now, I can capture a wider image of the car from that side.
I’m feeling pretty good about the photo shoot around this time so it’s time to take it to the next level. I had Chris move the car to change the composition, I was looking to create angles and diagonal lines. I wanted Morgan outside and around the car to create foreground and background elements. Also, I wanted to use the sun and the reflector to make more dramatic environmental portraits. I used a LumoPro LP180 flash to fill in some shadows.
The arrows show the direction of the natural light, the direction of the shadows and the direction of the light being directed back to Morgan to light her face. Jesse was holding to the reflector to the right of me. Without the reflector bouncing light towards her she would appear silhouetted. Chris was on the LumoPro LP180 flash filling the shadows on the left and lower part of the car (door, fender and rim). I used a pair of Pocket Wizards to trigger the flash which I had in a small softbox and light stand. The softbox diffuses the light from the flash, I just wanted to add details on the left side of the car. Therefore, I’m working with three light sources and directions: the sun behind Morgan, the light reflected back to Morgan on my right and the light from the flash filling in shadows in the car on my left.
This is the image without the red arrows.
In the image below, I asked Morgan to move to the front of the car. I got lower to the ground so could I play with the perspective and isolate Morgan even more from the background using the sky. Again, notice the lines and angles created by the car and the pose.
Finally, I wanted to get Chris involved in the photo which meant another subject in the composition that had to be well lit. I first thought about having him inside the car like in the image below. Of course, he was going to need light but that was not a big problem. Placing the flash inside the car with the remote would solve that problem. But after reviewing the composition and story, I wanted Chris to take a bigger role in the image.
I had Chris stand outside the car, kept Morgan in the front and the car connecting the two subjects. In the image below, you can see that Chris’ face is dark because the sunlight is coming from the opposite direction; you can also see where the light stand is located.
I moved in a bit to avoid the light stand. I changed the angle of the light so it would light the top of the car and bounce toward Chris lighting his face. Compare the images above- small changes can make a big difference in your photos.
Here is my final image with post-production.
“You don’t always need to have big or expensive lights to make a good image.”
I feel confident that if I was shooting this for a client or magazine they would be happy with the results. You don’t always need to the have big or expensive lights to make a good image. In my opinion, you can make great images with natural light but that’s not an excuse not to learn about other ways to use light creatively. You also need to learn how manipulate light by changing its direction, changing the position of your subject or by adding light. Besides it’s not difficult and it’s fun.
Special thanks to:
Jesse on the reflector, Chris on flash car and Morgan for having to deal with all of us! Seriously, the images that you see above only happened because their friendship and wiliness to share time with me. Again, Thank you.
Of course, I also want to give thanks to Midwest Photo for always letting me try gear.
Here are some behind the scenes images and a bonus video shot with an DJI Osmo Plus.