I was out on a winter’s day shoot up on Dartmoor the other day with a fantastic 1934 MG K3, one of only 33 cars made.Built for racing it features a straight six 1087cc supercharged engine and as I followed it to the location I realised why it was so successful at first in the Mille Miglia with Capt George Eyston ,in the Ulster TT with no less than Tazio Nuvolari at the wheel with an incredible average of 78mph and at Le Mans where a K3 finished in 4th place in 1934.
It was an overcast freezing cold day and very windy but I needed the open country to offer clean reflections and as much light as was available to fill the British racing green body panels. We shot the statics in the top car park near Hay Tor which, unsurprisingly, was fairly empty at this time of year. On long lens I found I needed to up my shutter speed to 1//125th second and raise the ASA to 400 due to the buffeting by the wind, even using a tripod only 1 in 3 or my images was sharp .Upping the ASA isn’t a big problem on the Canon 5DSR as the 50 megapixel chip is so big that it remains sharp right up to over 1000ASA.
On my return home I set about editing the images. In winter or in low light your hit rate, or successful outcomes reduces and I found that only 1 in 8 of my action images were sharp .In this situation I always shoot more frames knowing that I’ll need the extras to assure a good selection for the client. The statics too had suffered from the tricky weather on the long lens (Canon f4:5.6L EF 70-300mm) but again I’d made sure I took enough to have sharp options.
On occasion I’d had to shoot angles that meant I couldn’t exclude posts and people in the background but knew I could take them out later in post production.
So here are my top 5 quick Photoshop tools tips for improving your images taken on a dull day.
Boost the saturation by up to 15% to give a more natural look to the colour
Tweak the levels using the histogram or curves to adjust the contrast
If needed lighten dark areas of the car using the dodge tool set to mid tone
If the sky is flat and featureless darken it using the burn tool set to highlight creating a gradient bottom to top…don’t overdo it
Remove unwanted distractions, in the above image, the people and post, using the clone or healing tools magnifying for the detail
After a long gestation James is happy to announce the long awaited arrival of the perfectly formed sibling to the first edition in the form of the brand new edition of ‘How to Photograph Cars’.
The first edition ,published by Motorbooks International was the best seller in its field guiding a generation of aspiring car photography students into careers across the automobile industry as well as helping those who just wanted to improve their skills as a hobby.
Over 144 pages and with more than 200 images many specially taken for the new edition James explains everything you’ll need to know about equipment choices from camera phone to the top end professional kit, advanced techniques for composing your image and how to find the best locations. Chapters set out how to photograph at a show or in a car museum, high-speed action at the track or out on the road, as well as how to shoot a magazine feature. The secret world of the car studio is exposed with pro’ lighting tips and behind the scenes images and in a brand new chapter, James looks at manipulating digital images and re-touching pictures to make them perfect for sharing on the internet, car club magazine or business.
You can buy the book from this website or on Amazon.co.uk from launch date 9/11/16.
I recently had a contact from a photographer in Brazil who doesn’t work in the industry but is considering giving up his current career to have a go at making his living from car photography.
Here’s the advice I offered :It’s a tough career to make a living from…there are many people wanting to do it and this drives the fees down…I earn about the same as I did in 2000.
Immerse yourself in the car world…go to race meetings, club meets, car events and shows….these will be good for contacts as well as subjects for your photography to build a portfolio of images.
Consider assisting an established photographer, even if you are older, you may have to do this for nothing to start with until they see your value.But you will get a good idea of what the business is like and whether it is right for you.
Once you are a proficient photographer with a good grasp of the technology and a great portfolio, you will need to find market’s for your photography…this could be magazine or newspaper editorial, car dealers, auction houses, book or website publishing or advertising.
Find out who does this where you live and either go and see them to show your work or develop a website that highlights your skill and do mail outs followed by personal phone calls.
One of the best ways to get started is to set up a online blog to highlight your images…remember…turning your hobby into a career can be the quickest way to kill your passion.
If you are determined to go into the car photography business don’t give up…it is the sort of job you can do part time whilst holding down another more solid career starting with small commissions here and there.
…and keep taking lots of pictures.
The brand new edition of James Mann’s book ‘How to Photograph Cars ‘ will be out soon.
The hugely enjoyable Goodwood Circuit Revival and Members meetings have become some of the best classic motorsport events in the world. At the Revival meeting I met a photographer who had never been to the circuit before and was faced with the daunting prospect of not wanting to miss anything by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Ideally it’s a good idea to walk the circuit to spot the best places to shoot from before the event but if you don’t have time here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
There are many great ways to cover the track at Goodwood but I’m going to pick out by top 10 places to shoot action if you are an accredited photographer. We’ll start at the very beginning, as they say it’s a very good place to start, with 5 places to shoot the start.
This view of the start on the pit straight is hard to get anymore as the Motorsport Association who govern the safety at race meetings have deemed it a ‘Red’ area but you can still shoot it from over the fence .
This view looking across to the clock tower is another option from the same place as the first.
Looking the other way towards the control tower panning the camera as the flag drops.
From the roof of the Race Control building, the one with the clock on it, this long lens image flattens the perspective drawing the elements together.
Looking back down the start straight from the beginning of turn 1, Madgwick, is a dramatic place to shoot the first few laps .A fast shutter speed is essential with the cars coming towards you at over 100mph and jostling for position.
I recently had a gorgeous and historic Aston Martin DB3 S to shoot at Goodwood for a magazine feature and, tight on time, and with rain threatening, had to shoot the statics quickly straight after the track test.
This isn’t ideal as the car can collect a myriad of bugs on the windscreen and I only noticed when I got back home and was back in front of my Mac editing the images. Glass or lightweight perspex in this case is always tricky to retouch as the light is often graduated from light to darker across the panel and great care must be taken with the clone tool or healing brush to avoid making a mess of it.
A quick solution is to start out with the clone tool set to a low opacity of 60-80% and copy over each bug mark from a point immediately adjacent to it on a high magnification and then go over it again at 15-25% with larger brush from the cloning tool palette to smooth any marks…
One thing you learn the more shoots you do is what to worry about on the day and what you can leave until later.With the benefit of hindsight there are many things you might have done differently at the time but the important point is to recognise priorities so you can get on with the main part of your day…photographing the car. This is useful to remember both on location and in the studio where it’s easy to spend valuable minutes fretting over a small highlight that could be removed in seconds during post production.
Infinity cove studios are getting rarer and rarer these days and costs rising so it’s important to choose the right one to suit your shoot. Too big and you won’t be able to focus your lighting properly, too small and you won’t achieve the angles you want. The concept of the cove is to remove all distractions in the background allowing you to paint the car with your lighting. First rule if you working with constant movie style lighting is to point the lights away from the car into the walls and ceiling ,not towards the car.
There are a number of different types of cove:-The Alfa Romeo Gulietta SS is being photographed in a 3/4 cove called Gun Hill Studio in Sussex with a fixed floating ceiling that can only be raised and lowered not moved in and out of the cove.
The Citroen DS below was for a book shoot in a cove built within a private collection called Studio 434 north of London in Pottars Bar .With just 2 walls and a floating ceiling we needed to fill in the missing third wall with large poly boards which is not ideal…as it is difficult to get a good reflection. It would be OK if you are using large soft boxes with flash however but here we have constant tungsten lighting.
One of my favourite coves is Plough studios in South London,below.It’s been a haunt of car and fashion snappers for nearly 50 years and the great Richard Avedon loved it so much he block booked it every year during his working summers in the city.Ideal for one car it’s a small cove but good and deep with one long wall so although they have now removed the floating ceiling it still works well.Here’s the MGB Roadster I photographed for the British Auto Legends stamps for the Royal Mail.http://www.royalmailgroup.com/royal-mail-celebrates-best-british-motor-cars-%E2%80%98british-auto-legends%E2%80%99-stamp-issue
A large full cove like Junction Eleven in Banbury, below, will have have three even walls and a solid ceiling .There is a floating ceiling that can be moved in and out and angled as in the image below of the super cool Jaguar XKSS. It is also painted mid grey in colour which reduces contrast and allows more subtle lighting rather than the white of the other featured coves.
I’m still recovering from this year’s fantastic Goodwood Festival of Speed.The event has grown from a small gathering of motoring enthusiasts with their cars going up Lord March’s Sussex country home’s drive into the largest motoring event in the UK .
With a slow pan of 1/60th second the grandstands blur nicely making the awesome 1973 Porsche 917 stand out in this image.A faster shutter speed would make the busy background sharper and the car trickier to pick out. 70-300mm f5.6 1/60th second
I caught this grabbed image of the brand new Aston Martin Hybrid as it headed back from it’s run up the hill…I like the excited people in the shot and the dust kicking up behind the car. 70-300mm f5.6 1/250th second
The super cars very often light up their tyres on their way up the hill like this 2016 Camaro burning rubber. Don’t centre the car in the frame but leave more space in front to give the idea of it moving forward.70-300mm f5.6 1/500th second
This is one of my favourite views looking down the drive to the start line, here with the awesome 730bhp 1972 McLaren M8F driven by Andrew Newell.It’s a difficult shot as the car drives through the shadow and highlight from the trees above.Pre-shoot a few frames to work out the best balance of contrast.70-300mm f5.6 1/640th second
Another good place to catch all the action is the start line.Here the Renault Streamliner takes off at quite a sedate pace. 17-40mm f9 1/250th second
If you only have one place to shoot over the weekend this image of the car driving past Goodwood house is probably the shot to go for.Here the 1906 Grand Prix Renault is nicely framed in a medium speed panning shot.To make sure you don’t lose the focal point during your pan switch off auto focus and pre-focus on the point where the car will be when you want to shoot it. 70-300mm f8 1/25th second
Shooting at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix in Monte Carlo is not only about the action imagery of course.You have to include the atmosphere and the incredible landscape to get the full story.
The pit lane is superb place to shoot the cars waiting to head out onto the track with the old town up on the hill in the background.17-40mm f11 1/125th second
No Monte Carlo visit is complete without shooting in Casino Square, There are about three different position to shoot from but I like this view best. 50mm f11 1/250th second.
Peeping through the armco crops this Alfa Romeo nicely with the high end stores in the background to give context.17-40mm f8 1/500th second
The Rascasse turn is the second last before the finishing straight with cars often tustling for position around the restaurant stuck in the centre of the corner, nicely framed by the Alps Maritime in the background.17-40mm f11 1/250th second
If you are lucky enough to know someone or get a pass onto the roof of the Fairmont hotel this is the view you can capture.17-40mm f11 1/125th second.
These images were all taken the fantastic Historic Grand Prix de Monaco which happens every two years. The races are short , just ten laps, so to shoot at different locations you have to be quick and plan ahead thinking about where the light will be at different times of day. If you are fortunate enough to shoot the Grand Prix itself it is much busier and harder to move around but at least you have the luxury of a two hour races to get yourself into the best position to capture all the glory of the what surely is the most exciting Formula One race of the season.
I’ve just come back from a great weekend taking pictures at the Monaco Historics Grand Prix.This is held every two years a couple of weeks before the modern GP and is one of the highlights of the classic racing season.
I’ve covered the event every year since it’s inception and each time I go I learn more about the circuit and find new places to shoot.So I thought I’d offer my best half a dozen places to photograph action at one of the most exciting race tracks in the world.
It is a confusing place to work however with access to the best track-side locations via a series of tunnels, secret stair-ways and lifts within the cliffs of the ancient principality .
I’ve numbered the turns on this lovely old map of the circuit so you can see where each image is taken.Most of these places are only accessible if you have a track-side tabard after signing on with the Automobile Club de Monaco.
This is one of the best paces to shoot the start St Devote, turn 1 accessed via a tunnel under the track and a guarded stairway.70-300mm f5.6 1/640th second
Crossing back under the track this great head on shot at Turn 7 is looking down the straight due south towards the sea, the harbour is immediately on the right. 300mm f4.5 1/800th second
Walking back down the pit lane and down the stairs to the second set of swimming pool curves this shot needs you to keep your nerve as the cars thunder past a few feet away.A high shutter speed is needed and a short pan. 70mm f5.6 1/000th second.
Turn 9 is in the background of this shot with photographers visible but there’s another good shot in this complex by turning around and photographing at the second corner turn 10. 70-300mm f5.6 1/500th second.
This is the first swimming pool complex.Again this is very fast with cars traveling at nearly 100mph coming towards you. 300mm f6.7 1/640th second.
There are lots of other locations to shoot a race from but if you have to go to one place then the Fairmont hairpin curves, formally known by all as Lowes , is a good place to head for.You can shoot about 4 action shots here with the cars usually bunched up and traveling a lot slower. 70-300mm f8 1/400th second
I’ve just come back from a great shoot at McLaren’s incredible futuristic Tech’ centre where they build the F1 cars and develop the road cars.Like many large organisations McLaren are very particular about who they let through their doors so it’s always exciting to visit and there are a special set of challenges to work there. Once through the security luck was on my side as I was able to park right outside the area where the 1968 M7C was located. They had moved it into a broad side passage off their boulevard where it is usually on display and I set up my ‘studio’ blocking off one end.
The magazine require a studio style portfolio of images for consistency and I have developed a way of shooting using black cloth to surround car and lighting with flash. It’s not ideal as flash is hard to control and requires quite a bit of post production work to smooth out the background but the result works well. The issue here were the high wings that meant I had to build a wall higher than the taller rear aerofoil. I balanced powerful mains Bowens monolights at the rear shining forward with soft boxes saving the less powerful battery powered Elinchrom Ranger lights for the foreground with daylight, this gives depth to the images with bright highlights drawing the eye into the picture. With only 3 hours allocated to my full shoot there was no time to waste and I finished just in time to clear the area and pack everything back into my estate car.