Dealing with nasty reflections on location

I had a reasonably typical experience the other day on an auction catalogue shoot with a stunning Aston Martin DB2/4 that was just out of MOT. We had planned to run the car to nice location to shoot it but short on time we had to compromise by photographing it in a fairly scruffy  garage back yard. All was not lost as the space had bamboo screening and it was a nice day and the shoot was going well until we had to turn the car for the nose left front 3/4 view an saw nasty reflections.

Aston Martin DB2/4 with nasty reflection in the side
Aston Martin DB2/4 with nasty reflection in the side

This projected a horrible reflection of the brightly lit yard into the shaded side of the car but looking around we found a sheet of white painted ply which we used to shield the background with the added effect that it bounced the light back into the car lighting the side.

Aston Martin DB2/4 showing board
Aston Martin DB2/4 showing board

The result was pretty good…….

Aston Martin DB2/4
Aston Martin DB2/4

Creating a studio set up inside

I’ve recently been working on a series of shoots for book publisher Dorling Kindersley. They are known for their stunning studio style books with complicated spreads out of white but whilst they used to actually photograph their subjects in a studio, digital technology now allows for the same high quality images to be taken on location. This demands creating studio lighting inside somewhere that isn’t a studio, in this case the Haynes International Motor museum in Somerset and was complicated by mixed daylight, spot and fluorescent lighting which all need to be balanced up with flash.

Studio style lighting in a museum
Photographing in mixed lighting conditions needs to be controlled to get a consistent studio style result

We had to shroud a BMW CSI in white sheets to kill reflections into the windscreen and bodywork from skylights above the car.The back sheet is there to aid the cut out process with white seen through the car’s rear window.The foreground is lit by flash with a white reflector sheet lifting the exposure in the tyres, grille and front bumper but to get the necessary depth of field it helps to use the available light and a long exposure.

70-200mm lens F16 1/2 second

Solving contrast problems in an infinity cove

I had an interesting problem via email from a photographer about an issue he has with his new studio he built at the back of his home. It’s an small white infinity cove studio where the floor meets the walls and the walls meet the ceiling in a smooth curve and he finished putting it in last year ,but solving photographic problems is what How to Photograph Cars is all about.

I’ve discussed studio lighting with him before and had advised to bounce his lighting, in this case flash, off the walls and ceiling. He’s having contrast issues with a very flat images coming out of the camera as well as losing the top line along the roof of the car.


This is a common problem in a studio with a low ceiling and can be solved by pointing the lights lower down the back wall or adding a line of double width black tape to the wall so that this reflects back into the roofline giving an edge .

The flatness of the image can easily be dealt with in post production by boosting the contrast in levels or curves and then whitening the background using the dodge tool set to highlights. Clone or use the healing tool to further clean up the turntable lines on the floor and, in a white cove, add about 10-15% increase in saturation to bring the colour back as it tends to get washed out.Hopefully it will help with solving photographic problems in the future.

HTPC BMWHow To Photo header for web-w

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