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Light Painting A Car

I’m lucky enough to have access to what can loosely be called some studio space (a huge empty room, large enough to get a car in that gives me completely control of the ambient light) so last night I tried a little automotive light painting.

So armed with nothing more than a camera, tripod and an Elinchrom Quadra with the modelling light on although any constant light source would do though.

I’d like to say that was all done in camera but it’s not. There are 3 individual shots that have been composited to make that final shot. Firstly, because of their brightness relative to the Quadra’s LED modelling light, I shot the headlights.

Then it was time to light the car. After a few tests with various softboxes I found the most even coverage came from simply walking around the car with just the Quadra head and 18cm reflector. A 13 second exposure at f/8 gave me time to walk fairly slowly around the car. The first shot below is a lap with the light held fairly low to get light onto the doors and the second was as high as I could reach to bounce some light of the car roof.

For this pass (another 13 second exposure) the light was held higher to thrown light onto the roof of the car.

Once in Photoshop, I layered the 3 images in Lighten mode and did a little burning to darken down the walls in the background. I also added and masked a desaturation layer to remove the slight yellow tinge from the fog lights and remove a colour cast from the wheels and floor. The result:

For a first attempt a light painting a car I am pleased, although looking at the final image, I see a few things I’ll look out for next time.

5 Comments

  1. Derek ramage

    Have a look at my xbox control shot smaller scale,

    you could try a longer exposure at f18-22 and walk twice around the car. Add lights on with photoshop but i love this kind of work and your efforts are great

    well done

    keep in touch

    Kind regards Derek ramage

    Reply
    • Simon

      Thanks Derek

      I like your shot, and your portfolio.

      I kept my exposures shorter as it was easier to do one lap at a time and choose between them later in Photoshop.

      I used even shorter exposures when shooting Michelle’s black S14 so I could get reflections into individual areas more easily.

      Simon

      Reply
  2. amateur

    I was just wondering if other sources of LED light (high powered torches, work lamps. would work just as effectively?

    Reply
    • Simon

      Yes, any source will do. You just need to adjust your aperture or ISO depending on the brightness. A smaller source will cause a smaller reflected line on the car though so you might want to diffuse it through something slightly larger.

      Reply
  3. Ali

    This is a great tutorial, thanks for taking the time to post it. The final image looks great

    Reply

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