This week’s photo comes from an advertising campaign I shot a couple of years ago for the insurance company Performance Direct. It was piece of work that was born out my ethos of working for free to build relationships but that’s another blog post…
The brief was to shoot a range of images to be used in adverts across a range of magazines, from prestige and classic to performance and modified. The lovely Hayley here was the face of classic insurance.
The whole shoot took place in a classic car club in east London, basically a large building filled with a vast array of amazing cars.
Definitely not a studio so in order to minimise clutter in the background of the shots I underexposed the ambient light by quite a bit. My sync speed of 1/160th (the 5D MKII would have managed 1/200th, but the cheap eBay triggers I used at the time were more reliable at 1/160th ) and f/10 did the job nicely without taxing the my pair of Elinchrom BRXi500’s. In this case, the main light is camera right in a 50″ Westcott Apollo softbox and there’s a gridded separation light coming from camera left to lift Hayley’s dark hair and right shoulder off the background.
As you can see above, the shot I delivered to the client was left pretty much how it came out of the camera as they had a team of designers who would be working with the image. All I did was remove a few specular highlights from various bit of chrome trim on other cars off in the distance.
For my portfolio I wanted something a bit more striking so I dropped in a city skyline to finish the image off. Once the tones were matched, the trickiest part was distorting the image so everything looked in perspective. Here is my version of the final image.
When everything goes exactly to plan it’s easy to get the shot, but what if your ducks aren’t in the same pond, let alone in a row? That’s when you’ve got to work harder to pull something out of the bag. It tests your mettle and pushes your ability to make the best of what you have to work with.
I came up against this sort of situation again recently at Santa Pod. The Fast Show is the first show of the modified season in the UK and being March, the weather can be is bit hit or miss. In this case, it missed. In the first few hours we had rain, then sleet and finally some snow – none of which is conducive to running cars down a drag strip!
Trying to dry the track as the sleet comes down
But… everyone was there and trying to make the best of it, including one of my clients who now sponsor a lane on the strip and needed some publicity photos. The Performance Direct girls Faye and Hayley were brave enough to come out from under cover so it was time to get planning. Here’s the thought process:
- A closed drag strip is bad for all the people wanting to see how fast their daily driver can do a 1/4 mile but good for me as it means I can use the freshly resurfaced start line as my location. The wet surface will also give a nice reflection of the girls red wellies.
- With my 70-200mm racked out to 200mm I can compress the scene and bring the famous Santa Pod sign closer.
- The sky is a very flat, dull grey so to get some interest in the clouds I will under expose by 2 stops.
- Underexposing will mean Faye and Hayley are dark, so I need a flash. It’ll make the red and white outfits pop nicely against the grey background too.
- It’s pouring with rain so I’m using one of my old Nikon SB24’s. I’m not risking one of my Quadras.
- I’ve got limited power with the flash so I’m going to have to crank it quite high and use it bare. Too windy for a softbox anyway.
- I’ll fly it on a boom as I need to get quite a way back at 200mm and I don’t want to have to Photoshop the stand out in post.
- A quick check with the light meter tells me im at f/11 at 1/160th. Test shot of the back of my hand to double check.
Time to get the girls on “set”!
Finessing the pose: The ancient art of Brolly Tweaking
It was wet, windy and cold so I had to work fast but with everything thought through and dialed in while they were in the warmth of the media centre I could concentrate on getting a good pose and composition and be done in a few minutes.
Here’s the final set up. Shot from a low angle, zoomed to 200mm, flash high, to camera left, client looking on and Fay and Hayley doing what they do best.
The final set up
And here’s the resulting image, used by Performance Direct across their various channels. Big thanks to Faye & Hayley, Matt at PD, Suze at Santa Pod for her hospitality and Darren for the behind the scenes shots.