Join Bryan O'Neil Hughes for an in-depth discussion in this video The photo shoot: process and approach, part of Photo Workshop: Portrait of an Exotic Car.
What we have today is a fantastic situation. We've controlled the light, we've created the perfect day, we've got a nice clean car right where we want it, and we can move all around it. My background is actually photography. I've been at Adobe for 13 years now, all that time on the Photoshop team. But prior to coming to Adobe, I shot cars. Mercedes SLS, pretty exotic car, pretty dramatic, and we've got really dramatic lighting here for it as well.
So what we are going to do is we are just going to walk around the whole car and try to learn as much as we can. You know with a car, you've got a lot of angles and curves. If we were to shoot this outside, we would have whatever happens to be outside reflected all over the place. We have a pretty busy background here, but the light from above is very consistent and very even. The ideal situation outside would be a cloudy day where we have a big soft box. I'm shooting digital, and there's a certain tendency to think, I can always take care of that in post, or if I don't get it right, I can do it in post.
Couple of things to caution you on. One, slow down just in general, whether I'm shooting a car, or I'm shooting a landscape or anything else, we all tend to sort of spray and pray. The first thing I'd counsel is to just really slow down and take it easy. But the next part, of course, I think in Photoshop, and as I'm walking around the car, I'm thinking of things I can do in Photoshop. I want to take it as far as I can possibly take it here. I want to do the most interesting things I can do in camera. I want the software part to be joyous. I want to be enjoying myself.
So I don't want to try to do things I forgot to do while I was here. The approach here is going to be to start with a wide-angle lens, and come around it. Shoot above it, and then switch lenses, go with something a little tighter, get in closer. And then end with a macro and do all these really interesting shots a bit up close. One of the challenges of shooting up here, and I normally wouldn't shoot up on a car, but I've got to go indoors is I am going to get the light above me, and that could be distracting.
It could look pretty artificial. But you can get kind of creative. So in that case, what I did is I focused on the AMG, and I went with a shallow depth of field, so that the doors are just a blur. I know what the car is. I can tell just by the taillight that it's a Mercedes SLS. All I need is a hint of the doors. Now, I should say that I don't think enough people shoot stabilized as they should.
It's very important. It's especially important if you're shooting video. Something like a car? Yes, absolutely, if this was the cover of the magazine, and there was one particular shot we wanted, we want to make sure that we were stabilized. But I'm moving around and getting to know the car, and we are trying to get a lot of different shots to learn what we like. So, for right now, we just want to be really light and fluid. And even though I'm not shooting on a tripod, I am doing my best to stay really stable. Sort of the rule of thumb with the shutter speed is you put a one in front of the number, and you get that as close to your lens. I am shooting with a 24 millimeter lens, and I don't want to shoot in slower than 1/25th of a second or 1/30th of a second on this camera.
Now, having said that, being a little further above that is great. In my head I am thinking the lowest I can go is about 25th of a second. I want to be at a 60th or so, something like that. Trying to remove lens blur or any sort of camera shake later is very, very difficult. I don't know how strong you are, but you want to make sure you go with a higher shutter speed for this because you're going to shake a little when you get into these weird positions. I think the other really interesting thing about this car is the hood. It's got this really long snout that just extends for ever and ever and ever.
So I am already thinking with the wide lens that I am going to exaggerate that. I'm going to get dirty. I am going to be laying on the ground and shoot right up at it. So with the ladder here, I've got a lot of choice when it comes to how high up I am, but my perspective is changing at each step. So I need to make sure I've got the height and the perspective that I want, which probably means I am going to move the ladder five or six times, which I already have. Get an odd perspective, get an insect's perspective, get a bird's perspective, but try not to stay stuck at 6 feet high.
One thing I am being really careful of here is to give some air between the bottom of the door, and the trunk in the back. I don't want them to blend together. I want some concrete ideally some yellow line to come through there. So I really get all of the individual pieces of the car. I am setting up to do an HDR shot of this car. HDR, High Dynamic Range, also called 32-bit.
Essentially, the idea here is that if I were to look down there at the grill, my eye can pick up all the detail in that, and then if my eye were to shoot up to the light source there, it could pick up all the detail there, and it can average out both of those. My eye has tremendous dynamic range. I can see all sorts of information and my brain can process it, so that I can tell what's where. The camera doesn't see like that. It can see the highlights or the shadows or more often than not somewhere in between, and you've got one image that you need to massage to pull out the shadows and pull down the highlights.
So one way around this is to do an HDR image, using three or more exposures, we are going to combine them together so we can get something like what our eye sees. But there are a few things you want to make sure you do when you're shooting HDR. Photoshop has the ability to deghost and align your images. So technically, you can shoot without a tripod, but you're always going to get better results always with a tripod. One of the tips I'll give you here is my center focus ring and all of my outside focus points for my auto-focus, they're on a big blank hood there.
They don't have any focus to grab. I want the focus on the front of the car. I wanted emblem on the front, and then to gently fall off into the background. So that's why I need to go to manual focus. There are two ways to do it. I've flipped up the mirror so I can look at it, and I can see what the camera is seeing, and I am zoomed in tight, or you could take a picture, a test shot and zoom in. So the other thing to know here is when we are shooting HDR, you want to make sure that you shoot at least one stop under and one stop over, and you do that with the wheel on the back and your exposure compensation.
But I'll also go kind of crazy, and I'll go more than two stops under and more than two stops over. I recommend doing it in Manual mode and the reason for this is you have more latitude. You can go further, over and under. And the other reason is you don't want to switch your aperture, you don't want to switch your f-stop, because what's going to happen is when you merge your photos later, they're going to be focused on different areas, and that's where you're going to get that ghosting. That's where it's going to look all funky. So either do it in TV shutter priority or do it in Manual.
Manual gives you a little more control. Three stops under, two stops under, one stop under. Just as the meter sees it, one over, two over, three over. Okay, so let's take a look here. We've got a shot that's completely overcooked. Tons of light, it looks, like someone is shining the sun on the front of the car, and we've got every single detail and the shadows. And as we pull back down here, we see that's about what the meter saw, and as we go darker, we see all the detail and the highlights popping out.
We've got tons of detail, and we are going to combine all those together and come up with a nice HDR. I want to get something similar to what my eye sees normally, and that's a 50. So I put on a Zeiss 50 here. Usually, I'd use lens like this for video. It's really great for that, but it also gives me a really nice bokeh, so I can do some nice shallow depth of field and get some really interesting shots. With this one, I might overcook it a little, because I am sitting down low, and I want to see some of the more detail and the grill. I can always pull the highlights down later, but I want to make sure I get the shadows now.
So I am going to overexpose by about a stop. I think a successful image here at the end is going to be something that not only surprises someone who looks at the photograph, but hopefully the photographer too. As you switch lenses, you start being a little more challenged, but you also start coming out with more unique perspective. So, as I am getting in closer to the car just putting on the 50 here, it's pulling me in closer, and it's showing me details that I saw in a much wider perspective before, and now I am looking at them more closely.
Sometimes, when you hit sort of a creative roadblock, get further away, get closer, get above it, change your perspective. Changing lenses is a really good way to do that. This particular lens, it's pretty high contrast. One of the things that it loves is all the detail and the sharpness with events and whatnot, but also that color. That red is really going to pop. Okay. So, we switched to the macro here, the 100 macro, it's great lens.
You can get in just ridiculously close, really fun for abstracts, great for car photography. I think the toughest thing about it is you pick up every single little piece of dust too. So, wandering around with a rag, wiping things off before you shoot them as you shoot them is going to save you a lot of time and post later. The key to any photography that's even somewhat abstract, which if you're not taking a picture of the whole car, it is kind of abstract is to latch on to texture or lines or contrast or shape. The car has got a ton of that.
It's got a ton of lines and curves, and we want to accentuate it. The hood emblem kind of gets lost when we're shooting it with the 24, but when you shoot it up close with the macro, you get that it has three dimensions that it comes right out of it, there is shadow, and there is form, and it triangulates. You can really see all the details in it. It's really a beautiful part of the car. The key with any of this is you're trying to tell a story. You're either trying to make something dramatic or interesting.
In the case of car photography, you're trying to say what the car is about. So I don't have a ton of options for my own. I am not sitting behind the driver's seat. I don't want to sit in someone else's car, but just focusing on a 240 mile per hour speedometer tells me a whole lot about the car right there. With a RAW file, you have a lot of latitude in post. I can pull out information I can't pull out right now. So what I'm doing in this case is I am under-exposing it, a full two stops to get the shutter speed I want. I want it to be sharp. I can't buy back the sharpness if I get lens blur yet.
So, what I'm doing is I am robbing it of light, and I'm going to introduce the light in Lightroom later. I've got about three stops in either direction in the software, and I can bring it back, and you'd never know differently. So remember, that's one of the things you can lean on in post is light. I mentioned before that there is a tendency to shoot too much, and shoot quickly, but the other side of that is when you have a lot of data, you have a lot of options, and you can do a lot of interesting things in post.
In the first portion of the course, Bryan photographs a carefully lit Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and shares tips for photographing cars. He shows how to evaluate the lines of the vehicle and compose shots for the greatest dramatic effect. Along the way, he employs a variety of lenses and shooting techniques, from macro to high dynamic range.
Next, Bryan guides the workshop's attendees through his Lightroom and Photoshop workflow. He shares insider tips on how to take advantage of the features in Photoshop CS6, such as the revamped Crop tool, the Iris Blur and Tilt-Shift filters, the Content-Aware Move tool, and video editing tools.