Tutorial: How the epic Mitsubishi 3000GT composite was made

BMWs will always be a passion of mine, but my first love was a Mitsubishi 3000GT. Laugh all you want, but to me, there is no car more beautiful on this Earth.

Finding one to shoot…not so easy. Made from 1991 through 1999, the car was never produced in large numbers, and the VR-4 is even more rare than the base or SL models. I’m partial to the look of later generations, but even early models, with their flip-up headlights, offer a great subject.

When I found one at the large Cars and Coffee event at the Garden State Plaza in September, I was thrilled – the rough-looking wide body kit and right-hand drive made this car a true steam-punk looking example that might be found in Tokyo streets. That gave me an idea…let’s make a composite!

Shooting the car

This was a good day to shoot, cloud cover was low and even, giving the cars lighting that wasn’t to harsh. Up close, this 3000GT was in rough shape, but getting far enough away hid many sins. The shape of the car was great from all angles, but that front three-quarter view proved most aggressive. As always, getting low hides much of the clutter found in and around car shows.

Mitsubishi 3000GT
The original image.

Deciding on a scene

The 3000GT is a 90s Japanese super coupe, one of the “Holy Grail” generation of Supras, RX-7s, 300ZXs, and even Subaru SVXs that were meant to cast a halo on the model lineups they belonged to. So Japan felt right.

Searching free stock houses revealed this image.

And, pulling the wall image from a previous composite of a 911 Turbo would give me everything needed to piece together a scene.

You’ll also need some lens flair for the headlights, and I found these. I took a bit of an artistic license on these headlights – for those born after pop-up headlights went away, the clear lens in front of the actual headlight unit was to give the ability to flash someone with high beams. While not impossible, it would be difficult to get the car to look like how the final edit came out. But points for cool.

Toyko Bay
The original background photo.

Goodbye glass

You guys already know that we mask out the car from previous composites in Photoshop, so I’d like to focus on windows here. You’ll want to cut out anything from the actual scene that would be seen through the car’s window, but you’ll still be left with the “haze” that comes from shooting through glass. Sometimes you can make it work and match the tones, but in this case, I simply opted to tint the windows and black most it out. You can still make out silhouettes, but this can sometimes cut down on editing time and provide a clean solution.

Mitsubishi 3000GT
The interior of the car, such as the seats, take on the glaze from the atmosphere and glass.

How to tone

This won’t look right unless the color of the shot matches completely. Once you’ve retouched out the plate and things like EZPass tag, flatten the image, then make it a smart object and add a Camera Raw filter. Adjust 2 panels: Basic and HSL.

HSL Adjustments
We’ve skewed the car to a much cooler tone with the HSL Saturation panel.
Basic adjustments
The panel starts off with each slider exactly in the middle, so you can see how much adjustment is needed.

You’re left with this. Literally night from day.

Mitsubishi 3000GT
The result from the Camera Raw adjustments.

Final touches

The rest is just a continuous process of adding filters and darkening until it passes the eye test. I did add a soft glow to the bridges with an airbrush of white and set the opacity to 20%. The headlights were achieved with Optical Box 4, from the lens flair link above.

This was so much fun, and I hope to be able to one day shoot a 3000GT in front of Tokyo bay.

Mitsubishi 3000GT
The final image.

Feel free to email me at mike@machineswithsouls.com with any questions.

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