You always want to shoot a car at dawn or dusk. But sometimes schedules work out for an afternoon shoot, and that means high contrast lighting.
When Phil of the famous Detailer’s Domain wanted a shoot with his M2, the only timing that worked was mid-day. Here are five tips for dealing with high contrast during an automotive shoot.
Tip 1: Watch the Shadow
If you look at the banner image for this post, you’ll notice lots of long shadows being cast on both the ground and car itself. I took this shot as a demonstration – shadows get long and dark at mid-day, so watch for odd shapes as you compose your image.
Tip 2: Polarize me maybe
Depending on the car, a polarizer is even more important during a mid-day shoot. Brighter light means more harsh reflections on the side of the car, so set up a tripod and make sure to rotate your polarizer to clean up some reflection.
Give yourself less work and choose a location that isn’t to busy. The opposite side of the brick wall you see here was devoid of clutter.
Tip 3: Add some real flair
Depending on the time of day, you can use the sun to your advantage with some dramatic lens flair. Look at the car from different angles and try hiding it behind a spoiler, mirror or roof. These work best with detail shots, but take a few minutes to play around and see if you can get a dramatic shot of the entire car like this as well.
Tip 4: High contrast details
You might think that having a ton of natural light would make the car nicely lit, but not always. Be sure to watch for heavy contrast on the lower half of the car where wheels, exhaust and grilles live. Bringing out the details is just as important now as it is later in the day.
Tip 5: Retouching high contrast
Phil’s immaculate M2 was both clean and painted a color that worked well with this lighting (check out those BBS wheels!). But you can add drama with my lens flair pack. Just make sure to add the flair in the right spot to match the lighting.
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