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How to shoot in a car in studio, Part 2

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Happy Holidays! Welcome to the last post of 2019. We continue on howto shoot a car in a studio.

Last week, I gave a tour of the studio environment while shooting a silver Toyota Camry. Now, learn how to edit the color of the car while maintaining shadow and highlight.

General note: If you can, get a car that has a color to it, not black or white (silver is pushing it).

  • White hides highlights
  • Black hides shadows and sheet metal curves
  • You can’t tint a color that isn’t there

You’ll make life very difficult, so avoid black or white cars at all costs for this purpose.

Getting ready to edit your car in studio shot

Before we begin, there are a few things that will make your life easier.

  • Know what color you want to make the car, meaning pick a consistent RGB value (in this case, we’ll use R:222 G:32 B:44 ).
  • Do all your normal basic retouching in Camera Raw beforehand so the image is ready.
  • Mask out your car from the background. Remember to include the wheels, wheel wells, head- and tail lights, windows and trim. Anything that isn’t body color.

There are 2 ways to change the color of your car, depending on if you already have a color on it or not. Since we have a silver car that lacks any color, that’s the process I’ll go over first.

Making a color from your car in studio shot

Let’s start with our basic silver car, already edited:

Toyota Camry Silver
The original image after edited all the light painting shots together.

First, make a color swatch with the RGB value you want, then make a new layer above your masked car image and right click on it. Choose create clipping mask, and you’ll see the layer becomes indented in the layer panel, with an arrow pointing to the one below. Then fill your new layer with the color you’ve selected, and you’ll get something like this:

Toyota Camry Red
The painted layer added.

Select the blend mode to OVERLAY, and magic happens:

Toyota Camry Red
Changing the blend mode will let the original highlights and reflections come through.

…that’s it. Almost. When you do this, it can bring out the highlights a little to much. To help that, group your layers, copy, and flatten into a smart object. Then, you’ll copy the layer with the initial red on it, duplicate it, and bring it above your new flat layer. Set the blend mode to MULTIPLY, and you’ll get this:

Toyota Camry Red
Adding another layer of red, this time set to multiply, will subdue the highlights.

See how the highlights look more even and subdued? If we had used a giant soft box, you probably would not need to do this part, but time and budget can get in the way of finding a place with a car-sized soft box.

As an aside, I wish I could tell you exactly what each blend mode does. I usually end up going through the menu and seeing what results happen.

Adding Dirt

Remember we had Dan add a dirt mixture to the car, and I shot it from the same angle, so we could do a sort of before and after image? How can we get the dirt to show?

First, edit your dirt image just like the rest of the car, but this time, de-saturate the orange color totally away (the dirt was an orange color). Bring your dirty image in on top of your clean image layer, mask away the parts you don’t need, and you get this:

Dirty Toyota Camry
The dirty image brought in and de-saturated on top of the clean layer.

Great, but not red. Now, bring in your original red layer from before and set the blend mode to OVERLAY. Use a clipping mask to tie it to the dirt layer below, and you’ll get this:

Toyota Camry Dirty
The final image, with tape line.

You may have to play around to get the effect you want, but the client was going for a salt / harsh flat paint vs ultra clean and shiny look.

Your car already has a color on it

This is much easier, and fun to do on your own ride if you’re curious about what a new color might look like on it.

Take any image:

BMW F80 M3
Original MPACT image of a Yas Marina Blue M3.

Add an adjustment layer of HUE/SATURATION on it, then mask out the body of the car.

Then, slide the slider labeled HUE, and watch the car turn colors:

BMW F80 M3
You can make it any color you like with the HUE slider, just be sure to mask out the parts that are not body colored.

Watch for other elements that have the hue of the original color, like wheels or headlights.  We could have done this option to our Camry image, had we been able to secure a car with any body color on it.

This wraps up posts for 2019! I hope everyone reading has a healthy and happy New Year, and come back in January for more tutorials and how-tos on new software I’ve been using, new cars I’ll be shooting, and other fun stuff. Enjoy!

Feel free to email me at with any questions.

Follow along on Instagram @machineswithsouls


Due to factors beyond the control of Machines With Souls LLC and Mike D’Ambrosio, I cannot guarantee against improper use or unauthorized modifications of this information. Machines With Souls LLC and Mike D’Ambrosio assumes no liability for property damage or injury incurred as a result of any of the information contained in this post. Use this information at your own risk. Machines With Souls LLC and Mike D’Ambrosio recommends safe practices when working on vehicles and or with tools seen or implied in this post. Due to factors beyond the control of Machines With Souls LLC and Mike D’Ambrosio, no information contained in this post shall create any expressed or implied warranty or guarantee of any particular result. Any injury, damage, or loss that may result from improper use of these tools, equipment, or from the information contained in this post is the sole responsibility of the user and not Machines With Souls LLC or Mike D’Ambrosio.