Large Scale Soft Box Studio Photography Added to Our Portfolio of Automotive Photography Services
Big news for our automotive clients – we’ve been prototyping and developing a new large scale mobile soft box studio designed specifically for car photography. We’ve used this system, composed of four powerful LED spot lights and either a 10×20 or 20×30 foot sail, on two recent shoots. There’s still some adjustments and tweaking that’s needed to make it perfect, but even still, we are really impressed with the results.
If you’ve ever looked into automotive soft boxes, you’ll know they are a hefty investment, but its hard to deny the beautiful results such a setup can yield – with sharp contrast between light and dark reflecting in the vehicle’s glossy paint while simultaneously bathing the subject in soft, shadow-less light. It’s been something I have long admired and as a photographer without a giant automotive studio where such a permanent installation would make sense (at least not yet) – I’ve often wondered how to mimic the effect in a mobile and more economical approach that would allow us to bring top-shelf studio results right to our client’s doorstep.
The image above features the fruit of this musing – our custom-made 10×20 sail atop two sets of 12ft heavy duty backdrop stands, lit by a set of four 150W LED lights. It proved a bit more of an undertaking than expected, especially in figuring out how to sew the larger sail, but after a little bit of blood, lots of sweat and a few angry tears, we had success – thanks to Bryn! As you can see from the image, there are a few difficulties that still require our attention – most notably my underestimation of the tension required to pull the sail taut while suspended over 10ft in the air. The result is a saggy center that at it’s max was about 8 feet tall – meaning a very tight fit (and an annoying extra bit of editing) for ECD’s gorgeous Defenders.
As you can see from the above video from our first shoot, we initially tried to fly our custom-made 20×30 foot sail (three times the surface area of the 10×20) but quickly found that the tension required to even get the sail off the ground exceeded the capabilities of our stands and weights. As you continue to watch the setup, it’s obvious that even with the 10×20, the bend on the stands is noticeable and probably not the best for the long-term health of the equipment. But despite the difficulties, its hard to argue with the results, as you can see below. Yes, it requires more post work, and about an hour each for setup and breakdown, but I just love the results.
But Wait, There’s More!
Our second attempt came just a few days later, with a shoot for another great longtime client, RM Sotheby’s. This time, we were asked to photograph a collection of four vehicle’s, including 3 race cars. Because of the nature of the vehicle’s and the location, we needed to shoot the collection where it resides – meaning another opportunity to refine the new mobile studio. With lessons learned in hand, we setup the soft box sail a bit lower, allowing for more tension from each stand. As the tallest car, a 1965 Maserati Sebring Series II, was less than half the height of the either of the Defenders from our first shoot, we had plenty of room up top. But between the longer length of the race cars and the shorter distance possible in the garage between the subject and my camera, the 10×20 sail supports were visible in many of the shots, requiring a lot of editing in post. But again, the results are really hard to argue with. Not perfect just yet, but I have been really impressed overall.
Here’s a few of our favorites, but feel free to click on any of the images to see the full gallery, including lots of behind the scenes photos.
So, what’s next? We’ll be investing in some more gear – namely taller, specialized stands designed to limit flex, as well as a lot more sand bags! That should enable me to fly the big sail, have it higher and tighter, and keep the support structure out of the frame. I’ve got a few other tricks up my sleeve as well, but you’ve gotta keep a little bit of the magic secret, right? Be on the lookout for an update soon!
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