Photographing Large Vehicles

December 15th, 2022

Photographing Large Vehicles

photographing large vehicles

Photographing a large vehicle has its own challenges. Photographing a large vehicle in intermittent sunshine, with the threat of rain is on a whole other level.

The light was changing every few minutes, as the small clouds constantly moved across the sun. Whilst I would be lighting the vehicle, I still needed a consistent ambient light for the background, and basically anything not being lit.

I tend to bracket my automotive images, so as to gain greater detail, and a wider dynamic range. But it really does rely on consistency. And whilst the sun was in and out like a yoyo, at least it wasn’t raining yet.

I placed an ELB500 at full power 6.3 (equivalent to 500Ws), frame left, and firing through a 26cm reflector. It was facing the front of the lorry, and at a height of around 2.7m.

I placed a second ELB500 frame right, and only just out of frame. It was again set to an output of 6.3 (equivalent to 500Ws) and firing through another 26cm reflector. It was aimed so as it would light the side of the cab, and the front half of the trailer.

Due to the length of the vehicle, I wasn’t going to get away with just two lights. I placed a third ELB500 frame right, and about halfway down the length of the vehicle. It was also set to an output of 6.3 (equivalent to 500Ws), and firing through another 26cm reflector. It was set so as to light from about halfway down the trailer to the end.

I used the ISO to vary the exposure for the HDR, as using the shutter speed would only affect the ambient part of the image. Using the aperture would affect both the ambient and flash lit parts of the image, but it would just create quite a bizarre focus issues with the blended final image.

The correct exposure for a standard exposure was 1/125th of a second, f22 at ISO200. This became my base exposure, and I took an exposure at ISO 50, 100, 400 and 800, This gave me my five exposures for the HDR blend.

Due to the sun playing hide and seek, I found I had to wait a while between exposures, until the sun reappeared.

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The vehicle was turned around, and the lights moved so as to create a decent coverage of light. That said, they were placed in similar positions to the first image. The same technique was used to create the five images required for the HDR blended image. The camera settings and light settings remained the same, although I seemed to have to wait a little longer between frames for the sun to play ball.

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An image focused more on the trailer was requested, and it simply meant repositioning the camera, so as the trailer became more prominent. The lights remained in the same position, other than the one frame left needed to move over slightly, to accomodate the camera. However, have you noticed the background? Although we have a nice blue sky and clouds, the sun, which used to be over my right shoulder, has permanently retreated behind a rather large black cloud that’s heading our way.

You can see how the loss of ambient light has affected the image, although it certainly made the trailer pop against the darker background.

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And just to prove a point, it started to rain,

A lot!

It was the quickest take down and packup I’d ever done.

The ELB500 kit came from The Flash Centre.

My automotive photography portfolio can be found here.