Lighting Techniques

Learning how to lay light down over any vehicle is trial and error, you need to take the time to learn the shape of every subject you shoot.

These short videos will give you a solid set of techniques you can use as a base while you perfect your own methods and style.


The Base Shot

Before we get into some of the different lighting techniques used to create automotive light painting images I want to give you a tip that will make your life infinitely easier when it comes to constructing your image within PhotoShop.

Take a long exposure base shot of your subject. This base shot will have absolutely no light from your lighting equipment and no trace of you or your footsteps.

Trust me when I say, it will save you valuable time in the long run!

The base shot is the one shot that all of your light painted exposures will sit on top of.

Trust me when I say, it will save you valuable time in the long run!


Capturing Rim Light

Rim light, also known as back light or hair light is a useful technique. It allows you to pull the subject off of the background while adding extra depth to your image.

Capturing a clean rim light is very easy. Walk slowly behind the vehicle, from end to end, holding your light source above the roof line angled towards the camera. Be careful not to let the light drop below the roof line. If the light does drop below the roofline it will be a little extra work during post processing to make it usable.


The High Pass

The high pass will provide you with a strong highlight that follows the shape of the vehicle. 

Simply walk slowly the length of your subject, holding your light steady, just above the vehicle, taking care to follow the body shape.

Always take more than one pass. It's far better to have more than you need than none at all!


Shadows are extremely important in any photograph. Don't flood the subject with light!

The Mid Pass

A good mid pass will create a nice gradient with good light fall off. Allowing you to show the curvature of the car whilst maintaining shadows.

To capture the mid pass, walk slowly the length of your subject holding your light just above the height of the vehicles bonnet. Keep your light source steady so the highlights are nice and straight.


The Grill & Wheels

Lighting the grill and wheels lets you show more detail in the final image. Hold the light just above the grill or wheels, angled towards the ground. This will allow you to keep the fall off consistent with the rest of your passes.

You may need to angle the light directly at the grill or wheels. Experiment and see what works best for you and your subject. You can pick and choose when creating the final image.


All Passes

This video demonstrates all of the passes used to create the final automotive light painting image in the tutorial. Including how to add a strong ground shadow and extra fill light.

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