Whew! What a month it’s been, no? We’ve had some fantastic insights into the world of professional automotive photography with the help of all of our wonderful guest bloggers, saw some great portfolios from some masters and even had an epic glimpse into the pre-digital world of light capturing with the help of Sutton Images and the Jedi of Jedi’s, John Brooks.
So to close up the month, we present to you our second set of answers to your photography questions:
CuttlefishTech: What’s the credentialing process like for various racing/drift series? Formula D? ALMS? I’ve pretty quickly gotten to the point where improved hardware would be nice, but shooting from prime locations will help me more. Also, what’s the fascination with slow shutter speed blurry pictures? I find most of them absolutely disgusting.
Linhbergh: It depends on the motorsport series you’d like to cover. It’s fairly easy to get media credentials for Formula D. It is much harder to get approved for a series like ALMS and it is almost impossible to get into ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest which handles the european Le Mans series). For the most part, having the support of a fairly recognized media venue helps a lot. For those of you that are not associated with any recognized media outlet, I would recommend trying to meet a few people in the industry and create a partnership where get you all credentialed up and you give them some photos in return. When I first started off shooting events, I got a lot of access that way.
Slower shutter speed blurry photos is all a personal choice. I like it for the fact that it makes the photo look completely surreal –almost like it is not quite at that event or location but on a different dimension/planet/universe. It’s also a skill that only a few people can master. Can you pan a car going at 80+ mph while hand held, holding a 300mm, with as shutter speed of 1/5th of second? Well, John Brooks can.
Dino: Japan is mostly the same. It’s relatively straightforward to get credentials for smaller events but don’t expect to show up at a Super GT race at Fuji Speedway and think you can blag your way in. It’s all about professionalism so if you want to attend, take care of the right steps before hand.
Regarding the slow shutter speed shots. It depends how far you go really. If at least one part of the car is in focus, towards the area the car is actually traveling in, the picture can usually look good, give that surreal feel Linhbergh mentions and the all important impression of speed. Most times it’s not only the car or subject you are shooting but what is behind it too so framing and giving your own composition to the shot is also as important as anything else.
Saikou: When you see/know a perfect moment to capture a shot, how do you know what setting would end up looking good?
Linhbergh: You have to trust that you’ve set up your camera fairly well with the lighting conditions that’s around you at the time. You also have to trust you instincts. I find that photography is a very emotionally driven medium. If you’re feeling it, you’re feeling it. If not, then your shots could be off.
c0nc0n: What gear are you guys shooting with? I see a lot of L lenses so it wouldn’t have been cheap. I’m thinking of splashing out for an L lens and have done some pretty fast action photography for sports events. What lenes would you guys say you use the most (apart from the 400mm) for shooting action?
Linhbergh: I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark 2. I own three lenses: A 135 f2, 50mm f1.2 and a 24mm f1.4. I find myself shooting with the 50mm most often because of the very useable focal length and super shallow depth of field. Photography is about lenses first, then the body really comes secondary. But always, get with what you can afford. If you can’t splash out on an expensive piece of glass, get something similar to that. But my personal advice would be to stick with OEM glass as even the lower end glass is better than any third party’s piece of glass that’s just slightly cheaper.
If you’re looking for an telephoto lens and can’t afford the arm and a leg that a 400mm costs, there are plenty of much more affordable options. You can never go wrong with a 70-200mm or a 200mm fixed focal prime lens.
Dino: I use a 1D Mark IV, a camera that has literally changed the way I shoot since I picked it up a few months back. These new bodies (I had a 1D Mark II N before, which I still use) have really come a long way in both ISO performance, focusing speed and precision, which helps to push ones photography further and try new things. I use a 16-35 f2.8L at events most of the time as I really like wide angle lenses and playing around with the distortion they create. The 24-105 IS f4L I have is also a great walk-around lens but I really only use it to do car-to-car shots and take advantage of the great IS to get crisp low shutter images that would just not work with other lenses when you are inches from the ground, hanging out the back of a station wagon and breathing in exhaust fumes. The 70-200 f2.8 IS is one that everyone should have and it’s great for pretty much everything while my cheap 50 f1.4 proves you don’t need to brake the bank to get a nice shallow depth of field…although I dream of a 50 f1.2L at night!
Paddy: I usually shoot with two bodies : A Canon 1D MKII N and a Canon 5D MKII. The 1D is usually used with a long, fast lense for track action whilst the 5D2 is used with either a wide or a short and fast prime. It allows you to shoot a scene so much faster when you have instant access to another lense on another body. Previously I had a 30D/40D combination, I always try to shoot with two bodies.
Golf_RSR: Would you rather get the look you want when you capture the image, or make it look how you want with photo-editing software? Who shoots Nikon and who shoots Canon? =)
Linhbergh: I’m under the camp that a photo is like an painting: it’s never ever finished, no matter how much you work on it. With that in mind, I always imagine how I’m going to post process the images as go about shooting whatever the heck I’m shooting. As you’ve read above, I shoot with a Canon, but the whole Canon V. Nikon war is completely irrelevant. As long as you get the results you need, the brand or equipment you use is trivial.
Paddy: It’s a 50/50 deal with me. For track and action, I’ll always try get it to 99.9% right so I can get it online ASAP but with a feature shoot where there is no sense of urgency, I’ll take my time to grab some extra frames to help build a stronger image in post production.
Dino: It’s all about how much time you have available, if the shots are for online use or print and what is expected of you. I take ages when doing shoots that will end up in magazines, taking time to get everything right, finding a nice location (the biggest challenge when you are located in Japan as everything is so cramped).
JoelManiac: How do I get into the motorsport photography industry. I have been doing photography for 3 or so years now. I want to do what you guys do. I am 17. How do I get into it?
Linhbergh: Go to as many events you can; shoot, shoot, shoot and don’t stop shooting. Developing your own personal style is the most important part. Having a distinctive style that people can’t easily recognize is key, especially now with the democratization of photography. Then there’s the part about meeting the right people.
The most important thing to remember once clients start coming in is that they’re into you –not your photography. Your photography is just a bi-product of yourself. So with that in mind, don’t sacrifice yourself, or your own personal style, to just please a client.
There’s no easy 1-2-3 answer on how to get into motorsports. It really takes time, hard work, and true hunger.
MaydayDavidD: How does one hold a large 400mm 2.8 lens without looking like an idiot?
Paddy: Technically, the 400 holds you.
Dino: monopods are for wosses;)
naranjopino: Please, up the exif with the photos!
Linhbergh: I believe most of us never ever hide EXIF data. If you use a browser like Safari, Firefox or Chrome, get an extention or plugin that allows you to view EXIF data.
Oscar: It may have been asked already, but what I would like to know is what techniques you use in your post production? Is there much pp involved in your photos? or is it simply just small adjustments?
Linhbergh: My post processing technique boils down to this: 1.) load up iTunes, 2.) load up a song that stikes a cord (pun intended!) 3.) load up photoshop and start editing with the the song/my mood dictating how a photograph should feel. As for how I post process, it depends on the image: I use gradients, dodge/burning, saturation or desaturation, tweak colors, etc.
One of the most important things I’ve learned about post processing is to understand color theory. If you have the ability to take a color theory class in college or learn it in high school, take it. It’ll help with how you post process exponentially. It can be an extremely boring class, but its worth it in the end.
Understanding how light works is also key anyone’s photographic quest. That understanding then spills into post work. Underexpose too much and you’ll lose a lot of details, overexpose and the same thing will happen. Finding that happy medium is to know how to properly make love to light.
AOliver: How do you light a car for a photo shoot? what type of lights do you like to uses and why?
Linhbergh: I personally don’t use any sort of lighting equipment other than that big light box in the sky: the sun. I find setting up lighting takes way too much time and is very cumbersome. I pack light so I can move around quickly and get in as many shots as I can. Understand how the sun’s light is at certain times of the day and use that to your advantage when you’re on location. I do own a flash but it sits at home making friends with dust bunnies. Poor guy.
Paddy: Depending on the shoot, I’ll usually light a car with three speedlights. It’s a very basic setup which I’m still trying to get to grips with. The most important thing when shooting with speedlights is diffusion as the little suckers put out such harsh, direct light. I’ll usually bounce the light, or shoot through a softbox or umbrella. I think it’s important to use artificial light to accentuate a photograph rather than overpower it. It’s a fine balance which can be pretty tough to find at times.
Dino: Depends on the look you want with your shots. Sometimes sunlight and bounced sunlight is sufficient other times when you are forced to shoot in toughly lit places, then flashes will come to the rescue. Since I shoot on location all of the time I’ve so far avoided getting anything bigger than speedlights as they are relatively easy to set up and work with. Also, as you can see from the picture above, my white glasses are a light source in themselves…
Ricelife said: Any tips on how to ignore the laws of physics and bend light however you want to?
Linhbergh: Coral colored pants, art hats, and the ability to laugh whole heartily at popsicle stick jokes.
Dino: Levitation is one art I have yet to master, maybe I should try to loose some weight first. On a bright enough day the white glasses I wear have been known to bend light, but I haven’t quite figured out how I can use this to my advantage yet.
And that just about wraps up July’s Photography month. We hope that at least one of you aspiring photographers were able to gain some knowledge, and maybe even get a foot closer to living your dream, from the last few weeks.