It seems so easy, you're in a studio. There are no distractions; you have control of the lighting, the surroundings, it's a controlled environment, a perfect laboratory. Sadly, this is not the case. In the studio you have no excuses. If the lighting is wrong, you should have changed it. If the angle isn't perfect, you should have seen it before the shutter was snapped. The results are worth it, but it's definitely work.
I recently had the pleasure of spending a day in the studio with The European Car staff and one of the most striking cars on the planet. This particular Lamborghini Miura SV is going to be one of the cars featured in an upcoming piece in European Car Magazine of the most beautiful European bodies. I hope to get as close to the rest of contestants as I did this Lamborghini.
Anybody who tells you that beauty is only skin deep has not experienced a Miura of this magnitude. From the immaculate engine bay that houses 4 Weber Carbs stationed atop the lust inspiring V12, to the immaculate blue leather interior with the factory delivery makers still intact and finishing in the forward compartment that's home to the correct Magnetti Marelli battery and the perfectly cut splines in the center of the spare.
But, down to business, you can read about this car once the issue is on news stands. I am writing about the photo shoot. I am sure most of you; like me, have never experienced a studio photo shoot before. The first thing that strikes you is the immensity of the studio. Forget the average JC Penny photo booth, this thing is gargantuan. You could fit six cars in it and still have room to ride a bike between them. The entire thing is white, completely and totally white. The corners are rounded and it is lit from above with soft lighting. Looking into it you have no depth perception, you can't tell if the back wall is ten or a hundred feet a way from you. I half expected to see Oompah Loompahs carrying a giant chocolate bar in front of the Wonka-vision camera.
Getting the subject into the studio isn't nearly as easy as one would think either. You have a vehicle and a big area, it seems pretty simple. You drive it in, park it where you want it, and shoot away. First, you can't roll the tires in the studio; they leave marks on the white floor. Second, you can't start the car in the studio, exhaust is dirtier than you think, and you don't want anything leaking either. Since my Jedi force isn't quite strong enough to levitate the car into the studio, you have to put the car on rolling wheel jacks. This seems like an easy way to go, except rolling a 2700 pound car on three inch casters is not that easy. Luckily the hanging light box is easy to reposition, so the car doesn't have to be exact.
Les Bidrawn and Rob Hallstrom did almost all the shooting. I was just there to photograph them photographing the car. I have been told after I have five years of seniority, I will have an assistant photographing me, photographing them, photographing the car. Just wait until we get a video camera! Both Les and Rob shoot with Canon 1D's. They used a variety of lenses during the shoot and I won't go into that much detail. I can tell you I was surprised to see a rather powerful telephoto lens being used in a studio.
The amount of shots taken is mind numbing. It seems as though every shot is taken at least three times using different settings. Then different angles of the same shot are taken immediately after. Some details on the car are literally rotated around, trying to determine the optimum angle. Every part of this particular car is beautiful, several small components made for more interesting shots than wide shots. I think a photographer could take a month to get everything on this car, and still not get everything. Modern vehicles just don't have the same detail work as cars like this.
Once one set of shots is taken the car is repositioned and the whole process starts again. Les came prepared with a shot list, he knew what he wanted to get, and about how to get it. This wasn't the first Miura he had shot, so he had an idea of what to look for and what the light does across its surfaces. I on the other hand, just saw a gorgeous red car that looked good from every angle to my eye. Looking at the pictures afterwards you realize how important it is to be able to see the light on the car and not just the car.
At the end of the day, we had to say good-bye to this beautiful car. Les and Rob had gotten some amazing shots and I had seen first hand how much work goes into one shoot. If you consider how many photos go into one issue of the magazine, you can see what a monumental task it is month in and month out.