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How to Photograph and Light a Lamborghini Aventador

Into cars? Want to know how the pros go about photographing a car like the Lamborghini Aventador? In this video by the team at Fstoppers Blair Bunting gives a real insight into how he approached shooting the Aventador.

In the video he shows how he does it with a $60,000 lighting setup… but then shows how to do it with a single softbox.

What I find interesting is how Blair slowly adds lights – takes a shot and then adds more lights to his setup to bring out detail on different parts of the car.

While most of us don’t have access to a Lamborghini Aventador… or a studio with gear like Blair – I hope that this video gives a little insight and information on how those amazing car shots are taken.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • bob

    Anyone know what advantage Profoto lights are here as opposed to something that’s a fraction of the cost, like Elinchrome?

  • Claudio

    I’ll have to agree with the commenters on the youtube video – the end result looks quite crappy due to excessive processing. I’d stick with the camera output on the final stages over the processed image, anytime. Looks like (bad) HDR …

  • http://www.studiowetty.com Studio Wetty

    I know it’s all a matter of preference, but the original, down-lit shot was a hundred times better than the final shot. Way too over processed for my taste. But like I said, to each their own.

  • Doug

    There were a couple of things I liked about this video. One is that you can hear the thought process that went into the lighting, from concept, through use of a model, to the actual shoot. ‘I want this, I did that, didn’t work, saw this, tweaked that…wash, rinse, repeat’.

    The other thing was the quote ‘It’s a box…on a stick’. Photography is all about the light. Find it, make it, use it, fake it…just pay attention to the light.

    Love or hate the final shot, to me, that wasn’t the point. Thanks for the link.

  • ccting

    Doug is always good in explaining things.. and many thanks to the author of this article.

  • http://photos.rickscheibner.net Rick

    How to photograph a Lamborghini Aventador. First, find a Lamborghini Aventador…

  • Doug

    @Rick…so be extension, super models…I may not find one, but I am dedicated to the search!

  • Rob R

    at 1:34 before the end, you see the raw background showing what looks like heaps of dirt on the camera’s sensor. Good job cleaning it up.

  • http://custompinoyrides.com THE aSTIG @ CustomPinoyRides.com

    Ok, being a fellow automotive photographer, I would like to share my two cents. Here goes. This video was nicely done. I’ll agree with Doug. It’s the thought process that’s the key takeaway from this video. For static car photography, adding one light at a time is probably the best way to build the final image, as you get to see the effect of each light on each frame you take. It’s very tedious because cars are essentially mirrors. Due to the complex and unique shape of each vehicle, you can’t light one car the same as the other. Aventador, Corolla, or what have you, it’s different for each car.

    As to Bob’s question on the difference between cheaper and expensive lights, much like anything in this world, you pay more to get more. Generally speaking, the more expenseive you go, the more features you get: consistency of output, ability to fine-tune (knobs vs buttons), durability, more power, shorter flash duration and more consistent across all power levels, faster recycle time, etc. It can be a matter of preference, and what you can afford. I would like to think that Elinchrom is something like a Jaguar, and Profoto something like a Bentley. Both are great cars, but on the racetrack, a Honda Civic in the right hands can be faster than any of the two in inexperienced hands. Like a driver to a car, it’s the photographer that makes the picture. The camera and lighting gear are only tools. More expensive tools can make life easier and more convenient, but even inexpensive gear with spartan features can produce brilliant and professional results if in the right hands.

    I’m an automotive photographer as well, and I run one of the best car blogs in my side of the globe (click my name above for my website). I am also the founder of the Car Photography Club. If you guys are interested in learning and sharing automotive and motorsports photography tips and tricks, feel free to join our group:

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/283146115032981/

  • http://www.fuzzypig.com Fuzzypiggy

    I’m sure some people liked it but to me it looks like someone with a $350 DSLR took some bracketed snaps in a garage and then overprocessed with Photomatic HDR. Looking at the people shots this guy does he has a serious contrast/HDR fetish which he just simply appears to have applied an expensive car and I personally don’t think looks very nice at all.

    The panning video shots at the beginning look far more sleek and interesting that all that fafffing about he did. In his defence the photographers says he wants to shoot fine art shots and as it’s art, each to their own. I just know I have seen far better work from far better and dedicated automotive photograhers.

  • http://jimhuntphoto.com jim

    I’ve learned most of these are composites. So I went out and did one myself.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22176685@N07/6837467404/in/photostream

  • http://disney-photography-blog.blogspot.com/ Alexx

    I dream of one day having a studio like Blair.

    But I’m only 16 and I’m a hard worker. I’m going to get a degree in business and hopefully work to become the 1%.

    http://disney-photography-blog.blogspot.com/

    Great vid btw.

  • Zaman Khan

    i think what this shows is, that in today’s magazine photography, just as much effort goes into post as it does in taking the shot.

    ps i loved the light painted shots over the massive soft box.

  • http://jasoncollinphotography.com Jason St. Petersburg Photographer

    Outstanding instructional video with very high production value. This kind of video really teaches. Showing the effect of adding each additional light through a fade of the previous and next photograph was very cool. Then finally showing how to do it with just one light in a softbox was shocking in how good the result could be. I want to try that method for sure.

    I am very sensitive to over processing, but disagree with most commenters above. I think the processing was not overdone and really added grit and texture to a shot that would otherwise appear like a normal stock image, or CGI created image. That retoucher has serious skills as well.

    I went through a much less complicated process when photographing a Porsche 911 GT2 RS this past weekend in only removing the background (shot in a park) and adding a white background as seen here:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2012/4/1/porsche-911-gt2-rs-white-with-black-rims-st-petersburg-flori.html

    Lastly, I was really, really surprised that a photographer like Blair would have such a dirty sensor! There were tons of spots in the unprocessed shot. I think it is safe to assume he could afford the $60 or so bucks to have someone regularly clean it at a camera shop!

  • http://AlmondButterscotch.com/home Almond Butterscotch

    What a B-E-A-U-T-ful piece of mechanical artwork.

    I mean the Lamborghini, of course.

  • Autobellissima

    As a car photographer as well. Sometimes over processed car shots can be a disaster or a one of a kind shot as much as the cars themselves. I treat cars like people and just like them, There certain angles where they shine and do not. I’d rather have dark parts accentuate some of the cars features because we people who love looking at them rarely see them in clean form. Then location and angles are key. I also tend to put an hdr treatment in which most of the comments are about. My view in hdr is, if you use it well, it really works wonders. But people tend to overdo it, so do i, its easy to do that. But cars have lines that you’d want to accentuate to bring out emotional “oohs” & “aaahhs” from a sculpted peice of metal,cf or etc. And combining the right technique pre shoot and post shoot makes that happen!

  • http://www.jbhaber.com JB

    I noticed that the window appears as gray. I’m not a car photographer, but wouldn’t it be better if you could see some of the background through the windows?

  • Dayna

    I can’t watch the video (blocked at work), but since we’re talking about cars and lighting, I figured I’d ask my question here.

    I had a shoot last night with 13 cars and at least as many people. The sun was setting, but it was still up and casting shadows. When I arrived, the cars were parked in a slightly curved line. They wanted me to get ALL of the cars in the shot. Even activating the wide-angle setting on the camera* didn’t do anything (it just digitally crops the top and the bottom of the image). What would you have done?

    (They did suggest a panoramic shot, but I didn’t have a tripod or a level, steady place to put my camera.)

    *Canon PowerShot SX130IS

  • JP

    Great car, great shoot.
    The finished product might as well be a drawing. Waste of time in my opinion.
    And if you can afford $60k of lights, you can afford to do a location shoot, rather than pay someone to put a fake background in.

  • http://2hphotography.ca hagen

    Lots of good discussion here.

    As mentioned by autobellissima, cars have character. Using HDR can accentuate a ‘male’ car (tough, macho etc) while it would absolutely ruin a ‘female’ car (smooth, sensuous etc).

    Alexx: ‘studios’ are easy to put together: you only need to control the light. If you blast out backgrounds with over exposure, or hide them with darkness, you can use your driveway or your garage.

    Lighting can be as simple as a flash light (4 minute exposure while running around with a flashlight)
    http://2hphotography.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/stack-16bit-1.jpg

    Or simple work-lights (shot in the driveway immediately after a storm: side lit with $100 1000W work-lights)
    http://2hphotography.ca/blog/#

    or studio lights (2 lights, 8 ‘light-painted’ images stacked)
    darkness
    http://2hphotography.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/hagenhohn_MG_0062.jpg

    background blown out (with some studio lights and a LOT of natural light, and long exposure)
    http://2hphotography.ca/promo/cars-in-the-studio/#

    have a boo around the rest of my site for more automotive photography.

    Be creative, look how you can use what you’ve got. And have fun! That is important, otherwise it is just like work.

  • http://2hphotography.ca hagen
  • iamunique127

    I’m not a car photographer but I found this video very educational. I photograph carvings and althought they are only a fraction the size of a car, the process is much the same. I must find the angles that need to be illuminated to best highlight the important features, where there needs to be shadow or detail, how to manage the specular highlights, etc. I mostly use one light and reflectors but on a much smaller scale.
    Each carvings is different and presents it’s own set of challenges. I wish I could problem solve and achive my vision as quickly as Blair seemed to.
    Inspiring video. Thanks

  • Scottc

    Interesting video, not sure I like the end result but will mull that over.

    I’ve done some natural light shooting of a MINI, and know that cars can be a tough subject.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/sets/72157626881155402/

  • http://2hphotography.ca hagen

    Hey Dayna,

    Sometimes handheld panos can be stitched together, but you’d need to be able to set exposure and white balance setting manually to prevent the differences in lighting/car colour from throwing it off and requiring more pp.

    I’d suggest a ladder or some other way to get higher. or farther away, but higher would be better from a compositional perspective.

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/cream-of-beats Cream of Beats

    I liked it without all the processing. The HDR completely killed any reason to have $60,000 worth of lights.

  • http://activityphoto.com Wayne H

    @jp, you may be able to afford the location shoot, but you’ll never be able to control the lighting the way it was done in this example on location. Hence the reason for adding the background in POST.

  • http://activityphoto.com Wayne H

    @The aSTIG, You must be a fan of Top Gear. As for your comment I really agree with your position regarding the photographer vs the equipment. I see it all the time, someone with all the new hot equipment, absolutely no idea what to do with it.

    I find it challenging to use less expensive equipment and apply my skills to create an acceptable final image. Now these skills are comprised of behind the lens skills as well as a healthy portion of post production skills.

    Below is a link to some studio automobile images I did on a shoe string budget for a friend.

    http://www.activityphoto.com/Auto_Portraiture_1.php

    Comments are welcomed, thats how we all learn.

Some older comments

  • Wayne H

    May 30, 2012 11:55 pm

    @The aSTIG, You must be a fan of Top Gear. As for your comment I really agree with your position regarding the photographer vs the equipment. I see it all the time, someone with all the new hot equipment, absolutely no idea what to do with it.

    I find it challenging to use less expensive equipment and apply my skills to create an acceptable final image. Now these skills are comprised of behind the lens skills as well as a healthy portion of post production skills.

    Below is a link to some studio automobile images I did on a shoe string budget for a friend.

    http://www.activityphoto.com/Auto_Portraiture_1.php

    Comments are welcomed, thats how we all learn.

  • Wayne H

    May 30, 2012 11:46 pm

    @jp, you may be able to afford the location shoot, but you'll never be able to control the lighting the way it was done in this example on location. Hence the reason for adding the background in POST.

  • Cream of Beats

    April 7, 2012 12:21 am

    I liked it without all the processing. The HDR completely killed any reason to have $60,000 worth of lights.

  • hagen

    April 6, 2012 08:18 am

    Hey Dayna,

    Sometimes handheld panos can be stitched together, but you'd need to be able to set exposure and white balance setting manually to prevent the differences in lighting/car colour from throwing it off and requiring more pp.

    I'd suggest a ladder or some other way to get higher. or farther away, but higher would be better from a compositional perspective.

  • Scottc

    April 6, 2012 06:03 am

    Interesting video, not sure I like the end result but will mull that over.

    I've done some natural light shooting of a MINI, and know that cars can be a tough subject.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/sets/72157626881155402/

  • iamunique127

    April 6, 2012 05:49 am

    I'm not a car photographer but I found this video very educational. I photograph carvings and althought they are only a fraction the size of a car, the process is much the same. I must find the angles that need to be illuminated to best highlight the important features, where there needs to be shadow or detail, how to manage the specular highlights, etc. I mostly use one light and reflectors but on a much smaller scale.
    Each carvings is different and presents it's own set of challenges. I wish I could problem solve and achive my vision as quickly as Blair seemed to.
    Inspiring video. Thanks

  • hagen

    April 6, 2012 03:37 am

    Sorry, two links didn't work right:

    Work-lights:
    http://2hphotography.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/MG_8293.jpg

    background blown out
    http://2hphotography.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/hagenhohn_MG_0902.jpg

  • hagen

    April 6, 2012 03:34 am

    Lots of good discussion here.

    As mentioned by autobellissima, cars have character. Using HDR can accentuate a 'male' car (tough, macho etc) while it would absolutely ruin a 'female' car (smooth, sensuous etc).

    Alexx: 'studios' are easy to put together: you only need to control the light. If you blast out backgrounds with over exposure, or hide them with darkness, you can use your driveway or your garage.

    Lighting can be as simple as a flash light (4 minute exposure while running around with a flashlight)
    http://2hphotography.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/stack-16bit-1.jpg

    Or simple work-lights (shot in the driveway immediately after a storm: side lit with $100 1000W work-lights)
    http://2hphotography.ca/blog/#

    or studio lights (2 lights, 8 'light-painted' images stacked)
    darkness
    http://2hphotography.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/hagenhohn_MG_0062.jpg

    background blown out (with some studio lights and a LOT of natural light, and long exposure)
    http://2hphotography.ca/promo/cars-in-the-studio/#

    have a boo around the rest of my site for more automotive photography.

    Be creative, look how you can use what you've got. And have fun! That is important, otherwise it is just like work.

  • JP

    April 6, 2012 02:51 am

    Great car, great shoot.
    The finished product might as well be a drawing. Waste of time in my opinion.
    And if you can afford $60k of lights, you can afford to do a location shoot, rather than pay someone to put a fake background in.

  • Dayna

    April 6, 2012 12:45 am

    I can't watch the video (blocked at work), but since we're talking about cars and lighting, I figured I'd ask my question here.

    I had a shoot last night with 13 cars and at least as many people. The sun was setting, but it was still up and casting shadows. When I arrived, the cars were parked in a slightly curved line. They wanted me to get ALL of the cars in the shot. Even activating the wide-angle setting on the camera* didn't do anything (it just digitally crops the top and the bottom of the image). What would you have done?

    (They did suggest a panoramic shot, but I didn't have a tripod or a level, steady place to put my camera.)

    *Canon PowerShot SX130IS

  • JB

    April 5, 2012 07:49 am

    I noticed that the window appears as gray. I'm not a car photographer, but wouldn't it be better if you could see some of the background through the windows?

  • Autobellissima

    April 4, 2012 05:10 pm

    As a car photographer as well. Sometimes over processed car shots can be a disaster or a one of a kind shot as much as the cars themselves. I treat cars like people and just like them, There certain angles where they shine and do not. I'd rather have dark parts accentuate some of the cars features because we people who love looking at them rarely see them in clean form. Then location and angles are key. I also tend to put an hdr treatment in which most of the comments are about. My view in hdr is, if you use it well, it really works wonders. But people tend to overdo it, so do i, its easy to do that. But cars have lines that you'd want to accentuate to bring out emotional "oohs" & "aaahhs" from a sculpted peice of metal,cf or etc. And combining the right technique pre shoot and post shoot makes that happen!

  • Almond Butterscotch

    April 4, 2012 02:02 pm

    What a B-E-A-U-T-ful piece of mechanical artwork.

    I mean the Lamborghini, of course.

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer

    April 4, 2012 10:48 am

    Outstanding instructional video with very high production value. This kind of video really teaches. Showing the effect of adding each additional light through a fade of the previous and next photograph was very cool. Then finally showing how to do it with just one light in a softbox was shocking in how good the result could be. I want to try that method for sure.

    I am very sensitive to over processing, but disagree with most commenters above. I think the processing was not overdone and really added grit and texture to a shot that would otherwise appear like a normal stock image, or CGI created image. That retoucher has serious skills as well.

    I went through a much less complicated process when photographing a Porsche 911 GT2 RS this past weekend in only removing the background (shot in a park) and adding a white background as seen here:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2012/4/1/porsche-911-gt2-rs-white-with-black-rims-st-petersburg-flori.html

    Lastly, I was really, really surprised that a photographer like Blair would have such a dirty sensor! There were tons of spots in the unprocessed shot. I think it is safe to assume he could afford the $60 or so bucks to have someone regularly clean it at a camera shop!

  • Zaman Khan

    April 4, 2012 06:17 am

    i think what this shows is, that in today's magazine photography, just as much effort goes into post as it does in taking the shot.

    ps i loved the light painted shots over the massive soft box.

  • Alexx

    April 4, 2012 04:28 am

    I dream of one day having a studio like Blair.

    But I'm only 16 and I'm a hard worker. I'm going to get a degree in business and hopefully work to become the 1%.

    http://disney-photography-blog.blogspot.com/

    Great vid btw.

  • jim

    April 4, 2012 03:26 am

    I've learned most of these are composites. So I went out and did one myself.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22176685@N07/6837467404/in/photostream

  • Fuzzypiggy

    April 3, 2012 05:59 pm

    I'm sure some people liked it but to me it looks like someone with a $350 DSLR took some bracketed snaps in a garage and then overprocessed with Photomatic HDR. Looking at the people shots this guy does he has a serious contrast/HDR fetish which he just simply appears to have applied an expensive car and I personally don't think looks very nice at all.

    The panning video shots at the beginning look far more sleek and interesting that all that fafffing about he did. In his defence the photographers says he wants to shoot fine art shots and as it's art, each to their own. I just know I have seen far better work from far better and dedicated automotive photograhers.

  • THE aSTIG @ CustomPinoyRides.com

    April 3, 2012 05:43 pm

    Ok, being a fellow automotive photographer, I would like to share my two cents. Here goes. This video was nicely done. I'll agree with Doug. It's the thought process that's the key takeaway from this video. For static car photography, adding one light at a time is probably the best way to build the final image, as you get to see the effect of each light on each frame you take. It's very tedious because cars are essentially mirrors. Due to the complex and unique shape of each vehicle, you can't light one car the same as the other. Aventador, Corolla, or what have you, it's different for each car.

    As to Bob's question on the difference between cheaper and expensive lights, much like anything in this world, you pay more to get more. Generally speaking, the more expenseive you go, the more features you get: consistency of output, ability to fine-tune (knobs vs buttons), durability, more power, shorter flash duration and more consistent across all power levels, faster recycle time, etc. It can be a matter of preference, and what you can afford. I would like to think that Elinchrom is something like a Jaguar, and Profoto something like a Bentley. Both are great cars, but on the racetrack, a Honda Civic in the right hands can be faster than any of the two in inexperienced hands. Like a driver to a car, it's the photographer that makes the picture. The camera and lighting gear are only tools. More expensive tools can make life easier and more convenient, but even inexpensive gear with spartan features can produce brilliant and professional results if in the right hands.

    I'm an automotive photographer as well, and I run one of the best car blogs in my side of the globe (click my name above for my website). I am also the founder of the Car Photography Club. If you guys are interested in learning and sharing automotive and motorsports photography tips and tricks, feel free to join our group:

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/283146115032981/

  • Rob R

    April 3, 2012 11:20 am

    at 1:34 before the end, you see the raw background showing what looks like heaps of dirt on the camera's sensor. Good job cleaning it up.

  • Doug

    April 3, 2012 10:16 am

    @Rick...so be extension, super models...I may not find one, but I am dedicated to the search!

  • Rick

    April 3, 2012 10:13 am

    How to photograph a Lamborghini Aventador. First, find a Lamborghini Aventador...

  • ccting

    April 3, 2012 09:31 am

    Doug is always good in explaining things.. and many thanks to the author of this article.

  • Doug

    April 3, 2012 07:36 am

    There were a couple of things I liked about this video. One is that you can hear the thought process that went into the lighting, from concept, through use of a model, to the actual shoot. 'I want this, I did that, didn't work, saw this, tweaked that...wash, rinse, repeat'.

    The other thing was the quote 'It's a box...on a stick'. Photography is all about the light. Find it, make it, use it, fake it...just pay attention to the light.

    Love or hate the final shot, to me, that wasn't the point. Thanks for the link.

  • Studio Wetty

    April 3, 2012 06:23 am

    I know it's all a matter of preference, but the original, down-lit shot was a hundred times better than the final shot. Way too over processed for my taste. But like I said, to each their own.

  • Claudio

    April 3, 2012 06:11 am

    I'll have to agree with the commenters on the youtube video - the end result looks quite crappy due to excessive processing. I'd stick with the camera output on the final stages over the processed image, anytime. Looks like (bad) HDR ...

  • bob

    April 3, 2012 06:10 am

    Anyone know what advantage Profoto lights are here as opposed to something that's a fraction of the cost, like Elinchrome?

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