How to light a car?

A car is a chrome ball

A car is essentially a direct reflection of its environment. So the bottom line is, you have to find or create a good looking environment that makes the car look good.


If outside, make the car look good

Can you think of some light source that is pleasant to look at?  The blue sky is basically a big cool soft light, but when seen reflected in a car it looks soft and natural. How about, a blazing sunset, streaks of orange? Some of the best car shots are recorded in this light, very often with the sunset seen directly in the side of the car.


What Color Car Is Best?

Let’s now talk about car colors. With a black car there is no light being reflected from the black color itself, what defines the car to our eye is the reflection. A white car will have the opposite properties. The car will mostly be defined by the light that is reflected off the white paint. This will minimize the reflections of the environment. For this reason a white car is a lot more forgiving when being lit on stage. But it has its own challenges in creating contrast. Brightly colored cars have some of this same characteristic but to a lesser extent.


A car’s blind spots

One of the greatest challenges about shooting car is this. As we move close to this chrome ball the thing we notice most is “our own reflection”. Luckily most cars are not exactly like chrome balls. As you walk around the car you will notice places where your reflection disappears or is so small that it is not of concern. For example: the four corners, high, looking down on the car, most low angles or backing away from the car using long lens.

One more tip for creating stunning sheet-metal shots is to move the car or move the camera. This movement creates a jewel like quality to the vehicle and greatly enhances the viewer’s ability to see its form.


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