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How to SHOOT + EDIT CAR PHOTOS! – Light Painting Technique

How to SHOOT + EDIT CAR PHOTOS! – Light Painting Technique


– I know there’s someone out there like me that names their files as so. Client underscore, also why is everything
always an underscore? Why is it client underscore final project? So like you do final project and then like an error happens
or you get client revisions and you’re like, whatever, it’s only gonna be two
rounds of revisions, and it’s now client underscore
project one final one. Then you get more revisions, you’re like, well, I mean they’re nice
clients so I’ll do one more and then it ends up being final final, and then maybe there’s a
crash and it stops working, then its then final final final final, and then you eventually
just start putting like, send help, please, final .JPEG. We’ve all been there. What’s going on, guys? My name is Chris Hau and
in this week’s episode, we’re gonna be talking
about light painting which is one of my favorite
techniques for car photography. This is the best way to get
the ultimate car photos, so I’m gonna show you how to
create an image like this one. (upbeat music) Okay, so before we jump into these steps, what is light painting? Essentially when you set
your camera up on a tripod and go for a long exposure and you move a light
source through that frame, you can actually paint with light. So typically people do this
to illuminate an object or create art just out
of that light source. So for car photography, specifically, we are gonna use this light source to highlight multiple parts of the car and then stack those images and then pick the parts
that we really like to create our final shot. All right, so let’s talk
about gear for light painting. You actually don’t need much. Number one, you need a tripod; two, a camera body; three, a lens. Next is some sort of light source and in our case we used
a giant selfie stick to bring that light nice
and high over that G-Wagen, but you don’t really need a selfie stick, this was just an extra piece that helped make the job a bit easier. Now before we start shooting, I would recommend shooting at night. If you did wanna try to shoot in the day, you’ll have to use some sort
of ND but I’ve always noticed that doesn’t really
produce the best results. Where it looks really,
really good is at night. Okay, now the fun part, we actually get to go and start shooting. So you need to find yourself a location and a cool car to shoot. It can be any car, it
doesn’t have to be cool, it could be a lame car, but it’d kind of make for a lame photo. In this instance, we’ll be
using an Arctic White G-Wagen in front of an ice garage. Definitely a very unique combination. All right, next, you gotta search for a
composition that you like and then lock it off on a tripod and make sure you do not
move that tripod one bit. Not this little bit and you’re like, oh maybe I can get away with
it, no, don’t move it at all. So this is the composition
that we landed on, we have the ice garage on the one side, we have the car on the other side, and we are gonna take
our first base photo. Now what we did in this instance is that we exposed for the
headlights and the ice garage and that was gonna be our base level. Now for camera settings, what I recommend is bring your
ISO as low as it possibly can to the point where you
can bring your shutter to around 10 seconds. If you’re like an athlete runner, then maybe five seconds, maybe
two seconds works for you, you can just through the frame, but I’m a little slower, 10 seconds works. What we’re gonna do is
take a multitude of photos, essentially what you’re trying to do is highlight different parts of the car with your light source. So for my second photo, my second layer, I like to start with the light source going overtop of the car, so what I did is I took this photo stick, I attached it to the selfie stick and what I did is I actually walked it right overtop of the car. Now a little pro tip is set a self-timer for about two to five seconds and then that gives you enough time to hear doot-doot,
doot-doot (clicks tongue). And when that shutter is open, you can start walking through your frame with that light source
at a nice steady pace right overtop of the car
to highlight the frame, catch a little of that rim light, and start to light this car up. And then what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna walk
right out of the frame, take a quick look at that image, and that first shot looks pretty good. Now what you probably noticed
when you looked at that photo is that there’s a giant
streak of light in the sky. Do not freak out, the only thing that you
need to pay attention to is that the light source, that little streak is not
touching any part of the car. If it is, re-shoot that photo and give yourself a little bit
more distance above the car. All right, I’m gonna go
through the next part a little quickly. What we wanna do is capture
a couple of other frames to highlight different parts of the car with that light source. I always make sure that
I highlight the wheels. What you’re gonna do is
go stand beside the wheel and create a circular
motion above the wheel, again, make sure that that light source is not touching the wheel and that should hit the rubber on the rim, it should highlight some of the spokes, it should highlight the brakes, and that’s gonna be one
of the frames that you use to make that wheel pop in your image. So use these techniques to
highlight the front emblem, the front of the car,
maybe the back of the car. We actually do an entire frame where we don’t light
it with a light source and we just hold on the brakes so that you can have that red brake light bouncing off the snow or
whatever your location is. We also do a frame where
we take that light source, put it right underneath the car to illuminate the bottom part and then I’ll kinda just
run through the frame to accentuate some of the little parts like maybe the exhaust,
maybe the door handle, maybe there’s something inside the car that you wanna light up. Really you’re just trying to bring out all the details in this car and capture enough photos so that you have options
later in Photoshop for the details that
you want to highlight. All right, so half of our work is done, it’s now time to bring those
photos into your computer and start that edit. Before I open Photoshop, I like
to pick the different images that I’m going to be using for my layers. All right, so what I like to do is import all those photos into Lightroom so I can see those shots
and then organize them so then I can bring those photos in a stack later into Photoshop. So it starts on this image
where we have our base layer, where we have our exposure
set for the headlights and that ice garage in the background. We start to move through those photos, we have our first exposure,
that looks really good. As you can see there’s a
light streak in the sky, I’ll show you how to mask that out later. And then we have our
brake lights at the back, those look really, really
good, so we can mask that in. I wanted to show you an
example of when the light is actually touching the part of the car that we’re trying to highlight. You wouldn’t wanna use this image, so you always wanna make sure that you have one shot at least that’s not touching the part of the car that you’re trying to highlight. As you can see right here, the light is actually touching
the rubber on the wheel and we actually can’t use that later because the exposure wouldn’t be even. I’d like to apologize for our neighbor, he decided, “Hey, I know Chris “is shooting a light painting tutorial, “but I would love to vacuum right now. “It’s like what I do,
4:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. “I’m like oh, this is my jam, “that’s how I relieve stress is vacuuming “during my neighbor’s YouTube video!” Here we have the exposure
underneath the car, that’s just a cool one
that we can use later. That’s like again, a personal
choice if you wanna use this. I like using it ’cause it
makes the car look super epic. As you can see here, the exhaust on this car
is in front of the wheel and it’s actually
causing a bit of softness around the tires and the rims. We couldn’t turn the car
off, we were told not to and obviously, it’s super cold outside. So this is one of those things
that you’ll have to live with but I would just say, it’s moody. There’s another photo of
lighting the front of the car, I think that looks really nice and those are our eight images. So I’m gonna go into Lightroom, I picked the eight shots that
I like and I’ve organized and I’m going to create a new folder. I’m gonna do final final final selects. (bell dings) And we’re gonna go Image Format, we’re gonna select Original so you actually get those RAW files so that you can stack those later on. Now again, this is just my process, this is how I like to work. There’s probably a lot of different ways that you can do this. This is the way that
just makes sense to me, follow whatever process works for you for stacking in Photoshop later on. I’m going to start my sequence as number one custom name sequence, so we have Mercedes G-Wagen RAW and it’s gonna create
Mercedes G-Wagen RAW one so we know that that’s
our base layer shot. And we’re gonna export. All right, let’s open up Photoshop. We’re gonna go down to File,
we’re gonna go to Scripts, we’re gonna go Load Files into Stack, this is the way that you’ll be able to actually mask the images
the way that you want to. You’re gonna browse for that
folder that you just created, so we’re gonna go into final final select. I like to click Attempt to
Automatically Align Source Images just in case for whatever reason you knocked your tripod just a little bit. This way they’ll all line up properly. And we’re gonna wait 9,000
years for this to load. 2016 MacBook, we all know. All right, we’re gonna
turn off all those layers. All right, we’re gonna
turn on our second layer and start creating a mask here to mask in the light on this car. I’m going to invert the mask so that we can actually paint
in the color that we like, we’re gonna grab our brush tool which the hotkey for that is B, and we’re gonna start
masking in parts of this car. Already, going from base
layer to first image. Our next layer, we have our brake lights, so let’s mask that in. Again, create a mask. We’re going to invert that mask so that we can paint in that red light. Oh, that’s looking nice! That’s looking so good! So this next layer is actually
the shot of the emblem, so we’re gonna do a quick
masking just on the emblem and I’ll show you the difference
when you mask that in. And that’s the difference with accentuating the front of the car and grabbing those details. That looks a lot better. All right, our next one,
we did just the wheels, so let’s mask that again. This is where the details are gonna pop. Again, you can play with your masks to really fine-tune this a little bit. I think that looks pretty sweet, let’s see that from each
layer going from base layer all the way to adding things on. That looks pretty sweet,
I’m really happy with that. That’s just eight images stacked together to create our final composition and then we can bring
that back into Lightroom and do our final grade
which we’ll do right now. So that’s our rough final composition. Obviously, I would spend
more than 10 minutes stitching this together and that ground in the front of the car doesn’t look the best, I might actually even send
this off to a photo editor just to like clean up
the snow in front of it to really perfect it. Honestly, I’ll probably
find somebody on Fiverr to do this job. All right, that’s like a
pretty sweet final image. This is a pretty simple technique that is extremely powerful. If you guys use this technique,
please tag me in your shots and I’ll do my best to comment on them. I think it’s always fun to
see what you guys create after seeing a tutorial like this. If you guys are curious
about the gear I used, I’ve linked all of it below. If you guys wanna try
to do this on a budget, I’ve included a few
more affordable options to get the same type of result. And on that note, a big
thank you to Mercedes-Benz for inviting us out to Gimli to play with all their super fun cars including this Arctic White G-Wagen which is actually my dream car. Also please comment your dream cars below, what would be in your ice garage? If you guys saw any value in this video, please press like, go and subscribe, and hit the bell to be
notified for future videos. Go down there, have fun,
just go and explore, there’s so many different
buttons, press them all, except the one that says dislike, don’t ever press that one, please. This is my career in your hands, guys. You press dislike, I melt, I go no! I mean I melt? Come on! I love you, see you later. I really like this car a lot. Just like a lot. I really, I don’t wanna
give it back, I want it. I’m just gonna take the
key, where the key go? Oh, you know what would be really helpful? Every single one of you watch this video 1,000 to 10,000 times each
and just maybe, maybe, I have enough ad revenue to put a down payment
on something like this. So if you guys could do
that, just in the back, like you’re working, and
then you can just mute me, but my video is still playing, like I know it will eat up all your data and you’ll have to pay like
overages and stuff like that but like I’ll send you
pictures of my G-Wagen. (upbeat music) (Chris laughing) This is so stupid.

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100 thoughts on “How to SHOOT + EDIT CAR PHOTOS! – Light Painting Technique

  1. What would be your dream car to light paint? Also if you’re into car photography. Drop your instagram accounts below!

  2. IG: @ StookyMedia

    Have you tried using the layers as "lighten mode" and then mask out the odds and ends things you dont want., I feel like that speeds up the workflow for me…obviously everyone has their own flow. Great video though!

  3. I’ve been light painting cars for a couple years and saw some new techniques in here I’m excited to try. Thanks!

  4. Great image, is there a reason you choose not to change the blend mode of each layer to lighten, I have always found this make that whole process much easier

  5. Once with a client I ended up on the 8th version… so I wrote ProjectName_V8_TWIN TURBO.

  6. Very nice work,i shoot my car too but not to this level.
    Can you make the 8 RAWs folder available for practice purposes.

  7. Chris what would you charge a client for something like this? Just curious? How long did it take to do the photo shoot?

  8. Once you’ve done the edit in photoshop, can you export it so that when you open it back up in Lightroom it is still RAW? Or do you have to export as jpg? Thanks

  9. Great video Chris! Really enjoyed watching your process in this one. Just wondering if you've ever considered using a drone and Lume Cube (or other small light) to light paint a large object such as a car.

  10. My dream car is a DeLorean modified to be a replica of back to the future part 2. Would be so awesome to drive that around town. Nice video sweet tips!

  11. You know what, i like your simple humor while making your tutorials! Thumbs up!👍 god bless you always!
    And also I loved to be a photographer! Hoping to be one day!

  12. Definitely my motorcycle would be my favorite “car” to use this technique!

    Great videos! Making them entertaining and educational! Awesome work!

  13. Okay half way through the video and we had a neighbor like that too! Every. Single. Day. At like 2pm on the dot they had to vacuum.

  14. Just curious, why not use the Lighten blend mode on the top layers along with the mask? That way you can keep some of the light from other layers if you want.

  15. Ok, I've watched 10 times this morning so far. I will get to seeing this video 1,000 times by the end of next week. I'll be a night time car photographer expert by the end of next week hahaha. That's a sick Mercedes!!!! I'll do my best to help watch as much as possible. Lol. Keep up the great videos.

  16. Duuuude! This got me SO EXCITED! I've been wanting to shoot my friend's Right-side-drive 1984 Nissan Skyline R34 GTR! I do a lot of light painting at the Los Angeles Arboretum, but no cars involved. This is gonna be….

    …LIT.

  17. I love the settle background lightning! You could learn a lot for my videos from these tuts ! Thanks sir 👊🏻🎥

  18. I've never stacked images before but am completely wowed by this technique! That final image came out amazing, and looks like a solid artwork piece. Definitely going to keep this in mind for future shoots!

  19. you should do it with a motorcycle. all the nice curves and sharp edges on a bike just looks awesome when you do a good light painting with it lol

  20. You can also set blend mode to your layers and then use layer mask and black brush to bring in or remove what you want.

    Example: get a sharp exposure of the headlight at 1/20. All you have to do next is to set the blend mode to lighten after placing the headlight layer on top of your main layer.

    Hope this helps.

  21. Okay, I have done some light painting for night shots of my car but I have never thought about stacking them. So stoked to give this a shot (or multiple shots all put together).

  22. Pro Tip: When you highlight your selects within Lightroom, you can Right Click > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop. Cuts out the export step.

  23. While light painting is awesome, I'd like to draw everyone's attention to Larry Chen, the best automotive photographer ever. He has used this technique a few times, but rarely, and yet he still has success. I think it's a stretch to say that this is the most affective tip for car photos. I'm a firm believer against the same old boring 16-35mm shots of cars, even with light painting, I find these shots boring. Why are we're so afraid of using a telephoto or super- telephoto? That's what makes interesting car photos without having to use extensive photoshop, EVER!
    Ok, now that I've joined the YouTube rant club, I must say, I highly regard your work, please do not mistake this as me undermining your skill.

  24. Great video I found setting your layer to lighten so you only paint in the light and not the shadows helped me alot

  25. 8:00 "2016 Macbook… we all know" Nope… No we don't all know. You couldn't get me to touch a Macbook!
    My own custom built desktop PC is all I know, baby!! LOL

  26. Did a lot of light painting already, but never though about this one! Really amazing! Dream car would be Model X 😀

  27. Im going to try this with a ford raptor and the milky way, sounds cool but the execution might be terrible 😂

  28. Chris, I love shooting cars but howwww do I get in with major brands? Just show up at a dealership? Email the marketing director my portfolio?? Plz help me lol.

  29. Thank you so much for this video. I have been looking for ways to get higher quality photos of my truck and step up my game. This is such a pro tip. If you can if would help for me and other if you can make a daytime video, maybe showing different angles and perspective. Really helps. Thank you 👍🏻🔥😎

  30. Alright just saw the whole series of Gimli videos– was just there last weekend! Cool stuff, Chris, cheers from Winnipeg 🙂

  31. Dude your videos are really informative. Keep posting more automotive resulted contents often it helps us a lot 💯

  32. Probably my favorite Hau to vid to date.
    Shenanigans and learning 🤗.

    I’ll give you 10 more views, don’t say I didn’t try to help you achieve your g wagon dreams.

  33. Lightroom tip – select the photos, right click – edit as layers in photoshop.
    Photoshop tip – alt+click on mask

  34. Dope 🔥 One question. What format are you reimporting back into lightroom after stacking and masking in photoshop?

  35. Control I to invert the mask (black to white, white to black). You can also set up a control command with "unused" keys (ie control comma & control shift comma). Bitchin end result!

  36. Thanks for the great tutorial man! love these tips! and just another reason for me to really want that pixelstick…

  37. Going to try to light paint my car in my profile pic(87 Buick Regal Turbo T) and feature it on my channel when I have a free evening. I'll tag you in IG post too. Thanks Chris!

  38. Use a torch/flashlight with variable focus to pick out details from a distance – no light streaks in the frame.

  39. Would have loved to see you do this as one shot in camera – im wondering you hadn’t used a stick light and had planned the light movement to frame it away from the camera – I suspect you could have got most of this in one shot – no? Maybe next video – one shot take (bulb mode, take more time to paint the light etc) vs multi-shot edit?

    Either way – love the style and car … keep bringing the content! 🙂

  40. We did a similar technique in the past too for Audi! We actually used a Speedlight since we were splashing water against the car!

  41. Mind me asking what tripod you used? I recently ordered a Sony A7iii and i'm not sure the Tripod i owned for my Canon 6D would fit!

  42. The G63 is sort of an awkward car to light paint. The angle you held the light above the car is great for showing the curves on the side of the car, but there are none on the G-wagon!

  43. Actually how should lightpainting work in the day with an ND? To paint in the Daylight you will need a Lightsource brighter than the sun or am I missing something here?🤔

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