One of the best things about shooting cars is the sheer challenge involving reflection. Some reflections are wanted, some unwanted, but one thing is for sure. Nothing just happens. Everything is planned. There are many different genres of photography; fashion, candid, documentary, tabletop, family, night, architectural, abstract, wildlife, etc. But I always gravitate back towards directing car work. The quality of today’s cars and trucks is astounding. Whether the vehicle is $10,000 or a premium $500,000, clients expect and deserve 100 percent perfection.

Dipped in Chrome
Before becoming a director I shot stills. As a photographer the shiny surfaces that challenged us shooters the most involved all that sweet American chrome. Today most bumpers are black or color-matched, but cars used to have chrome wrapped all around, front to back. It was harder, you had to be very disciplined in terms of controlling reflection. I shot on stages shaped like eggshells, where the photographer was the only one allowed inside. 

Reflections In Motion
Once I became a director, control of reflection took on whole new dimensions. Lighting on a turntable, moving from pillar a to pillar b on the car, working with an assistant director to create positive play. It gets very complex. You create excitement that becomes graphic, almost geometric, after years of practice. You start with approved angles and then enhance the shape. It’s an elaborate process, starting with the car’s color.

Walk The Battlefield
For outside work, it’s about scouting the lighting, so you understand what’s happening every moment of the day. Before a shoot, I walk the battlefield, sometimes bringing out my own black and white cars. On shoot day I’m ready to get those magical 2-4 seconds that delivers a message of performance. Tools of the trade include camera cars. For stage work, I built my own turntable and lighting systems for total control. You can’t have your own style when you rent the same equipment everyone else uses. 

Setting The Mood, Elevating Brands
One thing people don’t realize about reflection, it can set the mood for the photo or spot. Reflection can control what the situation is all about. Some brands are about family, some brands are edgy. The key is to be sensitive and aware of the fact that your creative background can become your foreground.

Fix It In Post
Incredible advances in post are no excuse for the lack of discipline where it concerns controlling reflection. You still have to be incredibly careful. Being careless just takes up too much time to correct mistakes in post.

Today’s interiors have myriad textured surfaces, shiny surfaces, glass and carbon fiber. Their workmanship is amazing. Outside the same holds true, metal and glass are now formed to create shapes never seen before. For me, no pun intended, I feel that when it concerns directing and shooting cars I’ve barely scratched at the surface of the possibilities.