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Capturing cars

Capturing cars - Tim Wallace works with famous car companies such as Jaguar. Here's how he got there.

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 Photo by Tim Wallace.
For Tim photography is all about seeing what others don't see and this approach has led him to several photography assignments with some of the most well-known car makers in the world.
 
Word of mouth and a good reputation are the best things you can have really. That and not really annoying anyone, doing a good job and not over-charging,” explained Tim. “There's no magic ingredient. Just hard-work and the need to know what something looks like photographed.”
 
Tim's done this so long now he just “has a feel for it”. He doesn't use a light meter and shoots on Hasselblad, not because it's a Hasselbald but because it fits a purpose. He believes in using tools as a means to an end and a Hasselblad happens to do this.
 
A Hasselblad is just a camera OK it may be exceptional quality but it's still a camera. You have to use something which is consistent, reliable and fits your purpose.”
 
When it comes to lenses he uses a variety but as he often works low and wide the 28-35mm is used the most.
 
If you have a camera but can't afford the lenses have a look at the old stuff as some of it is superb.
 
You may be taking a picture of an inanimate object but for Tim, emotion and the way the picture makes a person feel is extremely important. Everything has to mean something and people must understand why you took the picture because, after all, what's the point if they don't?
 
Great pictures come from great ideas and training your mind to spot things such as good photo locations will help you in the long run. “On the Austin Martin shoot the weather was closing in and an idea popped into my head. I wanted to do a side on shot with a sheet over the top of it blowing in the wind. I had thirty minutes to do it so we got the sheet, weighed it down and I spent three minutes on the shot and it got me in the running for commercial photographer of the year.”
  Photo by Tim Wallace.
 
This “thinking out of the box” also helps Tim find some unique and individual locations: “I know a few locations that are favourites but I'm always on the look out for locations. Once I got diverted off the road I was on and found the most amazing canopy of trees. When things like this happen I find my Satnav to be a useful tool as I can add them as locations and it means I know longer need lots of scraps of paper! If you find a gem like this keep it to yourself because when other photographers start to go there it will be ruined.
 
Once you have a chosen location good organisation skills are critical. Projects can take Tim from ten minutes to ten weeks to plan. It all depends on where you are and what you want to do.
 
If you're working outside you need to get there and you need to get roads closed etc. which takes a lot of planning and time. I used two great big steam engines for a shoot last year. Can you imagine the organisation behind that!
 
When you arrive, take your time and don't be in a hurry to get your gear together to start shooting. You don't need to rush things and if you stop and think for a while you'll find the quality of your images improve.
 
Since film went something has been lost. It's too instant, people put less effort in. Last year I was in the Lakes and one photographer shot 500 photographs, I shot thirty.
 
I always find it's best to start slowly. I get to a location and I walk around, taking images in my mind, thinking all of the time what will work best where. When I start I know my outlay as I've not dived in. I've left the camera in the bag and thought about it.”
 
  Photo by Tim Wallace.
Taking time to visit your chosen location at different times of the day is also important as light can be hugely different.
 
The worse case is bright blue sky and sun – it's very harsh. The difference between highlights and shadow is extreme.”
 
If you can't avoid shooting on a bright day lighting the car and shooting into the sun can be a way to create some drama but where possible always go for natural light. Don't fall into the trap of over-lighting. The best way to approach an object is to try and light it in a way that makes it appear not lit. Don't make it look false and don't make it obvious. A reflector and a cloudy sky which is like having a decent skin on a softbox is the cheapest way to do this.
 
Reflections can also help with adding a new dimension to the photograph. When used correctly they can add depth and create a new slant for the photograph. The type of car can also change the reflection or help you decide if one is actually needed at all.
 
Modern cars have flat angles and if you want the paint to look good you need to use reflections but if you're looking at contours you don't need them. Classic cars have curves and can reflect everything and because of this I often shoot in black to minimise the chance of me getting reflected in the paint work.”
 
To capture a car in motion Tim shoots from a moving car. Something he doesn't recommend you trying without a harness. He doesn't use a set carbon arm either as they're expensive, instead he uses his own rig method.
 
Joints, poles and long arms and I build it in 5-10 minutes but unless I need the car close-up I prefer to use a chase car as you can get more shots done but you need to control your breathing and hold the camera out, holding the camera about three quarters of an inch from the ground. You can't see what your shooting, so I do two to three shots and check but like I've said after a while you get a feel for things and just know the picture is right without looking.”
 
  Photo by Tim Wallace.
A way to ensure the image is perfect is through post-production. Items such as rubbish and fag ends can spoil a shot so Tim uses Photoshop to edit them out.
 
When I started out I worked as a printer and I still think the same way. I use Photohop in a similar way I used to print all those years ago. We used to print differently to get different effects and I still do that now, I wont add objects to an image though as I would know it wasn't there originally and it would bug me. Never over use it either. Some manufactures are now turning away from CGI as it's too obvious that it's created in a computer. When someone wants to buy a car one of the reasons they buy it is because they like the look of it. If you photograph it in an environment where they could drive it they are more likely to spend money where as if you put it on Jupiter people know it's edited and they wonder what else is fake on the car too.”
 
As well as the car make sure you don't look or sound fake too.
 
Be normal. When I first met Jaguar they said you're really normal you don't love yourself. At the end of the day I do a job, it's a skill set and I provide a service.”

Visit Tim Wallace's site for more details.

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