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High Vis Jackets / vehicle livery.

Mayfly 12 485 2 United Kingdom
11 Jul 2011 1:37PM
Hey folks,

I have a shoot coming up in the next couple of weeks where I will be taking photos of people who use emergency vehicles. The shots will be used for promotional/ awareness brochures and I want to get across the fact that they operate mainly at night, so would be shooting at night / dusk.

I want to get shots where the people are included with the vehicles to get a kind of 'story' portrait (s)

I have a terrible feeling that all the lovely 'see me coming a mile away' livery is going to cause me all kinds of grief, should I use any flash on the subject.

My first thoughts (if using flash) are to use as large and as diffused light source as possible to avoid any hotspots, or will this just be a waste of time because the livery will just splat light back at the camera?

Will I be limited to using ambient / long exposure or will a large diffused light source be ok ?

This will be the first time I have taken shots of high vis livery on my subject, unfortunately I don't have access to the vehicles prior to the shoot, so bar going down to the local cop shop and taking some test shots of the patrol cars I'm a bit out of luck...

If anyone has any experience or suggestions I would be very grateful.



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Sooty_1 7 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
11 Jul 2011 2:22PM
Yes, you are bound to get hotspots with hi-viz stuff, especially clothing with reflective strips. If the flash is bright enough to illuminate the subject, it will glare badly. You might have to shoot earlier and try to make it look dusky!! Use high ISO if you can and reduce flash to a minimum. Otherwise, shoot a lot of pics and hope you get some that have the reflective strips facing away from you. I think a large diffused source, at normal ranges will act as a point source anyway, so all you will be doing is reducing your flash power. Unless you are planning on being only a couple of feet away, in which case (if they are actually working) you might be in the way anyway.

Sooty_1 7 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
11 Jul 2011 2:26PM
Forgot to add, that if you are just doing portraits, ambient light should be ok, as they can be stationary anyway.

A constant light source should be better if you can arrange one, as you will be able to position the subjects relative to the light. Most emergency services have a big torch or two in their inventory, you could use that?

Snapper Plus
13 4.3k 3 United States Outlying Islands
11 Jul 2011 5:31PM
I think it's worth experimenting with flash, but you'll need to set it to manual as the reflection from the hi-vis strips will cut off an auto flash too soon. Get a hold of a suitable garment and practice with it, since I reckon that the reflective strips just blow out as a highlight right off anyway and what you're actually trying to establish is how much more light you can put in to make the rest of the shot visible. Let us know how you get on!
Railcam 11 669 1 Scotland
11 Jul 2011 7:13PM
You certainly need to be aware of the reflective tape. Note how the flash has picked out the reflective surfaces of the road sign, stripes on the rally jacket and the reflective jacket on the cone of this rally shot.

You will not be able to avoid them, just be aware and try to minimise them in your composition.dsc-5992.jpg

Mayfly 12 485 2 United Kingdom
11 Jul 2011 11:28PM
Thanks for your comments guys, very useful. just as I thought the Stripes are gonna blow regardless. It's amazing how efficient they are...

I am not too bothered about the strips on the hi vis jackets more on the vehicles (in this case beemer bikes) I think that I can get shots of the guys involved without the high vis jackets, I can't strip the livery from the bikes...

I was wondering if the livery could be lit at an acute angle and if so would the light bounce out and not be so noticeable, say for example if I boomed a softbox directly above and took a shot from a low angle...
dcash29 12 2.3k England
11 Jul 2011 11:59PM
I cant find the specific site detailing this issue but i think its basically that Hi Vis reflects the light more or less straight back to the source.

So using a flash at a certain angle from the camera will hopefully give you the results you require.
BigRick 12 2.1k 3 United Kingdom
13 Jul 2011 9:25PM
Use 2 off camera flash and set them at about 45 degrees either side of the camera... a few metres away, as the angle of incident is the angle of reflection, if the light is starting 45 degrees away from your lens then when it reflects off the tape, it should reflect 45 degrees away too.

but dont quote me on that.. lol Tongue Smile
Mayfly 12 485 2 United Kingdom
16 Jul 2011 12:32PM
Thanks Rick, thats the theory I was hoping for, I have a funny feeling that the high vis stuff is designed to scatter light though. I'll post back here when I have the results, not been given a date as yet do I may still have time to try it out beforehand.

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