Here's five lighting setups from simple to complex.
Photo By Jeff Ludes
Lots Of Lights Keep It Dark
Effective lighting is a crucial element in advertising photography. To get this shot for a 2010 brochure for the Honda CR-V minivan/SUV hybrid, LA-based automotive photographer Jeff Ludes (www.jeffiudes.com) needed 4 hours and a team of three assistants.
His main lights were Arri tungstens, without the Fresnel lenses that cinematographers often use as broad spots. “We didn’t use Fresnel lenses because we wanted the light to spill everywhere, like street lights,” Ludes says.
In fact, the existing lights were an important part of his lighting setup, and all the added background lights were gelled with a unique combination of color-correcting acetate filters so their output matched the color temperature of the street lights.
His ultimate goal was to add color and mood that would offer an emotional context for the car (upbeat, youthful, and urban chic). Of equal importance, however, was using lighting to sculpt the car physically: its shaping, line, color, and size. To make it stand out, he lit the car with a whiter light than the warm background, which helped its cool blue color stand out.
As the blue sky and its reflections in the windows hint, this shot was made at dusk. “The challenge for lighting a dusk scene like this is that the lights have to be set up during broad daylight, when you can’t really evaluate their placement and brightness levels,” says Ludes. “Then when the sun goes down, you have to work very quickly to fine-tune the final placement and shoot during that small window when the balance between artificial and daylight is perfect.”
If Ludes had used 2000-watt lights throughout this scene, the resulting exposures would have produced deep, black shadows in the unlit areas, which would have undermined the photographer’s vision for a vibrant, light-filled street scene. “When gels weren’t needed,” says Ludes, “we often used lights as small as 150 watts.”
He explains, “One thing people don’t realize about lighting after dark is that very small, dim lights are often preferable to larger, brighter lights. Anything too bright will only cause the shadows to darken.”
Other details? A water truck wet down the street to give life and sheen to those surfaces which otherwise would have been murky, featureless blacks. The photographer’s team also built the foreground sidewalk, so the composition wouldn’t imply that the Honda was stopped in the middle of the street (it was actually parked in front of a driveway).
The final image shown here is a composite of eight different pictures, each framed, lit, and selected for the way it rendered a specific element. Separate exposures were made for the car’s side, wheels, and back, for example. “When the lights sculpted the fender properly, they threw the wheel wells into dark shadow, which necessitated a separate exposure for the tires,” says Ludes.
Now that’s a production!
Jeff Ludes lit this scene with four 1,000-watt, four 650-watt, one 2,000- watt, and one 350-watt arri tungsten lights. Those illuminating the human models in the background were softened through Scrim Jim diffusion panels. While the arris threw a warm light, the car was lit by the cooler 8-foot Kino flo daylight fluorescent fixture. Shot with an alpa Max mediumformat camera, phase one p65+ digital back and rodenstock APO Sironar 35mm f/4.5 hr lens.