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Thread: Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

  1. #1

    Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

    I work at a car dealership, and I take pictures for our company website. I'm in and out all day long, so I don't necessarily have time to spend the proper time getting every shot exactly right...I do a thorough enough job to efficiently get out inventory online in a timely manner.

    This being said, I would like to learn a few quick tricks to get my photos looking a little better. We have an unused service road in the back of the dealership where I bring all the vehicles when taking photos. I find it very difficult (especially on sunny Florida days) to get a shot looking right: the bright sunlight reflects off the metal, the blaring white concrete, the dark shrubbery in the background...all makes for a difficult metering situation.

    I've attached an example photo, and I'm not really sure what I need to do differently. Reducing the exposure time to prevent washing out of the concrete will only make the subject (car) way too dark to see. It seems as though I can only get pretty good looking shots in overcast weather...which seems to come once every week or two. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

    car.jpg
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    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 14th December 2010 at 07:55 PM. Reason: add image inline

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

    Welcome to CiC. Hope you find it interesting enough to stay around and become an active member of the site.

    If you do, then please put up a post in this thread.

    As to your question, two others in response:-


    1. Have you got and do you use a Circular Polarising filter? If not, then you need one.
    2. What control do you have over the time of day at which you can shoot, so that you can do it before or after the sun is a problem?

  3. #3

    Re: Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

    Yes I'm using a Hoya HMC "Super" Polarizer. I've got pretty good control over when I can take photos (get in work at 8am, stay until 6pm), but I usually find that shooting earlier in the day or near sunset doesn't really help a whole lot. Not really sure what approach I should take...figured I'd get some feedback from the members here on the site.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

    The reason for the questions, as you will have known, was that:-

    a) the polariser is the tool of choice for trying to control reflections of the metal bodywork and,

    b) Given the relatively high dynamic range created by the tones of the shrubbery, vehicle and road surface, getting that range narrowed would seem what needs to happen. You've already identified this yourself, by saying that you get better results on overcast days.

    Depends of course from which direction the sun is coming, but I would have thought that getting the shots before sunrise or after sunset (or on overcast days) is the answer. The alternative would be some sort of mega lighting set up (as would probably be used by a professional being asked to do the same work) to balance out the extremes caused by natural light.

    I suppose you could go the HDR route and take a number of photos that you then blend with specialised software.

    So, in summary, I know of no 'quick tricks'.

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    Re: Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

    This is just a suggestion - why not drive this car on a location where there are some shade and a nicer background and take the shot there? It might even increase your car sales later since the image of the car is nicer. What's eating up your exposure is the concrete pavement. If you want to be sure that your exposure is OK you can just put an 18% gray card on the hood of the car and meter the card using your in-camera spot meter. If it is still too light for your taste you can dial in some negative exposure compensation or better yet bracket your exposure and select the one you like and use that one. Presentation is always a big thing when it comes to marketing and it wouldn't hurt much if you add some more effort into it. As I have said this is just a suggestion, Sir.

  6. #6

    Re: Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

    I appreciate the insight! To be honest with you, I've done quite a bit of "shopping" around at other dealers' sites, and our pictures definitely look better than average (not saying much, considering the example shot I gave you).

    I figured I was doing something grossly wrong with my metering techniques, but I guess that the high range of tones makes it a little difficult to get things to look 100%. I'll keep shooting away, however!

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by gibbstom13 View Post
    ... our pictures definitely look better than average
    I was going to say that, problem with the concrete notwithstanding, this is pretty good stuff. The car is shown off well. I would have thought that, without going way up into the professional league, this sort of shot would work okay on a website.

  8. #8
    jiro's Avatar
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    Mind If I pay a little bit on your image?

    Here is what it would probably look like if the concrete pavement was darkened up a little bit and add some post processing. Hope I did not offend you, Sir for working on your image.
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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by gibbstom13 View Post
    I work at a car dealership, and I take pictures for our company website. I'm in and out all day long, so I don't necessarily have time to spend the proper time getting every shot exactly right...I do a thorough enough job to efficiently get out inventory online in a timely manner.

    This being said, I would like to learn a few quick tricks to get my photos looking a little better. We have an unused service road in the back of the dealership where I bring all the vehicles when taking photos. I find it very difficult (especially on sunny Florida days) to get a shot looking right: the bright sunlight reflects off the metal, the blaring white concrete, the dark shrubbery in the background...all makes for a difficult metering situation.

    I've attached an example photo, and I'm not really sure what I need to do differently. Reducing the exposure time to prevent washing out of the concrete will only make the subject (car) way too dark to see. It seems as though I can only get pretty good looking shots in overcast weather...which seems to come once every week or two. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

    car.jpg
    Hi there Tom(?),

    That is quite an exposure challenge you have, but I agree, it is above the average quality from what we see here in UK

    Looking at this particular shot closely, I think it is overexposed a bit - it looks like the red channel clipped on the bumper, sorry fender, below the headlamp nearest the camera.

    I guess if you used a polariser, it was angled to reduce glare off the windshield and get a view inside the vehicle?

    .. and besides, although we might rotate it to get rid of the reflection off the door panels, that reflection of the concrete is quite useful to lighten a darker coloured (colored) car, sorry 'auto' and is probably more what you need.

    OK, that's enough wordplay on UK/US for one day

    It seems as though I can only get pretty good looking shots in overcast weather...which seems to come once every week or two.
    Although with tales like this, you'll get little sympathy from anyone grey-UK based

    Unfortunately, so far we have failed to find a "Eureka!" idea for you - and other than suggesting taking an extra few seconds to chimp the RGB histogram to look for clipped color channels (and reshoot with more -EC if found), you have already got things well in hand.

    I suspect most of the year, sunrise and sunset falls before 8am and after 6pm

    Are you shooting RAW? It may enable, with some well practised workflow, to squeeze a bit more dynamic range from the shot in not too much extra time.

    You don't say what camera you're using and I couldn't see any EXIF data, but I wonder if that has any custom preset modes that could be tailored to sunny day shooting?

    I'm all out of ideas now; so I'll leave you with a "welcome to the CiC forums from ..."

  10. #10

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    I've shot tons of pics of my Mini

    and never had those kinds of problems. Perhaps it is where you metered. This was shot on my D40 and I metered on my most mid-gray point which were the wheels - very close to an 18% gray. Gray cards can do wonders.

    Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

    Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

  11. #11

    Re: Proper Metering for Automobile Photography

    No offense taken in the slightest! Your re-worked shot definitely looks quite a bit better. Unfortunately, I can't say I have enough time to work on 20+ shots per vehicle. I'll take your advice into account for my general photo knowledge, however. Thanks!

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