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Painting Muscle Cars With Light

Updated: Mar 9, 2019

One of my favorite photography techniques is called "Light Painting". It's the idea of using a light source to "paint" a subject while the cameras shutter is open collecting all that light. The images that this techniques produces are amazing. Also, using different colored lights can make for some really dramatic scenes and unique images.

I'll walk you through some of the basics below so you can get a sense of what it looks like behind the scenes. I won't go into all the technical photographer jargon, that'll get boring real quick - but want to get you thinking about how your classic or muscle car could look like in setting that you've probably had on your mind for a very long time.

Here we have a clients Chevelle in front of a barn in the countryside. This type of image can be found all over the place. It just does not scream out "I'm unique". This was my initial shot to make sure I have everything framed the way that I want it to be before the sun sets. This also gives me time to setup other lights and look out for any hazards that might be there - like a hornets nest...but that's a story for another day.

I always take a few images and view them on the laptop right away to make sure I've got my focal points correct. Last thing we need is for two hours of work and then we end up with an out of focus image. Once I'm happy with the setup it's time to turn off the camera's auto focus so I don't lose my focal spot, get some more mosquito repellent, and wait for dark.

Once the sun goes away it's time to get to work! First up is finding out what light I like the most to light up the barn in the background. With an LED color strip light I try a few different colors that I think could work well. Gives me more options in post-production to work with.

Once the barn is all done, we move onto the Chevelle itself. I use a light bar to start to "paint" the Chevelle. My mind here is always to cast as small of a reflection from the light source onto the car as possible. The end result should be nothing but smooth red paint. Sometimes different panels of the car need to be painted to achieve this. For this Chevelle I painted a few parts separately; the hood, the grill, quarter panels, and wheels.

Now it's time to light up the road in the foreground all the way to the tree that is now in darkness.