Image Build: Scion FR-S
Hey everyone, I wanted to share a quick image build from a recent studio project I worked on. This write up is a pretty consolidated version of how everything went down, getting everything to look right took quite a lot of time moving and placing lights and as you’ll see, lots of time in post as well. Because the car is black, I knew it would be a huge pain but I really wanted to give it a go in the studio. I’m pretty happy with the final results, and the funny thing is… I still have 2 more images from that day that I haven’t even started yet!
Anyhow, here’s how it all went down.
Because the FR-S I had to shoot is gloss black, the only way to make it show up is by carefully controlling the reflections in the paint. Black cars don’t light in the same way that a metallic color (say, silver or blue) will, black just reflects everything around it. The FR-S has some really nice body lines, so I wanted to play those up with my lighting scheme. The studio I shot this in is large enough to have both a floating cloud (hanging silk flat) and a large Chimera light bank, so I decided to place the car in such a way that I could use both of these things to help shape the light. Here are my starting files.
And here you can see the large flat off to the left side. I’ve lit the edge of the flat with a strobe to make a nice bright sharp edged highlight along the side of the car.
Now I use a large foam core white board to fill in the wheels, and also to give me a nice evenly filled “template” for the front of the car and rear wheel arch areas.
And now I shoot a background plate just for the shadow shape on the floor.
And this is my actual starting image, I like to work my backgrounds first and adjust the car second. I start by adjusting the contrast of the ground using several curves layers.
Now I draw the “wall” area using a bunch of gradients. I always add noise to my gradient layers because otherwise they look much too fake in my opinion. Adding noise kind of makes them look more believable and like the wall *could* have been a real wall lit by a spotted light source. The reason I didn’t actually do that in the studio was partly just to save time, but also because as large as the studio is, there wasn’t a good place to put the light to make the wall look how I wanted. In order to minimize banding between the layers (it’s nearly impossible to alleviate entirely) I’ve spent a fair amount of time on this portion, blending by hand, blurring areas, etc… I’ve also added a hue/saturation layer at this point to make the image black and white (aside from the taillights.) The reason why will make sense later.
Now it’s time to start working on the car, I begin by dropping in my best bracket for the side of the car.
I now have to try and get this looking as close to how I want without doing any major retouching. I like to do the majority of the compositing work up front, flatten, save as, and then do all my touchup and spot removal on a new PSD file once the “guts” of the image are in place. Here, I’ve just adjusted the contrast again using multiple curves layers, each masked for different parts of the car.
Now I add a bracket for the roof line and upper rear 3/4 panel area.
Next up is the lower rear 3/4 panel and wheel arch. This area of the car was actually very hard to give proper shape to, this is where I used those evenly lit brackets for the wheels and masked out the shape of the arch, making sure to keep body seams intact. I’ve also added some very small subtle highlights to the underside of the bumper, as well as the area immediately surrounding the taillights. I’ve also cleaned up the view through the window area, because I intend to add an artificial highlight there later and I want the cleanest starting point possible.
Add in the wheels…
Now I flatten the image, save as, and open the new flat image to begin spot removal and the body retouching. Here I have cleaned up the body, smoothed out some of the highlights, added some of my own (drawn by hand) and added a window highlight to give some extra flare to that part of the image.
And now as the last step, I do my final color control. Color grading like this is easy to do with a black and white image, and since the studio is just white and the car is obviously black, that is why I did everything without color this whole time. The blue hue I’ve added is just a gradient map adjustment layer. Tinker around with the colors, blending mode and opacity and you’ll eventually find something that works.
So that’s it! All said and done I was about 6 hours in on the post of this shot, and about 1 or 2 hours to actually shoot it. Let me know if there are any questions, and thanks for looking!!
Special thanks to Richard Thompson and Bob Hernandez for the help in studio!