The commercial side

It’s not all alpine landscapes and wild, remote locations.

We take a look at a different style of photography in this month’s article. Welcome to the commercial side of my career as a professional photographer. Take a sneak peek behind the scenes and see what it’s like to shoot one of the world’s most famous cars in some of the world’s most spectacular locations.

Before I was drawn to the wild southern landscapes of New Zealand, I was a commercial photographer in Europe. A lot of my work was photographing luxury vehicle brands, and every now and then, I step back into this world. While many aspects of commercial and landscape photography overlap, photographing vehicles requires a few additional skills and equipment.

Behind the scenes: Commercial Shoot for Porsche

Client:              Porsche AG Germany

Agency:           KEKO Frankfurt          

The project:     Global campaign for the new Porsche 718 (Boxster and Cayman)

Location

A prestigious brand requires a prestigious location. For this shoot, we travelled to three spectacular locations spread around the globe—Atlanterhavsveien, Norway’s scenic coastal road along the Atlantic Ocean, Sicily and the Amalfi Coast in Italy and Brisbane, Australia.

The crew  

A shoot like this is a big production. The camera crew consists of myself, a camera assistant and the rigger. The production crew consists of a couple of production assistants, a location manager and a coordinator. There is also the traffic coordination team and the catering team. And most importantly, the person who makes the coffee. It is not uncommon to find yourself standing in the middle of nowhere at 4am, waiting for the rain to disappear – coffee is a critical element to success. All up, there are around 15 people on set for this Porsche shoot. If the shoot also involved talent, the crew would be bigger as models require styling, hair and makeup.

The concept

The Boxster and Cayman both exemplify that iconic Porsche shape. But there are subtle differences between the two models, so the concept for each vehicle shoot would be slightly different.

For the Boxster, we would shoot the vehicle just out of the city with a city skyline in the background. The Cayman would be shot in the heart of the city, with the vehicle alongside a bridge, building or tunnel

Shot list

Sixty-two shots were on the to-do list, plus some aerial shots of locations to use as top shots.

 

Here is the first aerial of Atlanterhavsveien in Norway.

Take a closer look, and you may see our little “circus” hard at work on the road. The camera crew is on location, and the trucks and motorhomes that support the shoot are in the parking lot.

This is us capturing what would become the final shot. The clouds are starting to roll in, and the last of the daylight is fading fast. But you never know what the next shot will bring, and you should never say ‘that’s a wrap’ until every last bit of light is gone.

This is the final result. A shot of the Los Angeles skyline has been added to the background.

The Rig

The rig is an essential piece of equipment for car photography. If you’ve ever wondered how those eye-catching shots of vehicles are taken—where it looks like the vehicle is speeding past yet the image is sharp—it’s all thanks to the rig (and a little bit of digital magic).

The official definition of a rig is ‘equipment or machinery for a certain purpose’. In car photography, the rig is a piece of equipment mounted under the car and acts as a kind of tripod. The rig comes in two-metre long sections and it can be configured to be up to 12 metres long.

The first section of the rig is made of glass and attaches to the vehicle, so the retoucher gets information about what happens behind the rig. You can see this in the image below.

The reason there is such a large rig between the car and the camera is because it allows us to move the vehicle during exposure time/taking a picture. The way we avoid vibrations is to simply turn the engine off. The vehicle is pushed or pulled manually by the rigger.

Using this setup, an exposure time of ten seconds +/- with a movement of the whole thing of 5m-10m gives the illusion that the vehicle is moving fast.

Now that the image is taken, all we have to do is retouch the rig out of the picture. As the rig usually appears in front of a blurred road or a barrier, the retouch isn’t complicated—at least not for the specialists. The rig setup is so steady that even though the road appears blurred, the vehicle is 100 per cent sharp and in focus (except for the turning wheels).

Again a making of and the final image after the cgi operator and retoucher has done their magic.

As you can imagine, the release of a new Porsche is always kept top secret. For this shoot, the actual vehicle being photographed was a stand-in model. The CGI technician replaced the new model back in the studio. For this to work properly, the wheelbase of the stand-in vehicle and the new vehicle must be the same—no problem in this case.

One of the most important pieces of equipment on a shoot. (next to the camera of course)

The skill of the CGI team and the effectiveness of the rig can be seen in these before and after shots.

The Norway shoot was an incredible experience, made even more remarkable by the very long summer days of the far north. With sunrise at 3:45am and sunset at 11pm, we were forced to adjust our work schedule by working into the night and resting during the very long days. Shoots began a couple of hours before sunrise or sunset, giving us enough time to mount the rig on the vehicle and find the right perspective and position under the northern light.

The last two images are from aspectacular location in Sicily. Again, another impressive transformation from the before shot to the final image.

Now that these stunning new Porsches are out on the market, I can share my behind-the-scenes images and give you a taste of life as a commercial photographer.

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