I did a shoot recently with a big BMW using only one speed light and I wanted to share how I made it happen. The idea is, of course to learn something new, but also to show that having little gear should not stop you from pushing yourself. Sadly I cannot use the bike photo, but I reproduced the process using a
trusted unique Kymco Like, it’s not a BMW but it will do. My original plan was to use a full blown studio setup: monoblocks, softboxes and umbrellas as diffusers for the shot. But as I was setting up I thought of a crazy idea: Light is light, so why don’t I just add the light from multiple exposures and shoot it with one small speedlight. So here is a step by step tutorial and video on how we did it.
What you’ll need:
- Camera (Dah!)
- Tripod, because it is crucial to have the camera stable and not move during the process)
- Speedlight (I was using the SB600)
- Strobe wireless trigger
- Camera Trigger Or a friend
- Illustration Board / Foam Board
How to shoot:
The concept of the shoot is lighting your subject part by part and layering them in photoshop. You can then choose the best light from each frame. Check out the behind from shooting to photoshop in the bottom of the page.
1. Scout for a location for the shoot and it’s better to shoot at night so that you could expose for your flash easier. For this shoot, we just picked our driveway as the location. (of course you can also do this in a studio, but where is the fun in that?
2. Place the camera on tripod and pre-focus on your subject. I was shooting at 1/160 | f8 | ISO 200. (I was shooting with a Nikon D3 and 24-70 lens)
3. For the flash I used my trusty sb-600 at 1/4 power. Lighting from the flash was too hard so I am bouncing it off a small piece of the illustration board. I am also using a second piece at times to flag it off so light will not hit the camera.
4.If you have a wireless trigger for the camera use it, or get an assistant (I was lucky to get my friend EJ Quiroz aka G to help me out) to click the shutter. Use a big piece of illustration board as bounce card, point your flash toward the illustration board and let the light reflect your subject.
5. Walk around your subject and play around with placing the illustration board at different angles. I learned that it’s best to zoom your flash a bit and aim it at the side of the illustration board to get a slightly gradient reflection on your subject.
6. Make sure you got all the parts of the subject are lit. You might have to do some facets more than two times to be sure. If you know what you are going to do it is best to work this methodically, from left to right, from top to bottom.
Once finish it’s time for editing
7. I was shooting in jpg mode (after making sure I nailed the exposure and white balance) so I went straight into photoshop for the editing.
8. Open Photoshop and choose File – Scripts – Load files into Stack. Choose the files you shot. It’s better if you check the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images”
9. Hide all the images
10. Make a plain black layer as your background layer.
11. Choose the first image and click Alt+Add Layer Mask, select your white brush and paint over the parts that you think have the best lighting for that part. For the first image it’s better if you try to choose and brush the whole subject so that you have a base image. For the layers after you can just brush on small lit areas.
12. There are many methods on how to work with layer masks, but what I do is click the layer mask and click Command+I, to invert the layer mask so that you can see the difference between each layer. I also play around with the layer visibility to check the difference.
13. Repeat Steps 10-12 until you have the final image. You can also clean the image after all the layers for scratches or dust and even change the background in photoshop if you like.
Here is the final photo again: