Guest post by Doug Pittman
A few years back, while watching a local newscast, one of the reporters announced an upcoming car show close to where I live. It sounded to me like the perfect opportunity to put my new camera to the test, so my plans were set for that Saturday. I must have been bitten by some sort of bug while I was there because I now rarely go more than a week without photographing or working on a car image.
Car shows being as popular with the public as they are, I found it challenging to capture the images I was after; namely clean shots of the cars without distracting elements. I had seen a lot of beautiful car photography highlighting the detail and design elements, and while that was one approach I could use, I did not want to be limited to that alone. I was also looking for a way to place the cars in beautiful surroundings rather than rely on what you typically find at car shows. The workflow described below is one that allows me to do just that.
This is a shot I captured at one of the car shows I attended in 2012. It is a Ferrari Enzo; certainly a beautiful car, but with all the distractions surrounding it, not something I would frame and hang on the wall.
The Ferrari Enzo Workflow
As a first step, I recommend using a noise reduction filter. Many photo editing filters tend to accentuate any inherent noise, so it is always a good practice to run a noise filter like Topaz DeNoise early in your workflow.
Next I will experiment to see if any of my plug-in filters are able to create an effect I want to work with. In this example I used one of the BuzSim presets within Topaz Simplify, but I could just as easily have used Topaz Adjust or Clarity to create other interesting choices.
Since I want to remove the car from its surroundings, I set about getting a good clean selection. There are tons of ways to do this, but for precise edge work, the pen tool is what I use. I carefully work my way around the car until I have a path around the outline of the car.
I want the car shadow to be on a separate layer. To do this open the channels pallet and make a copy of the red channel. Ctrl + L will bring up the levels adjustment where I move the sliders to create strong contrast between the shadow and the ground. Since I only need the shadow, anything else can be whitened out with the brush tool. Once this is completed I move a copy over to the layers pallet and change the blend mode to multiply.
Bonneville Salt Flats is synonymous with speed and seems a perfect setting for a car capable of more than 200 mph. Something to be aware of when compositing images is the direction of the light source. For the composite to be believable, the shadows should fall in a consistent direction.
The reflections in the paint would not be what you would find if you were doing a shoot on the Flats. To resolve this, I use the pen tool to select the area I want to work on and then apply gradients, clone stamping, smudging and the healing brush to give me a better result.
The windows present a similar issue and the same tools work here as well. Once this is completed I go over the entire image and touch up any areas I may have overlooked. My final steps include dodging and burning, some output sharpening and an optional vignette.
I am always looking for ways to improve as an artist and I expect my workflow will grow more refined as time passes. That being said, these tools have taken me farther down the path than I would have imagined, even two years ago.
About the Photographer:
Doug Pittman is a freelance photographer in the Dallas area specializing in creating automotive art. Dallas being home to numerous car clubs, most weekends find him attending one of the local car shows. Doug’s work can be found on his website and in private collections across the country.