I’ve had my 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata (ND) for nearly eight months now, but until now, I haven’t taken it out for a proper photoshoot.
I love the design of my new(ish) Miata. The aggressive, angular body lines are fascinating from almost any angle, and that deep “Soul Red” paint just shimmers beautifully in the right light. I find my self snapping quick smartphone pics of it constantly, and it has dominated my Instagram feed since I bought it this summer:
When an unusually warm (read: slightly above freezing) December day in Kansas City popped up, I seized it for a quick shoot with my Miata.
I had a couple basic shots in mind, and I wanted to focus on shooting the car 100% with flash. I wanted to experiment with a more commercial, heavily-retouched look than I normally go for.
The entire shoot was done inside a parking garage around the corner from my apartment in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I had the upper floors of the garage almost entirely to myself.
- Canon 7D
- Canon 24-105mm f/4L
- Yongnuo 560 Speedlight
The first shot was a pretty basic setup. It was a straight-on frontal shot of the car inside of the parking garage. The camera was locked down on a tripod, and I took somewhere between 20 and 30 shots on-location, most of which were strobed shots using the Yongnuo speedlight, but three or four of the shots were just natural light at varying exposures. Inside the fairly dim parking garage, the speedlight didn’t have any problem overcoming the ambient light. These little cheapo Yongnuo flashes are actually pretty powerful at close range, especially when zoomed to 70-105mm.
The speedlight was placed on a light stand and fired at the car from roughly five feet away. For each strobed exposure, I moved the speedlight to focus on a specific portion of the car (i.e. the front left quarter panel, then front right quarter panel, upper-left portion of the hood, upper-right portion of the hood and so on). I also fired off a couple of shots with the speedlight placed behind the car and pointed at the camera. These helped to add highlights to the edges of the interior and also helped create the subtle flare on the edges of the windshield frame.
In the end, I used around 10 of the shots in the final composite. These shots were manually combined in Photoshop to create the final image:
I moved to the roof of the garage for the second shot. This time I went for a front 3/4 shot. Unfortunately, the winter Kansas City weather wasn’t cooperating as well as I’d hoped and a thick overcast had formed. This made strobing the car with the little speedlight a bit easier, but it made for a pretty uneventful sky and background:
The process for this shot was basically identical to the first shot: several exposures, some lit with a speedlight and some with only natural light, all combined manually in Photoshop. The big difference between this shot and the previous shot was that I replaced the sky in this photo with a more dramatic sunset. I composited it all in Photoshop to create a ‘sunset breaking through the clouds after a storm’ look:
I’m quite happy with the resulting images. They’re far more dramatic than my typical automotive photos, and I learned quite a bit from experimenting with a flash-heavy composite.