Guerrilla Model Shoot at the Autoshow Revisted

Shutter: 1/200, Aperture: ƒ/5.6, ISO: 100, Lens: 28-135mm. Two speedlights

This past week I visited the Washington Auto Show at the DC Convention Center. In the last few years, the overall goal was to get a nice looking studio-style photo that didn’t look like a snapshot from the convention center. I went into it more in my original article, the primary focus was to not be exploitative with my model. In my photos the model is the driver, not a piece of meat bent over the hood. I wanted an overall feeling of respect or esteem for the lady, but some allure as well of course.

For a little background; I never use a flash. I primarily shoot concerts, sports, wildlife and events. One thing I’ve been wanted to get a better grasp on is studio lighting. I can do some basic things with a single flash, or a fully stocked studio, but I wanted to push myself and go after something I wasn’t very good at. Just recently I’d seen a blog post on how to get a studio black background anywhere, including broad daylight, with a simple syncing trick and one speedlight. I tried this out on a recent maternity shoot, and at a kids volleyball match to see if I could have this technique in my back pocket. But then I thought that this would be perfect for accomplishing my goal of taking studio photos at the Auto Show. The convention floor is covered with cars of all shapes and sizes, and there’s hundreds (if not thousands) of other people milling about at all times. Could I use the syncing trick and a couple of flashes and get photos that look like I brought the car into a studio?

Shutter: 1/200, Aperture: ƒ/5.6, ISO: 100, Lens: 28-135mm. Two speedlights

And there it is. This is the most successful shot I got, as far as getting a fully lit car with a darkened background. Full disclosure, I did remove a few glares and shapes in the background, but it was minimal. In the interest of taking a photo and moving on quickly, I did not want to have any tripods or large reflectors. I wanted to bustle about almost as if you didn’t even know we were there. When your model is as stunning as Chelsea is, we got noticed. One or two photographers guys with cameras even tried take a snap or two of Chelsea posed with a car. Anyway, I had two assistants, each holding a flash. One was on a remote RF Yongnuo trigger, and the other flash was set to Slave mode. This worked out pretty well for staying mobile and relatively inconspicuous.

Shutter: 1/200, Aperture: ƒ/5.6, ISO: 100, Lens: 28-135mm. Two speedlights

The Mustang shot above got the whole car lit up, but as far as favorite photos from the night, this is it. I really dig the rear lighting, giving Chelsea a halo. Because I had two speedlights, one was focused on lighting her sufficiently, and the other was behind, aimed directly at the back of her head. If we had a third light, I think we could have gotten the entire hood of the Challenger lit up. For the purposes of this exercise, it came out great, and the darkness keeps your attention on Chelsea, but if I were doing this for a pro shot, I’d get the rest of the car lit up. Everything else comes together, the pose, the hair, Chelsea’s pose and expression, the car… this shot made the evening well worth it.

Shutter: 1/160, Aperture: ƒ/5.6, ISO: 100, Lens: 28-135mm. One speedlight

Since we had the lights and the cars, we wanted to try something a little different. I wanted to play with dramatically lighting Chelsea in the back of a car, with one light. I wanted it to be a little sexy, but maintain Chelsea’s dominance. She’s seducing, not submitting. I love the sense of control in her expression. The pose exudes confidence, and the lighting really plays up on these aspects. If there was no dramatic lighting, I think this set-up would otherwise fall flat. The lighting provides the cinematic reference.

Shutter: 1/200, Aperture: ƒ/5.6, ISO: 100, Lens: 28-135mm. Two speedlights

This shot has a bit more of the background. Ultimately I would have loved to have had the entire background fully blacked out, but I also like how the image shows multiple Mustangs. If it were people walking around, it wouldn’t be as forgivable.

Shutter: 1/200, Aperture: ƒ/5.6, ISO: 100, Lens: 28-135mm. Two speedlights

So what is the trick? Well if it wasn’t clear from the exif data below most of the images, you set your ISO to 100, then set your shutter speed to the fastest you can get with your flash. For most cameras and speedlights, this is 1/200 or 1/250 perhaps. Raise your aperture, and try taking a photo that turns out completely black. Now introduce a flash, or two, and with a little luck and positioning, you should get a dramatically lit subject with an all black background.

Shutter: 1/100, Aperture: ƒ/4.5, ISO: 1600, Lens: 50mm

I took a few images like years past, just using a high ISO and available light, but I do really like this faux-studio set-up and want to expand on it next year. Also, I accidentally dropped the transmitter part in my beer. I’ve never done that before. However it worked the rest of the night, and then the next day it sat in a bag of dry rice and seems good as new. Beer is conducive I suppose?

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