It’s just a little fun so try to unfurrow your brow. I’m sure this site will get back to ‘serious photography’ right after this. Last year I wrote about the fun to be had making model cars look real and shared a few projects that I was commissioned to make. Since then I have had a lot of requests from people wanting to actually be in the photo with a car/toy/scale model of their choice.
This opened up another creative avenue to explore, something I’m always looking for. (Regular photography bores me now, to the extent that I didn’t even bother to take my camera on my last two overseas trips – my phone sufficed).
You will have realised that these were all experimental shots, undertaken to practice the process, as Alpha Whiskey features in all of them. I had to figure out and ensure that it could work before fulfilling requests. I realise that I’m not the most photogenic subject to put in front of a camera but all my attempts to attract a beautiful model in high heels to practice posing with toy cars proved futile (can’t imagine why).
Many of the shots of me were taken by my friend Natalia, who is actually rather lovely and did pose for some photos afterwards (unrelated to cars), but on this project she preferred to stay behind the camera and laugh at me. Fair enough.
So I would be pictured against a white wall in various predetermined angles and positions. I would then shoot the vehicles/scale models, all 1/18 scale, in the same relative positions and using the same lens so that everything could be lined up once they had been scaled to the appropriate and proportionate size.
The comically awkward rigidity in my poses is the result of trying to remain still during the slow shutter speeds that were commensurate with using the lowest possible ISO. Plus on occasion I had to puppet-warp my legs and feet to match the level of the ground.
Obviously, having shot myself separately in different light, I had to colour and tone match myself to the vehicle shots. The most difficult part of the editing process was getting the shadows to look right, so that I didn’t look like I had been obviously pasted into the images. Shadows usually have at least three main components, the contact, ambient and directional, and getting each right can be a little experimental in itself. Not sure I completely succeeded but it’s getting there….
The cars were shot on my usual practical set with a sky blue or dusk blue background board. Background scenes from my travels (mainly from Chile or Canada) and light and smoke effects added in post. Some smoke effects were created practically with a vaping device. Some of the car shots were redundant images I had made with the models from previous clients and had in my archives (always a blessing to have shot more than you needed), and some were models I bought myself (e.g. the Ferrari). The cars are, of course, the real stars of each image; having a person there is simply intended to add to the story and provide some embellishment.
Knowing how lucrative nostalgia appears to be I also inserted myself into shots with 80s vehicle stars KITT from Knight Rider, Airwolf, and the A-team van. The poses evolved from the static to the more action oriented and dare I say, slightly ridiculous…
I also had fun with the Delorean from Back To The Future, which was a gift from a friend.
Not to be limited to just cars I had also borrowed a 25cm Alien model again from a previous client to make some interactive shots for myself to put on a gym towel. Yes, really.
I won’t write a book on the processing aspect since there’s too much of it to cover, but understanding layers, curves adjustments and image stacking is helpful. And much of it is also trial and error, adding effects and playing with the tone is all done to taste. The widescreen bars at the top and bottom of the car images are intended to give a cinematic look.
It’s not always practical, of course to go and shoot the client for their pose. After-all, they may be in a different country altogether. If possible they would come to me or I will ask them to supply some photos of themselves from a variety of angles shot in front of a blank/clear surface (having few background distractions makes it far easier to cut them out from it). Sometimes more than one person has been added to the image. The example below is one I have permission to share from a client who is a snowboarding enthusiast but in fact supplied a stock image of a snowboarder rather than one of himself. Nevertheless, the image looks great as a large poster on his wall.
One client supplied me with a 1/12 Ducati Monster to make some images for her boyfriend’s birthday. I just couldn’t resist a little play…
Thus, I have built up (and continue to build) a gallery of images to show what can be done to give people some ideas when they make their requests. But this is also something you can do for yourselves, your friends and especially your kids, who I’m sure would love to be in a photo interacting with their favorite toys. The possibilities are limitless. It’s all presented here with a slight wink and a tongue wedged firmly in cheek but hopefully it may inspire you to think laterally about your photography or explore your own creative projects.
Some people might think that none of this has anything to do with photography and is more like digital art/retouching and I do understand that. Indeed I have found myself looking at plenty of automotive shots for inspiration only to be disappointed to find that they were CGI constructs made entirely with software. But all of my images here are of models taken practically with a camera (all m4/3 gear) so I believe it comfortably falls under a photography banner. Plus, every shot involved consideration for all the essential elements of photography such as composition, lighting and framing.
Every once in a while stop fretting about gear or capturing a crimson sunset in a far away location, relax the sneer (it takes fewer muscles to smile so save yourself the energy and the wrinkles) and simply have yourself a little fun. I’m quite sure you’ve earned it. Now I’m going to take the advice of my favorite President and go back to where I come from. See ya.