Automobile Photography with Alpha wireless flash

Topic: Automobile Photography Demonstration
Sony Alpha Wireless Flash System + Photoflex Litedome XS
Photography by:
M Sulhan Juman – Mobistudios
Artwork & Post Processing : M Sulhan Juman – Mobistudio

1. Session Overview

Recently I had a chance to do an automobile photography in an indoor factory setting with the Alpha wireless flash system. Here is a short write-up documenting the automobile photography session and also some information touching on the setup and lighting considerations.

2. Equipment Setup

We have utilized the Sony alpha flashes for this project.  The equipment setup is as follows:
a.  Lights
– 02 x HVL-F58AM + of-camera flash shoe stand
– 01 x HVL-F42AM + of-camera flash shoe stand
– 01 x HVL-F20AM (Wireless trigger)*
– 03 x light stand
– o2 x LiteDomeXS – for each of the HVL-F58AM

*We had to use the HVL-F20AM as we were shooting with the Sony A900 which does not have an on-board flash unit.  If other Alpha DSLR bodies  with pop-up flash were to be used, the HVL-F20AM may not be necessary.
b.  Camera & Focal Length
– Alpha DSLR camera body
– Focal length between 100mm and 200mm – this focal length range was chosen for this session as we wanted a tight composition and also work with enough distance to achieve the desired depth-of-field for the tinge of blurred background.

3. Lighting Setup

We have planned for a simple two face lighting.  The vehicle will be positioned in an angled position with the driver’s side lit by the main light, and the front of the car filled with enough “hard”light to give some glitter to the shiny cosmetic trimmings and ventilation mesh.  Here is a diagram showing the lighting position plan.

Fig. 1 Layout planning for the lighting

We setup all the lighting closely according to the plan that has been laid out and here is how the actual setup looked like in real life.

Fig. 2  The actual lighting and car position adjusted for the desired background

Putting all the Flashes to the wireless mode

To setup X number of flashes, is easy.  Just set the camera in the Wireless Mode and just fit the flashes powered on(I find this to be an elegent approach) into the shoe one by one.

So the Procedure goes like this:
– go to flash menu on camera -> (for A700/A900) select MENU->(TAB – Item 1:1) Flash Mode – Choose WIRELESS -> press “OK” -> With each strobe units turned on, ut Flash on camera flash shoe and remove flash and place off camera. The camera will automatically whisper to the flash to switch to wireless mode.

– Repeat this with the next flash: Put flash on shoe, take it off. The camera will automatically whisper to the flash to switch to wireless mode.. Until all flashes get to whispered.

At this point, when the flashes are in the wireless mode, the red indicator AF assist lamp on the front of the flashes will blink like a beacon.  More detailed information on setting the camera and flashes to wireless can be found on the wireless flash article.

Setting up the two HVL-F58AM

In this arrangement, the two HVL-F58AM positions were very crucial.  Minor adjustments were made to the distance of the lights to give the best uniform lighting. As noted in the illustration in Fig. 1 there were two key parameters that were tweaked to achieve the desired lighting.  The “Distance A – Position of the twor HVL-F58AM with LiteDome XS” and the “Distance B – Position of the HVL-F42AM” lighting up the front face of the car.

We made several iterations in the actual camera position and the position of the two HVL-F58AM strobes.  Improper lighting direction and in this case the overlapping of the two HVL-F58AM may cause uneven illumination like the one shown below.

Fig. 3 Example of an uneven lighting due t bad lighting direction and position.

Here are some systematic positioning checks as a guide if you do have the same dual source overlapping to light up one face.  However, if a single wide source is available, the same approach of aiming the edge of the dome to spill slightly off the front and rear edge of the automobile will help to ensure even illumination.

Fig. 4 Some simple systematic sequence to follow for iteration of lighting.

Setting up the HVL-F42AM

Finally in this setup, the HVL-F42Am is then placed at the front position to light up the front shiny trimmings on the front portion of the car.  The HVL-F42AM is set to manual zoom head at the longest zoom position of 105mm.  Press the “Zoom” button behind the flash. to set the flash head to have a narrow beam to light the front of the car.

Fig. 5 The rear control panel of the HVL-F42AM

Once all the flashes have been properly positioned, the shoot is then carried out.

4. Get Creative

The setup can be further adjusted to achieve different effects.  Single lighting effects can be achieved by turning either of the two lighting groups. We hope that this little documentation has helped in giving you an idea on how the alpha wireless flash could be utilized for use automobile photography.  The setup worked well in full automatic TTL mode.  Do try out different flash power settings and adjusting the flash distances “Distance A – Position of the twor HVL-F58AM with LiteDome XS” and the “Distance B – Position of the HVL-F42AM” lighting up the front face of the car – to achieve different feel of the final image.  Minor post processing can be made to achieve the desired feel to the final image.

In our shoot of the Crysler 300, the SAL 135mm was used as we would like to achieve a tight composition and provide sufficient background defocus with the right mix of details.  We did have a set that was done with a wider angle lens which gives a totally different feel to the final image.

We hope that this short write-up will be useful for those who would like to try out automobile photography with strobes.

  1. John Gorst
    January 5, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks for the article. I am just getting into studio lighting with the alpha system. Can you tell me how you mount the HVL-F58AM on a light stand. All the clamps I have seen seem to only fit the other style hot shoe.


  1. August 2, 2010 at 1:17 pm

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