For our most recent client ‘Astra Limousines’, the first and foremost objective was to to capture the elegance and service they provide. For the art, you want to capture emotion, in Automotive Photography that usually equates to motion shots. Rolling shots are great and can be taken in amazing places, but there’s something very special with a Rig-Shot. They’re captivating because from rolling speed you’re able to manipulate the light entering your camera, and produce a high quality image that makes the car in frame look like it’s going 100km/h.

Over the course of 2013, we received quiet a few PM’s and emails regarding our Rig-Shot process and how we go about it. Both from the Shoot and post-production sides. So, in this article I’ll go through this particular project, which was Rig-Shots of the three Maserati’s that ASTRA have in their fleet. From concept to the execution and the final polished product. Hope you enjoy the below step-by-step.

PS: Visit the awesome people at Astra Limousines on their Facebook page, or on their new look website filled with amazing images by yours truly (almost ready).

RAW Rig-Shot, shot at ISO100 | f9.0 | 2.3sec | 25mm(24-70) | VariableND -8stops | 5Dmkiii | [email protected]

The satisfaction is instant from the preview off the camera, when you’re able to show the client right there and then, and have their faces light up, well there’s no better feeling as a Photographer, especially knowing that it can only get better after editing.

The Concept.
The concept for the ASTRA fleet was always pretty simple, ‘Class’. This relies 100% on the location, so instantly waterfront and suburban-city location came to mind. With that, there’s a few things to consider when taking Rig-Shots.

1 – City locations are epic! But, take into account they require a reasonably quiet spot where you can extend a 3m (or longer) pole and not obstruct traffic or annoy people to the point of calling authorities. This is a pretty obvious one I think, but worth a mention as I’ve been caught out once before and plan B sucked!

2 – Take up to an hour in account for each shot. Just until you get into the rhythm or Rigs and learn the angle-per-meter feel.

3 – Unless you have a Variable ND Filter, you will want to shoot either sunrise or sunset. In my experience I like at least 1.3 seconds exposure, in saying that if Sydney roads allow it I’ll push it even further to 4 seconds. This is down to personal preference too.

These two Manfotto suctions cups are all that holds the rig on. We have full trust in these bad boys! By placing the different length sprigots on the cups, you in turn adjust the pitch and therefore angle that shot is taken.

The Shoot.
As you can see from the above photos, I went for a classy inner city location. We organised the Rig-Shoot to be on a Sunday, much more quiet! I think if you’re from Sydney, it’s pretty easy to recognise the location.

At this point it’s all about setting the suction cups at the correct angle apart. To save time and embarrassment I roughly hold one pole in line with the cups, just to mentally project that line and re-position the cups  accordingly. Once I was happy I tightened those cups, and mounted the ‘elbows’ . See picture below.

The final angle for the Quadraporte. Shot at ISO100 | f7.1 | 1.3secs | 19mm(17-40) | VariableND -9stops | 5Dmkiii | [email protected]  This particular car was a little longer than the rest, so I changed to a wide-angle lens.

The idea is to use the ‘elbows’ at different heights, which will in-turn change the pitch of the pole, this is difference of a shot from above, or below by the scrapings of the hot-shoe. That’s the fun.

However, I’ve chosen a different image to show the post-production process on. Simply because this was my favourite Rig-Shot of the set. Below is the RAW image of what I’ll edit.

Same settings as before ISO100 | f8.0 | 2.3sec | 25mm(24-70) | VariableND -10stops | 5Dmkiii | [email protected]   Notice the effects of the VariableND filter on the diagonal corners of the image. Some people really dislike this effect and therefore prefer ‘correct’ time of day to shoot Rigs. Personally I like the effect.

I’ll start this with the physical requirements needed to capture this image first. Apart from the obvious which is the Rig itself, you will need a Variable ND filter. This is a pretty serious piece of filter and it’s price reflects that. I use a Hoya 10-stop Vaiabe ND. Basically, it allows you to go 10 stop down at any lighting situation, which roughly equates to 1/400th of the light getting through to sensor. I cannot stress how useful this filter is, not only for Rig-Shots but also in everyday photography. Have you ever wondered what a long-exposure shot would look like during the day? This little guy allows you to do that and long-exposure during the day can result in amazing images!

Depending on the colour of the car I may also sometimes put on a CPL filter to kill some ugly reflections. This time I didn’t use it as White paint is usually very good with reflections and soaks up light very evenly across the car. There are (as always) a few things to take into account when stacking filters together.

1 – As you stack filters, you’re building on to the profile of the filters. Even if you are using Low-profile filters, the use of wide-angle lenses below 20mm will show a strong Vignette on the corners of the image. I’ve found that at 25mm or more I’m able to control the Vignette in Post and pull detail out of it.

2- The biggest down fall of stacking filters is the length of Rig required to frame a 25mm shot. A full-frame camera, and 6 meters of Rig helps! Wide-angle has a funny way of distorting the image, so if you’re like me and don’t like stretched and skewed out photos, get yourself some reach!

3 – Remote shutter release trigger!!! Cannot stress this enough, when that hot-shoe is scraping on the floor there is nothing less professional than crawling along on the ground with your camera pressing that trigger.

4 – Keep the camera on Manual focus. Set your frame and focus on your point. This is where you will set all your filters and settings which will stay in place for the duration. When I adjust settings I only change the F-stop up or down a stop, All comes down to the light…

A good note is to take a shot while everything is stationary. Sometimes the road surface is bad and you might not be able to get a super sharp image in long-exposure mode. Worst comes to worst you can use the stationary image for valuable sharpness and etch them together in Post.

Here is a RAW sequence of this angle. Literally rolled the car forwards, and then backwards, taking snaps along the way. Notice the 1st image is the stationary one I mentioned above.

Windows are up, this was a client request, personally I’m not a fan on a convertible, but it stays. Notice the cross-vignetting from the VariableND filter. The road’s line runs through the middle of the car. The Rig’s pole is reflected on the headlight and obviously the Rig itself.

These are pieces that cover up the rig. Various tools where used including; Pen, Clone-Stamp, Spot-heal brush, etching various pieces of the wall around, Blending, and a whole bunch of Quick masks.

The Post Production.
The first thing I always do is remove the Rig. This takes time and patience but gets quicker over time. My best advice is to memorise and sample the other shots in the set.

1 – I always like to start at the top of the image. Sometimes a lot of the topside Rig can get removed if you re-crop the image in Post. In this case I’ve slightly tightened the frame but still had to re-produce a lot of the topside.
2 – The beginning pieces of the middle section Rig. It can start to get tight around the mid section depending on how the Rig was mounted.
3 – More fill pieces to mid. Some are etched pieces of wall from other shots in the sequence. As I took quiet a few I have ‘samples’ of different sections of wall at my disposal.
4 – All the pieces that cover up the rig are shown. The small white bits at the bottom are the pieces to cover up the small bit of suction cup.

There we go, Rig has been removed. There are still a few things left to do; Rig reflection, Road’s line, and the final adjustments..

The impact correct road lines make on the final image, I think is astonishing! The final edit is always a matter of preference, so a few Brush strokes and multiple adjustment layers later this is me.

The lower the angle, the more dramatic the image will be. The camera’s hot-shoe mounted shutter trigger was literally scraping on the floor during these photos. Well worth it in my opinion.

I hope this article has shed some light on how we do these Rig-Shots. Keep in mind that Photoshop has almost infinite number of ways to complete a task, and a lot of it comes down to what tools you’re comfortable with. This method I’ve shown is just one technique, it works for me and is reasonably quick. The most important thing is getting the shot/s right on the camera.