Photography at the Washington Auto Show

Written by stuestler on February 4th, 2010

Just finished a week of photography covering the Washington Auto Show. This assignment is for the client who produces the show itself, and is largely public relations oriented. We shoot the special events that go on during the show, as well as the day-to-day activities, the public enjoying the auto displays, checking out the new cars.

In some ways PR photography can be one of the most challenging to make interesting, as the subject is often someone speaking at a podium in front of a group. Sometimes the speaker is the shot – a notable who’s presence is the newsworthy event. Other times having the speaker in context with a display showing the topic of his talk helps provide creative elements for a photo.

In one of the more interesting displays at this show, one of the auto makers had a cut-away car with the body shell split down the middle. The two halves spread open revealing the interior, frame, engine and all the insides of the car. The show attendees could get in the car, with a product specialist, and the body closed, all while the specialist described the many features of the vehicle.

It looked great, and would have been an easy capture in video, but getting still photos that described the process provided a bit of a challenge. Open, the body halves and interior looked like a static display, and closed it just looked like a car. A single shot of the vehicle closing still looked like a static display.

I used post processing in Photoshop to help solve this one. I set up the camera on a steady tripod, and did a series of shots. The first was the display open, with the people inside. I then shot several exposures of the car closing, until it was completely closed. Each individual shot looked like this:

 

I first tried using the PhotoMerge tool to see what happened, but as I suspected it would, it just ended up with the open and closed frames merged together.

 I then opened each photo in Photoshop, and one at a time dragged each successive shot onto the next. I created a Layer Mask and with a low opacity brush erased some of the area where the car was closing in the underlying frame. That was flattened and dragged onto the next closing frame, and the process repeated. The final image looks like this:

This is a process very similar to the one I use when combining exposures of architectural interiors, and with a little practice it’s actually quite simple. The students who take my classes discover that it’s simpler and quicker to do this than to describe it!

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