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Lesson 6 from: The Automotive Photography Workshop

Aaron Brimhall

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Lesson Info

6. Pre-Production

There are many factors that go into a successful shoot. Aaron works us through his pre-production process and gives insights into some of his tricks.

Lesson Info


All right, so the job is landed. You're ready to go shoot in the field. And this is where, you know, this is game time. I think the biggest thing for me when shooting anything automotive is each machine is different and each client is gonna be wanting something different. And you really gotta keep that in mind. Obviously, do your homework beforehand on how long is the car? How short is the car? What angles do these brands like to see? Do you want to be shooting with a wide lens or do you want to be shooting anything somewhere between like a 35 ml and a 50 ml? I tend to find out most automotive brands don't want anything wider than 35, just because things will get distorted and their cars will look obviously different on photos than in person. And so, they want realistic images to portray, so when people come to look at their product they can be like, oh, this is exactly what I've seen online. And so you really gotta take that into consideration. And that being said, I'm gonna go into t...

his showing you guys, obviously, the different kind of angles and angle studies that usually brands will have prior to getting the job that you're literally studying. So that way, when you're on the job, you can just be precise and getting those angles, so the client can see that you know what's up. An angle study is (camera clicking) basically, all cars photograph different. Obviously, you know how cars look. They are curved different. They have sharp edges. The panels are different in lights, et cetera. So a brand will have their angle studies on what has best fit their brand and what does not look right. We'll have a specific shot list for tomorrow on what kind of angles most, it's kind of like a generic shot list of angles that brands like to see. So, usually, we'll have like a three-fourths front a seven-eights front, a direct profile look, a head-on shot, a rear shot, a seven-eights rear, a three-fourths rear, et cetera. So be aware of your angles, what lenses you're using and how lighting can affect that as well. Another big part of landing the job is you'll have a specific shot list that the agency has put together for a client. And this is the most crucial thing 'cause if you don't get the entire list checked off then you're in deep water and I've been in that situation and I've learned from it. So this is like the major key when shooting a car campaign, checking off the shot list is a major part of any campaign. You, usually, will have like a location scouter on hand or you'll have someone that has pulled images from these certain locations. But you also want to get a look for yourself to see where you're gonna place the car, where you're gonna put props, where you're gonna shoot the entire environment. And so once you've landed that job, you have to, no matter how many times that location's been scouted, you need to go location scout one more time, just to be sure and to get those exact angles that you want. How I do it normally is I'll take my phone or even sometimes I'll take my camera and I'll just set up shots, even like a log or something to show client and agency, almost to reassure them how I'm gonna be shooting each and every shot. They almost expect that from you, is they want to see where the locations are from your perspective. And also with locations too, you're gonna have to be permitting out these locations for a certain period of time and you almost have like a radius of where you're gonna be permitted to shoot. Another big thing when shooting a location is permits. You have to do your research. Find the city you're going to and permit out what you're gonna be shooting and where you're gonna be shooting. That's a huge key and a huge factor into this. That saves agency and client. And that is one major thing that you really need to do and be careful with, is permitting. And do not shoot on any unpermitted land when you're hired for work. On these jobs, usually, I'll kind of have something extra on set or with me. I'll have like a BTS shooter that will shoot like anything behind the scenes of me and my crew. And I think as well, having that BTS, client loves it and agency too. It's kind of like another cherry on top and they just like seeing kind of the workflow and what happened that day. It's almost like a scrapbook for them and it's just something cool to have. I think for me too, that's why I've started vlogging and doing little pieces of my shoots 'cause a lot of people wanna see that. A lot of the times we'll bring a boombox on and we'll have music playing. So it's not like, you know, the environment's kind of loose and laid back and we want client and agency to feel comforted and not so stressed. And I think that's when you kind of get like, personally, that's when I get the most out of my work is when I'm working with friends and I have a good team that knows exactly what we're doing and no one's asking questions and everyone's pulling their weight and doing their specific job. And you don't really get stressed on asking those people too much to help you out in certain things, whether that's lighting the car or that's putting a scrim over the car or doing anything like that. Having that work environment that's friendly and that's gonna give you the most creative work is kind of key in my perspective. My team usually consists of me obviously doing stills. I have a DP, I have an assistant, and then I usually will have the BTS filmer and then the digitech. The digitech is a huge thing. Not for me, but usually for, well, I guess for me too, but the digitech is a huge thing for me and agency because what happens is, usually, I'll be tethered into the digitech. The digitech will kind of relay these images to client and agency. He's putting like a little treatment over every single photo that I'm taking. So it's not straight raw from the camera. And it's kind of just like putting some makeup on each photo. So it's not raw and making it just look pretty. And that's pretty huge for client and it's gonna make me look good as well. So you really want to make sure, either if you don't have a digitech, get one, or bring your laptop out and then dump cards to show client or agency and reassure them on images that you've taken. And that way you can check off things faster. And that way you're not worried about, at the end of the shoot, like, oh, did I not get everything that I needed? Or was that in focus or anything like that? 'Cause you really also wanna make sure everything is in focus as well. So having some sort of laptop or something you can see an image big on screen will help everything in the end. So that's a good key point to have. Having an assistant on hand is really nice because, for me, I'm really in the zone when I'm shooting and I'm not thinking about as simple as even drinking water or even getting anything, any type of food in me. But when you're in the zone working in kind of like a hard environment like that, you need to be reminded to drink water, eat food, switch lenses, if you need to, move things around, carry equipment. So that, at the end of the day, you don't wanna slow down. At least, I really do not wanna slow down and anything slowing me down will cause kind of like a rut in anything creative that comes out for me. And so having those people that will help you on hand will kind of give, yeah, I think having those people helping you out will give you that more competitive edge and you'll get more bang for your buck. All right, so tomorrow is game day. You've done your homework. You got your team all together. Everyone's done their part. It's time to go make the client happy and, yeah, let's just go have fun and get everything we need.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Automotive Presets

Ratings and Reviews

Ben Waugh

Worth Every Cent! Keen For More! This was awesome, definitely keen to see more of these in the future! Keep them coming dude! Loved seeing your edit breakdown and workflow. Would love to see some more of the behind the scenes of planning a shoot too - @benwaugh

Allison Gregory

From Zero to Hero Awesome workshop to not only get my first taste of automotive shoots, but I am walking away with a shoot set-up and planned to create speck work and present brands with decks. I loved how Aaron really explained everything he was doing. He rocks.

Adrian Mirabal

Amazing and WORTH IT! I have followed Aaron Brimhall for a while now and when I saw he was releasing a workshop I knew I had to get it! If you are wanting to shoot anything in motion or automotive action this is the workshop for you!

Student Work