New C7 Corvette Stingray (red) at Cars & Couture 2013 Tampa Jet Center Florida

The controversial rear of the new C7 Corvette Stingray - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 0.4 secI had a chance to see the new C7 Corvette Stingray in person at the 2013 Cars & Couture event a few Fridays ago.  As is often the case with cars at events, it was not ideally placed for photography from a background standpoint and also available light.  Still, I wanted to get some shots of this brand new American sports car.

Even amongst Ferraris, the new C7 Corvette Stingray still drew a crowd - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRI believe all C7 coupes come with the ability to remove the roof panel for an almost throwback T-tops style.  I thought it added a lot of visual flair.

Red Corvette becomes white in this B&W conversion - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRWhen you convert a red car photograph to black & white it turns all white!

I thought the C7 Corvette looked better in person - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRFor many Corvette fans, going to squared taillights is heresy from the traditional round ones.  Some even say they look too much like the Camaro's.  Still, overall the rear of the C7 looks very agressive.  If you have a new C7 and want it professionally photographed I would very much like a chance to properly photograph it in good light with a complementary background.  Contact me for details.

Cars & Couture 2013 Tampa International Jet Center Florida

Cars & Couture 2013 new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C7 - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-esposure HDR tripod mounted with cable releaseFor the second year in a row I was given a media pass (thanks Dona) to Cars & Couture 2013 at the Tampa International Jet Center.  It is a charity event featuring supercars, models and private jets.  This time there was only one car I had not seen before, the brand new C7 Corvette Stingray (I have more photos just featuring that Corvette coming).  

Inside Cars & Couture 2013 at the Tampa Jet Center with Lamborghini Gallardo Spider - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRThe light was not as good as last year, especially inside the hangar, which meant it did not take long for me to shoot the event.   

Private jets & supercars were featured at Cars & Couture 2013 Tampa Event Photography - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRI did talk to a representative from ExecuJet and may soon be photographing their line of private jets.  It would be a great opportunity to photograph a new subject matter.  The jet center at sunset time provides a great backdrop too.

Ferrari 458 Spider in the foreground of Cars & Couture 2013 Tampa Event Photographer - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRThere was no formal Ferrari presence this year, just three total, and they were all the exact same model, the 458 Spider!  That has long been my favorite car actually, but seeing three together almost made it seem common in my eyes!  Subsequently, I am now all about the Lexus LFA!

Photography Tip - replace a busy background with clean sky Corvette Photography

This Corvette is real, and the sky is real, but they were not really photographed together.

I went to a Corvette car show in South Straub Park this past Saturday mostly to meet the owner of the above customized Corvette.  I first photographed his car back in November.  He was not by his car at the time and only by chance found my photograph of it.  Since then I have been in regular contact with the owner, Bobby, about possibly doing a full shoot of his Corvette.  That still has not happened yet, but at least on Saturday I got a chance to go see him and say hello.  

This is the original image as made on site at a car show in St. Petersburg FloridaI have written several times that shooting cars at car shows often results in less than desirable images, if you want the focus to be on the car itself.  This case was no different as the trees in the background compete for the viewer's eye just as much as the Corvette.  The solution for a busy background?  Replace it with a better one!

Corvette cut out from the background using Photoshop Quick Select ToolIt was pretty straight forward to remove the Corvette from its background using the Quick Select Tool in Photoshop.  I kept the grass foreground as seen above.  I was careful to of course not select the inside of the window so that too could be part of the background replacement.

The replacement background used in the composite image.I went into my photo archives to look for a suitable replacement background.  Using actual objects is rather hard to do as proportions can be very difficult to match (car looks giant, buildings look tiny, etc).  A sky background is usually a good and easy replacement background subject.  I used one I made of Sunset Beach on Treasure Island, Florida.

The new background slipped right behind the Corvette, window included.Then it is just a matter of slipping the sky background layer behind the Corvette layer in Photoshop.  I positioned it taking into consideration cloud placement.  I did not even need to cut out the sandy beach part because that is all hidden behind the Corvette.  The above image is the final composite photograph which allows the viewer to focus on the Corvette as the subject.

Motion blur added to a more advanced edit of the Corvette composite image

After getting a composite image I liked, I experimented with even more Photoshop editing.  I added a motion blur to the grass and a radial blur to the tires to create the illusion that the Corvette is speeding along on the grass.  I darkened the window and put in a silhouette of my own head to show a driver inside to help complete the motion illusion.  What do you think of the motion shot?  Is it convincing or not quite there yet?

1963 Chevrolet Corvette split-window St. Petersburg Florida Car Photography

A racing 1963 Chevrolet Corvette split-window in Straub Park St. Petersburg Florida Car Photography - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 9-exposure HDR tripod mounted with cable releaseAt a Corvette car show in South Straub Park in downtown St. Petersburg Florida I had the chance to photograph this rare 1963 split-window Corvette.  The owner was not around at the time so I could not learn much about the car or what it is like to drive it.  The only clean angle to photograph it was from this rear three-quarter panel view due to surrounding cars.  In my mind this split-window Corvette is thinking get me the heck off this grass and onto that road in front of me!

Red 2004 Corvette Z06 Tampa Car Photography in Ybor City

Corvette Z06 in Ybor City near train tracks Tampa Car Photography - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/30th +1 ev tripod mounted single exposureDustin contacted me about photographing his 2004 Corvette Z06 in the same Ybor City Tampa location he has seen my photographs of a Mustang and a Lexus IS F.  He was open to me shooting however I liked, not wanting any replicated photos and I really wanted to try and produce some different shots after having already shot at this exact spot twice before.  Thanks to our well timed shoot and Mother Nature cooperating with a very well positioned sunset, I was able to produce some new shots for this Corvette shoot.

Red Chevy Corvette Z06 sunset view in Ybor City Tampa Car Photography - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/40th +2 ev tripod mounted single exposureOne of the big differences with the shots from this car photography shoot was I did not rely on HDR for most of the shots.  I still shot a majority of bracketed shots, but I ended up using one of those exposures, as in the shot above, to produce the final image.  I feel this improves my car photography shooting style offering future clients even more variety in final images.  What motivated me to shoot like this?  Looking at lots of photographs of cars on  Looking at photographs is a great way to improve your own photography, no matter what you are shooting or what experience level you are.

Corvette Z06 vs train in Ybor City Tampa Car Photography - Nikon D300 Nikkor 50mm @ f/4 ISO 200 1/400th with antique filter in Silver Efex ProOne of the original reasons I scouted this Ybor City shooting location was that the client wanted to have his car near train tracks.  Well these tracks are very active as you can see above allowing me to make a "Corvette vs. Train" shot.  I wonder what the train engineer was thinking?

Z06 Corvette train track sunset in Ybor City Tampa Car Photography - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 9-exposure HDR tripod mounted with cable releaseI still did make some 9-exposure HDR final images though, like the one above allowing me to show the full details of the red Corvette and full detail in the bright sky background.  As you can see in the shots above, with a single exposure that much detail in the sky cannot be preserved unless you make an HDR image.

Corvette Z06 in Ybor City at sunset Tampa Car Photography - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 9-exposure HDR tripod mounted with cable releaseMost car shots are usually from a low angle, but I wanted to show more of the shape of the hood of this Corvette so I maxed out the leg height of my tripod to get this upper view of the car and used another 9 exposures to make this HDR image.

Stylized Corvette Z06 view in Ybor City Tampa Car Photography - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/100th +2 ev tripod mounted single exposureA tight rear quarter panel and rear wheel composition is one of my favorite views to photograph a car from, as seen in the photo above.  I think it creates a somewhat exaggerated and therefore interesting view of a car, especially if it has nice wheels!

Corvette Z06 on bricks in Ybor City Tampa Car Photography - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 9-exposure HDR tripod mounted with cable releaseFor the last shots of the afternoon we went to the other side of the warehouse out of direct sunlight.  Even though there was no bright sky to contend with, I chose to shoot in brackets and ended up using all 9-exposures to make the HDR image above.  In doing so details in the shadows of the car and gate above were revealed.  

GTP Corvette Custom build car photography for Mecum Auction

A custom built GTP Corvette in Lakeland Florida I photographed for Mecum Auctions - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/30th tripod mounted - Strobist: SB-800 in brolly to frame rightEarlier this year I had the opportunity to photograph a Jaguar for RM Auctions and now I have had a chance to work for another major auction company, Mecum Auctions.  I went to Lakeland to photograph two Corvettes for the upcoming auction in Kissimmee, Florida.  The owner and builder of this custom GTP Corvette were friendly guys who even helped me out by keeping my light stand upright in the surprisingly breezy and chilly morning!

Custom interior for a GTP Corvette photographed for Mecum Auctions - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/60th - Strobist: SB-800 in brolly by passenger door & SB-600 on driverside door sillThe interior of this car looked as radical as the exterior with its sweeping red bucket seats that could not have been more than six inches off the ground!  I used a couple of speedlights to illuminate all the features of the custom built Corvette.

Custom GTP Corvette with hood, doors and engine cover fully open - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 9-exosure HDR tripod mounted with cable releaseOne of the guys said the car looked like a Transformer with the hood, scissor doors and engine cover all fully open.  

Exhaust system of a custom GTP Corvette - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/30th tripod mounted - Strobist: SB-800 in brolly beside me

The exhaust sounds brutal when the car starts up.  I cannot imagine what it sounds like when driving and revving that engine close to its redline!

This was the first time all year I had to don a jacket!  Lakeland is a good ways inland from St. Petersburg where living right next to the water keeps things a few degrees warmer.  The guys are working on several new projects which I hope I will have the chance to photograph when they are complete.  Good luck to them at the Mecum Auction!

Corvette great subject bad background digital photography editing tip

Final fully edited custom silver Corvette - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 5-exposure HDR - black gradient background added digitallyWhat if you have a great subject to photograph, but a terrible background?  I tell my DSLR photography students that assuming you have a good subject, then what makes or breaks a shot, what sets it apart is the light (lighting) and the background.  For this shot the subject is a really cool custom Corvette.  However, the background was horrible and I could not use depth of field techniques to just turn the background into beautiful bokeh because the subject was too close to the background, at least if I wanted to photograph the entire car, which I did.  So, to make the shot usable I opend up my digital photographing editing toolkit.

So what did I do first after processing the HDR image and do a few little minor edits?  I loaded the photo in Photoshop (I still use CS5) and chose the Quick Select (W is the keyboard shortcut) tool.  The background looks very busy and it might seem like selecting the Corvette would be difficult, but there are several factors why it was not too tedious.  One is the Corvette is a fairly distinct, blocky object, no lone thin parts or openings.  Second, none of the surrounding colors are similar to the Corvette itself.  The hood did take a little fine tuning to get selected, but other than that it was not too bad.  Notice I selected the naturally existing shadow under the car too.  Once finished I clicked on the Refine Edge option up in the Quick Select menu bar.

In the Refine Edge window you can clean up the extra bit of edging that you do not want as well as export just the selected subject to a new layer, which is what I always do.  Once that is done, I add a new layer to use as a background that I can paint any color.  I usually choose white first to see how it looks and also to make sure I really cleaned up all the edges.  I liked the white background, so I saved a JPG from the PSD project.

Next I just painted over the white background with the Brush Tool at 100% opacity black.  Right away I liked the black background better as I thought it made the silver Corvette pop out.  The black background caused the shadow to become invisible and kind of made the shot look a little two dimensional, so the final touch was adding a 40% opacity vertical gradient only from the mid-height point of the image.  

This process can of course be used for any subject with a variety of digital or real backgrounds.  So the next time you see a really cool subject, but are disappointed by the background, be sure to still make the shot in the field knowing you can using a few Photoshop techniques to produce a final image you will be happy with.