Car Rig Shot | All you need to know

So you want to do a car rig shot? Well who wouldn’t?

A Car Rig Shot is very cool! But when I wanted to build my own rig there was little or no information available. It seems that it was shrouded in more secrecy than the magic circle. Other photographers simply didn’t want to divulge their methods.

I have been meaning to write this for a while. Here’s my DIYish way of doing a car rig shot without breaking the bank! Don’t get me wrong there are widely available commercial rigs that you can buy if money is no object. Typically these start at over £1,000! So if money is no object go and check out the guys at their rigs are superb.

Heres what you’ll need to take a Car Rig Shot

A couple of Manfrotto F1000 pump cups (I only use Manfrotto as all my other stuff like this is Manfrotto so I know they are interchangable!)  these can be picked up for around £60 from places like Wex Photographic

Car Rig Shot

I never leave home without at least half a dozen Manfrotto Super Clamps in the bag, just because they are so usefull on any shoot,  but for this you will only need three.

Car Rig Shot

You’ll then need a way of attaching your camera. I use a Manfrotto Magic Arm. I have seen all sorts of other methods used to save on weight but I use my Canon 1D’s with this without any issues. These retail at over £100 but I picked mine up from E-Bay for £20!

Car Rig Shot

I also normally have with me a couple of Manfrotto Umbrella Swival adaptors. With an array of male/female siggot adaptors. These aren’t always needed but if the car your rigging has odd curves these are usefull to make up extra height.

Car Rig Shot

Finally you will need something pole like. I first used steel conduit that simply screwed together. But they proved too heavy and created lots of wobble due to their weight. Infact the Cosworth shot below was shot using these. I actually use aluminium scaffolding poles. I was lucky enough to find a 5m length in my garage I didn’t know I had!

Car Rig ShotI have it in three pieces and attach them like this.

Car Rig Shot

Put it all together and it should look a bit like this.

Car Rig Shot setup

Depending on where you shoot and what surface you might want to add some sort of tension cable. I just use some fine metal wire and a piece of carbon kite rod. You can see this in the shot above.

Taking the shot

I always aim for a 3-6 second exposure dependant on time of day and weather conditions. Anything longer doesn’t really add much infact I think it actually takes away, as if you blur the background too much the car simply looks like a cut out.

To take the shot its always easier to simply push the car, thats the trick, rig shots are taken with the car barely moving! Having said that I have done it with the car under power.

Theres a myriad of ways to trigger the exposure anything from setting the self timer on your camera to using a wireless trigger like Pocket Wizards. The choice is up to you.

Once you have taken the shot you should have something that looks a bit like this.

Caterham For Car Throttle

All thats left is to photoshop out the rig and voila you have your rig shot.

Caterham shot for Car Throttle

Caterham rig shot for Car Throttle

Here are a couple of my favorites that I have been commissioned to shoot over the past 18 months or so.

Rallycross Super car | Rig Shot for Japanese Performance

Rallycross Super car | Rig Shot for Japanese Performance

Ford Cosworth RS | Rig Shot for private client

Ford Cosworth RS | Rig Shot for private client

Ford Prefect | Rig Shot for Performance Ford

Ford Prefect | Rig Shot for Unity Media

One last word of warning from me on rig shots. Yes, they are cool and look awesome. But they don’t show much about the detail of the vehicle. A feature shoot is just that its all about features and detail. So don’t use a rig shot just because you can it has to be in context with the brief.

If theres anything thats not clear or you want more information add a comment below and I’ll try my best to answer it.

You can see more of my automotive work at

Dark Field Lighting Technique

Dark Field Lighting Technique. Its not some evil Star Wars hocus pokus. Its a lesser known method for dramatically lighting glass and liquids.

I first blogged about Dark Field Lighting way back in 2010. Since then I have had the conversation with so many people that I thought I’d repost it again, with a few edits here and there.

Have you ever tried to photograph something thats made of glass? If you have you’ll know the problems with reflections, it usually results in your mugshot in one of the reflections possibly grining, or the window with the number 7 bus driving by! Not wholly professional and certainly it wont be of a standard that a client is willing to pay for.

Your solution therefore is the dark field method, before I get flamed by those in the know, yes there is an opposite technique called, yes you’ve guessed it Light Field Photography. Its a bit like the Ying and Yang of product photography lighting!

Dark Field Lighting

Firstly and most surprisingly theres no direct light and only one strobe used here, you could use a second snooted strobe camera left or right to pick out any detail if you felt like it.

The glass subject sat on something black I used foam core with glass ontop for that shiney look. A further piece of foamcore just big enough to fill the frame.So here’s the set up and its really simple.

Dark Field Lighting

The strobe is set below the table pointing directly at a white wall immediately behind all this. The room needs to be very dark to eliminate any reflections. In a small room you will have problems with reflections from the walls etc.

My product studio is small so to get round this I used reflective umbrellas black side out to both left and right nice and close in any other black ‘flag type’ props will do the job.

Heres a less styled shot with a bit more colour.

Dark Field Lighting

That is all there is to it, give it a go. I would be interested in hearing how any of you get on.