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The Art of Automotive Photography with Tim Wallace and the Rotolight Titan X2

 

 

Renowned commercial photographer, Tim Wallace, started his journey developing film in a cupboard at the age of seven; not picking up a camera until almost ten years later. His sleek shots now headline campaigns by some of the world’s biggest automotive brands like Aston Martin, McLaren and Lexus. The way Tim works now is still inspired by his early experiences of printing, with a heavy emphasis on contrast and tone.

Lighting in automotive photography is an art; sculpting the glossy, reflective curves and edges. With no better scenario to test the new Rotolight Titan™ X2, we met with Tim to shoot this years’ World Car of the Year: the Jaguar I-PACE.

But much like people, every car is different and needs different lighting to flatter its shape. “When you have positive and negative curves, there are more places to hide light,” says Tim, “but a larger car like the I-PACE has a lot of bigger, reflective panels.”

 “It’s like trying to take a picture of your bathroom mirror so that you don’t see yourself in the reflection,” he continues, “but if you understand the basics and how to shape light, you can light anything.”  

 

 

Appreciating the level of control afforded by the Rotolight Titan™ X2, Tim was able to precisely and accurately alter the output to suit his needs. With the ability to adjust both the brightness and colour temperature in small increments, Tim was able to realise his creative vision without compromises.

While Tim is no stranger to continuous light a often uses HMIs in-studio, it can be a challenge to control their output to the exact requirement you need. It’s often a bad idea to illuminate a car directly because of how light reflects off of the body, so it usually has to be diffused on the studio walls and, while bright, with HMIs you’re limited on how you can modify the light. “With the Titan™ X2, we’ve been able to light the car directly because I have so much more control,” Tim says. “As well as having barn doors like I would with a traditional HMI, I can reduce the power in 1% increments, and I can also electronically adjust the diffusion on the light as well. I’m not having to ask my assistant to keep adding, swapping or removing lights.”

“Have you ever lifted a 5K HMI off a stand?” Tim continues. “They’re heavy, and I’m definitely not Arnold Schwarzenegger. In comparison, the Titan™ has much more manoeuvrability with the built-in handles and can even stand up on its own; which is great for getting a little bit of light under the car without a floor stand.”

Utilising the Rotolight Titan™ X2’s industry-first SmartSoft™ technology, Tim had the ability to accurately adjust the diffusion, focus and spread of the output to achieve the softness he needed. “With SmartSoft™, I don’t have to rely on shining the light at a surface to diffuse it, it can diffuse itself,” he says. “That technology is unique in the market right now and lets you work more efficiently; it’s good for business.”

One of the shots Tim captured on the day took advantage of the Titan™ X2’s RGBWW capabilities with its vivid colour saturation creating a striking shot lit with hues of red, purple and blue of the I-PACE bathed in red, purple and blue hues of light. “Usually we do any colourisation in post because of how awkward it can be to control the HMIs in studio,” Tim explains. “You can add a coloured gel but, with how hard the output is, there’s often too much light, too much colour and then you’re then taping a neutral density filter on top of the coloured gel; it’s just fiddly and time-consuming.”

 

 

He continues: “The Titan™ X2’s full colour gamut means we can do all that locally and the display lets me make sure the settings are all consistent. It’s a skill to add colour in post, so this reduces the amount of work and time to get the shots you need.”

 In each image that Tim captures, the light is built as part of what he calls a “painstaking process”, creating pockets of light to illuminate areas of the car that usually would absorb it, such as the alloys. With HMIs, this process can take hours, with Tim sometimes being in studio for upwards of 12 hours a day. Tim recounts experiences shooting prototype cars where the security is so tight, they weren’t even able to open the doors to let some air in. “You could cook a chicken in there with how hot the HMIs get,” Tim jokes. But with LED lighting, the light – and consequently the studio – remains cool no matter how long they’re running, and the Titan’s™ active thermal monitoring regulates its temperature.

“If I’m doing a 12-hour shoot, I don’t want to lose two or three lights because the bulbs blow from the heat,” Tim concludes. “No one wants to have a failure, and with the Titan™ X2 your chances of failure are seriously reduced. It’s so easy.”