A few days ago, I decided to challenge myself by attempting to photograph a toy car and make it look real.
I've been watching incredible photographers on Fstoppers like Felix Hernandez and Pete Tapang, who have been taking incredible pictures of miniature products that look totally real for years, and I've always been impressed with their work.
I wasn't even sure where you can buy realistic-looking toys and models, but I decided to check out my local Target. They didn't have many realistic-looking options, but they did have a "Fast and the Furious" car that looked pretty decent for $15.
I wanted to try to keep this shoot as simple as possible so that anyone could replicate it easily. For a "set," I simply placed the car on a white piece of foam core (white paper would work fine) and for a background, I used a piece of printer paper. My camera was a Nikon D750 with a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro lens.
For lighting, I used the Litra Pro, an incredibly small LED panel. This light is extremely bright, it can color shift, is dim, waterproof, and can be controlled wirelessly with your smartphone via Bluetooth. I am really impressed with the versatility of this light. The only negative thing I can say about this light is that I did notice a pretty extreme magenta shift. I was able to tint-shift this out in post, but it was still annoying. I reached out to Litra about this, and I don't think they plan on fixing this issue before launch.
To take the image of the car, I set the camera to ISO 100, f/32, and a one-second exposure. It's not ideal to take photos at f/32 because of diffraction, but I needed the car to be in focus from front to back and I didn't want to deal with focus-stacking. I then set the camera to automatically and continuously take pictures every second. While the camera was shooting, I moved the Litra Pro back and forth over the car to get a range of different lighting effects on the car.
Watch the video above to see how I composited the car into a background plate of New York City in just a few minutes using Photoshop.
I had a great time on this shoot, and it was much easier than working with a person. I look forward to trying this again in the future with a higher-quality model car or action figure to see if I can get an even better result. If you're interested in this sort of thing, you may want to check out our tutorial with Brian Rodgers on product photography.