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An Incredible Automotive Shoot That Did Not Go As Planned

As photographers starting out, we quickly learn that shoots do not always go as planned. This fact seems to remain the constant even as we proceed through our careers, but we know we have to make the most out of what we are given or we risk not getting the job done! One such example happened to veteran car photographer William Stern when he was hired to shoot a new Corvette, but his strobes were dead on arrival. Learn how he overcame the obstacles and created some pretty sexy car shots.

According to my buddy William Stern:

Here's a shoot that really didn't go as planned, but in the end it all worked out. The subject was the new C7 Corvette Z06 that drove in from out of town to install its new aftermarket wheels by ADV.1. The first part of the day after the wheel install was to shoot some of the behind the scenes of the film crew, Cinemotive Media, capturing the Z06 drive up and down the streets of Miami. My shoot was not planned till later that evening after the sun went down in front of a beautiful mansion. I went into this shoot with the plan to strobe the car, but that was not going to happen.

During setup and testing, my strobes just wouldn't fire. Till this day I'm still not sure why that was the case. I'm guessing some kind of interference, maybe? Anyway, now not being able to light the car as I intended to, I had to resort to light painting. Turning to the film crew, I remember saying, 'I'm going to need to borrow one of your LED panels.' As a photographer I've learned that not all things go as planned. Some times you've just got to work with what you've got and hope for the best. In the end it all worked out well, and I'm pleased with my final results.

Stern showcases a perfect example of keeping calm and adapting to the situation. By looking at the images, would you have guessed that he didn't have his main/preferred lighting gear working? It doesn't hurt that he is also really talented with his post-production work. Be sure to check out his site: iamwilliamstern.com

Did you have a shoot not go as planned, but that you overcame by adapting to the situation? Share your story in the comments below!



Douglas Sonders's picture

Commercial Photographer (mainly Phase One medium format digital) and filmmaker based out of NYC. Started a site called Notabully.org to spread stories about well-behaved and positive pitbulls. Love cars, 80s movies, dogs, and adventure. Free time is spent traveling, sleeping, adventuring, or working on my baby, a 1969 Mustang Mach 1.

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The results are great and the car doesn't seem overlit.

This is amazing, Stern has always been a photographer that I look up to with his work.

Wow, that went about as good as possible i suppose!
I had a situation happen where the original building we were going to use (airport hangar) was good to go. We get to the hangar, park the car, i take one photo and we get word that we have to get out! So much for shooting in a hangar. Now I have a Gran Turismo and Gallardo waiting to be shot with some looming storms approaching.

I made the best of it and lots of editing to save my "test" shot in the hangar lol

And I had a stunt plane pilot waiting for me to tell him what to do. My heart and mind were going 1000mph!

Love that last shot!

Will is a really cool guy & amazing shooter. Honored to be able to work with him. He's given me great advice that's helped.

It's essential to be able to improvise, but its better to be totally prepared. I don't understand a professional who does not have backup triggers or at least a synch cable in his case.

Light painting is a hard task to tackle and this is well done for being on the fly. I think the car could have been a little more evenly lit though and maybe a touch brighter.

I have to admit, that I really appreciate the ability to improvise, but the results seem to me quite unnatural and a bit fake looking. Like if it was 3d model of a car placed into non-fitting environment. I am not a big fan of those shoots anyway, so don't be mad - just sayin'

Regarding strobes not firing, I have had this happen couple of times and I am also convinced that some local interference is messing up the wireless triggers. This has happened to me both with PWs and 2.4 Ghz Chinese triggers. It happened when I was shooting a former POTUS and there was EXTREME pressure to get stuff working. I yanked the triggers and threw on a speed light and triggered the strobes optically and was good. There was, however, complete anti-perspirant failure.

"I've been doing this for 30 years and it's always that squiggly wire...." Bruce Springsteen as told to Greg Heisler.
What a shame, to think they brought the car all the way from "out of town"

Amazing job on adapting and solving your problem on the fly! I'm a beginning photographer/film maker and student with a humble little Canon T3i/600D and two kit lenses but I do have access to some lighting and better stuff from my school. Any tips on how to maximize what I have to get my name out and start getting work? Thanks for any advice!

Amazing work, especially for being left nearly stranded without your primary lighting!

I was in a similar situation when I shot the automotive calendar for History Channel's Counting Cars last year. I went in with 3 Einsteins, but only came out with 1. On top of that all cars were shot in a studio green screen and I had to create different backdrops for each. A huge job and nearly disastrous.

Check out my blog post about it below on how my strobes were destroyed!