There are many things that go into the final mood of an image. My intention was to have a California-like warm sun with a heading-to-the-beach kind of feel for this car photo. The challenge was that I had to shoot it in the high desert. We have pine trees and some lakes, but the ocean is far away. So we found a windy road heading down to one of the small lakes and planned out our session.
Starting with the Rig-Pro car rig, we set the scene, wheel turn, and composition we wanted and began shooting. Even with the natural tones and such, it was going to need some work to get the warm vibe that was originally intended.
The original raw rig shot:
Certainly the sky was not interesting, as it was quite clear like normal for the area, and the tones were a lot cooler than I had wanted. I began the retouch and got the car looking the way I wanted with a lot of dodge and burn and some bracketed frames painted in to fix certain things, such as the car's left rear wheel which had some bounce in the frame we chose.
After having the heavy lifting done on the retouch, removal of the rig, and details of the car, it was time to really set the mood. Often the last 5 percent of work makes up 95 percent of the final look. In this case that meant a sun overlay and a new sky.
By adding in a new sky that had the coloring to be in the right key with the car, as well as warm everything up, we were able to get the mood we were going for. The warm tones complement the semi-matte yellow car, as well as give a summer type vibe.
The original retouch versus the sky and sun overlay:
It's All In the Details
Knowing I was going for a summer vibe, during the shoot the driver's hair was dark and in shadow so I added a speedlight inside the car with a CTO gel to act as a kicker on his hair and coming from the direction where I would place the sun overlay in final retouching. The speedlight also spilled onto the window frame of the car, and made a nice effect as if the real sun was actually hitting it.
Those small details in combination with the right toning and mood are what can really set an image apart.