How I Shot a Magazine Cover

Jaguar XKRAfter I made the photograph of a limited edition Jaguar with my Canon EOS 1D Mark II N, I  showed it to my friend Steve who had previously borrowed it to make a few shots of it for the Jaguar club’s newsletter. While looking at the image, he told me that, “I just don’t see like that.”  I thought it might be fun to give you some idea of how I made this particular image.

A Colorado Springs dealership WAS celebrating  the groundbreaking of a new  dealership and invited people to bring their cars for an informal show. All kind of interesting cars showed up including a Stirling Moss limited edition XK-R Jaguar coupe that, I think, is one of the more beautiful contemporary sports cars. On that  day, I was just planning on making some snapshots and only brought one lens, the EF 16 – 35mm f/2.8L II, which based on the camera’s 1.3 multiplication factor, might have been a better choice for an indoor show. I set the camera at ISO 200, which gave me the ability to have some extra depth-of-field without adding any noticeable digital noise.

The first shot I made was just “walk up to it and click” and shows the lines of the car and a few of the XK-R’s distinguishing characteristics (stripes/wheels) and a whole lot of stuff around it. I walked around back and made another  uninspiring image of the XK-R’s, then went back to the front and made a shot similar to the first one but from a lower angle. I didn’t like any of’’em and walked away.

Later after making pictures of old Land Rover fire trucks, I kept thinking about the XK-R, remembering that it was such a unique car (there’s less than a dozen in the world) and needed a shot that made a real statement. Two things stood out for me: the red fender strips ala Corvette’s Grand Sport, and three-piece racing wheels atypical for the standard luxo Jag.  I racked the lens out to 16mm (effective 21mm) and started looking at the front left wheel because I liked the lighting on that side of the car.

Studio Photography & DesignI knew I had to shoot from a low angle with the camera pointing up to minimize background clutter, so I am either kneeling or lying down to get this low perspective. While composing this shot, I saw those two little powder-puff clouds in the background when I clicked the shutter. I made only one exposure. I had been shooting all day and found that exposure compensation tended to be the standard stuff: underexpose black cars, overexpose white ones, but this silver car was as Goldilocks said “just right.”

The image was originally shot as a horizontal at f/10 and 1/400th of a second but after I opened it later in Adobe Photoshop CS, I preferred a vertical version better. I didn’t crop anything. I seldom do, preferring to get what I see in the viewfinder and since the EOS 1D Mark IIN shows 100% of the shot, what I saw was what I got. There is little or no tweaking other than processing the RAW file using Adobe Camera RAW. Some people have told me that, “it doesn’t look a Jaguar,” but they are missing the traditional “growler” cap in the center of the wheel.

You can learn how I photographs cars in my  e-book, 15 Tips for Better Car Photos from Flatbooks.

Author: Joe Farace

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