Lighting A Car With One Flash

I thought it was time I got to grips with lighting a car in the dark so went to have a play last weekend.

1967 Camaro

HD Version available to download here:


1 X Well used Canon 5D

1 X Abused Canon 24-105 IS L

1 X PT04 Sender and Reciever (AKA Ebay Poverty Triggers)

1 X Vivitar 285

1 X Neglected Manfrotto 055 Pro B

Memory Cards and Accessories to taste.  Similar ingredients are available from other manufacturers.


1. Find a dark space, if it is night this will happen everywhere. Position car as required, something cool works well. In this case my 1967 Chevy Camaro 327 RS.

2. Add lens to camera, add PT04 sender to the mix and then connect to tripod.

3. Set the camera to manual and set as follows: ISO 100, F4.0, 1/200, RAW, One shot, Timer. The actual exposure will depend on ambient light and the power of the flash. You will have to check the exposure and adjust accordingly. Also if shooting other than at right angles to the car F4 may not give enough depth of field.

4. Focus on the car, ensure that Autofocus is turned off to prevent any shift in focus.

5. Connect PT04 to Vivitar 285, turn both on. Set Vivitar 285 to 1/2 power.

6.  Fire shutter and then position yourself around the car and point the flash at the car. Hold the flash until the timer runs down, the shutter fires and the flash is triggered.

7. Repeat step 6 until you feel you have lit all parts of the car in separate exposures. This could include putting the flash inside the car, behind it or under it depending on the effect you want to achieve. You can chimp on the camera and scroll through to shots to check what you have got. Be careful not to get any direct reflections of the flash on the car, watch the angle you are using to fire the flash.

8. Now your ingredients are prepared it’s time to cook them. Layer all the shots in Photoshop or similar photoediting software and use “lighten” to blend the layers. You’ll find that making layers visible or not is like switching flashes on or off in a studio where you would have had lots of different lights all firing at once.

9. I usually then take one blended layer to do any final touch ups and colour correction. Then enjoy the results.

Here are the 8 shots that make up this image:


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