Maybelline Or Why You Can't Be True
Professor Charles Berry in the 1950's experimented with a method of increasing engine power for domestic vehicles. He showed that extra engine cooling on the V-8 Ford flathead engine could be provided by the intake of atmospheric water vapour during rain storms and that this extra power improved overall acceleration. In some cases it was sufficient to allow a standard Ford to overtake a much heavier vehicle at 104 miles per hour, even if the pursuit was up a grade. Please see the attached photograph of the experiment.
This sort of illustration in the studio is made possible by several things; the small-sensor digital DSLR, the close-focussing lens, and the digital editing program.
The APSC -sized sensor - in this case within a Nikon D300 - combined with a short focal length lens allows the camera to see the scene with the same angle of view as would be experienced with a dear old 35mm camera in the 1950's or 60's. In those days most people had a camera with a lens of around the 50mm mark, give or take a few millimetres. The car pictures you see now were taken with standard lenses.
The 35mm also gives a better depth of field in a studio setup than would a longer focal length - you need all the depth of field that you can get with close-up subjects and in this case the real bonus is that the 35mm lens is a Tokina with a macro focusing capability. Note you can also get a similar deal with a 40mm Micro Nikkor lens.
The editing program is the simple, but simply marvellous Adobe Photoshop Elements. This is sometimes thought of as a second cousin to the Main Adobe products, but it isn't. You can do a great deal with it - I use the old PSE 6 and now PSE 10 is even better.
What happens is:
1. You set up the scene and the overall lighting. I use Elinchrom studio flash as it is consistent in colour temperature and intensity between flashes.
2. Focus on the close car - find a point 1/3 down the body of the car and use this as an exact plane of focus. Use enough light so that you can use at least f: 16. If you can do it, use f: 22 or 25. Never mind what is happening in the background. Shoot with your camera locked steady - I recommend either getting a Gitzo tripod or welding your camera to a steel beam. Bedrock is also nice.
3. Remove the nearest car and without disturbing the tripod, refocus the camera on the far scenery. Shoot again.
4. Pop the files into your computer and open them up - at first with PSE they will pop up as an ACR window. When they do, adjust the first one until it looks almost perfect and then re-set your camera raw setting for this. This will make sure that the second file you open has the same rendition as the first.
5. With the close car picture open, select around the car and whatever part of the road is in the same plane of focus - take your time and blow it way up on your screen before you steer your mouse or pen around - get that edge on the car nice and sharp. Duplicate whatever you have selected and turn off the background layer underneath.
6. With the background picture open, Magic Select the fake paper sky and delete it out. Again turn off the background and then go out and find yourself a nice image of a real sky to slot into the space below this. Real sky is that stuff outside your computer room and fortunately you do not need to pay modelling fees to take pictures of it. Yet.
7. Turn the blur tool on, go to 60%, dial down a small fuzzy brush, and go over each edge of the foliage that rims the sky.
8. Open the car layer and drag it up to set over the scenery. If you are using PSE 6 like me you'll have to anchor this layer to one corner and drag it down to 250.2% to match up the backdrop, but if you are using the PSE 10 it'll just snap into registration instantly. What you'll see is the original scene but with a fabulous depth of field that extends from the closest part of the closest car to the far horizon - a DOF that you could never get by one-step optical means.
8. Do that thing with the 60% blur around the edges of the car. This makes each layer blend into the one below it.
9. Darken, colour change, sharpen to taste. Fiddle with the shadows if you must, add captions, borders, frames, and anything else that your aesthetic suggests. Remember that after 38 layers it becomes anaesthetic and you fall unconscious to the floor.
A final note to tie this all together - we sell Nikon camera, Elinchrom flashes,Tokina lenses, and Adobe Photoshop Elements 10. I can point you to the sellers of model cars. Professor Berry's lectures are available on CD. For everything else, come in and ask me.