Light Painting isn’t just cool. It’s incredibly powerful and effective!
The task for this car brand advertising promo was to create a hero shot with a very specific mood and occasion in mind, implying a brand new vehicle parked in front of a luxury home in which the family had gathered for Iftar dinner during the holy month of Ramadan. The visualisation of the scene was straighforward; early evening, crescent moon in the sky. A front facing car in the foreground. Cozy , upscale home in the background with all of its interior and exterior lights switched on.
What made this shot a bit more complicated was the fact that the house wasn’t lived in (yet) and locked up. It was disconnected from the power grid, so it couldn’t be lit-up from inside. Some of the vegetation in front of the house wasn’t fully grown yet. I knew that quite a bit of trickery would be needed during the shoot and during the editing to make this scene appear polished and complete.
I decided to shoot the scene in layers with light-painting technique. This is achieved by illuminating various portions of the house using either a battery powered LED panel, or a torchlight with a variable spotlight size. To create a warm effect, I used warming gel placed over the torchlight. The LED panel had a variable colour temperature control, so gels weren’t needed. To trigger the camera, I used a wireless remote control. This spared me the running between the house and the camera….I shot well over 50 separate exposures of the house and of the car, lighting up house’s external light fixtures, entrance hall, the balcony, arches, edges of the rooftop, sides and details of the car, interiors of the car, etc. This must have taken me about 1.5 hours. Not too bad.
Assembling this puzzle made out of dozens of separate images into a final composite was definitely more time consuming than the shoot itself, but it was a rewarding exercise. First, I created a solid working base before I started layering light-painting exposures; the house was captured with 5 bracketed exposures and processed with luminosity masks. I replaced the sky, enhanced the clouds, added a gentle touch of stars and a crescent moon taken in the desert a few nights earlier. Once I had a nice looking background, I started moving towards the foreground. I blended in dozens of light-painted patches and slowly but surely, the house was beginning to look alive and lived-in. Then I moved onto the car, adding the light layers from beneath the car, its sides, front grille and logo, wheels, interiors and headlights. The greenery behind the car was retouched and improved. Final touch was the colour grade which helped to set the right mood. The moral of this story; having cool camera gear is definitely great. But it is quite useless unless it’s put to good use with a good creative concept and executed with the right set of skills.