TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS TO INSPIRE YOUR #ISOLATIONCREATIONS

 

Lou Johnson from Spacesuit Media is the resident Mahindra Racing photographer. With nearly a decade of photographic experience and the winner of the prestigious Motorsport UK 2019 Young Photographer of the Year Award, Lou sets out her top tips for taking that perfect shot…

Now, I’m sure you’re all busy with your entries for this year’s Driven by Design competition, but just in case you’re struggling for inspiration, Mahindra Racing have asked me to provide a few photography tips which may help with the development of your isolation creations. I’m going to be honest, I had a lot of fun making the images for this - who says you can’t be a motorsport photographer from your desk?!

I’ve tried to keep this pretty basic, and the only piece of pro equipment I’ve used is my Nikon D850, which is always my camera of choice. However, any of these techniques can be used on any camera, from film camera to mobile phone.

So, what basic essentials do you need (other than a camera)?

  1. Your subject of choice. I’ve chosen two for this post. Firstly the lovely Mahindra Bear, and secondly a home-made lego car I’ve made to look like a Season 4 Mahindra Racing Formula E car (ok, maybe squint a bit and use some imagination!)
  2. A window. I’ve not used artificial light in any of these photos, I’ve only used the light of the sun coming through the window.
  3. Something white. I’m using a piece of A4 paper.

Background

First things first, choose your studio/ setting. For me, it’s my workspace at home, but obviously it doesn’t have to be a table, you can choose anywhere! Wherever you choose, make sure the background is clear from distracting objects that will pull the audience’s attention away from the subject. As you can see in the image below, I’ve not cleared my desk and the background is full of clutter which makes it hard for the audience to concentrate on the lego driver, despite the fact it’s one of the only things in focus. It’s not an awful photo, but it’s a very ‘busy’ image with a lot of visual disturbance that isn’t particularly relevant to the image.

One of the ways to create simple, non-distracting, ‘clean’ backgrounds is to use a shallow depth of field. Depth of field is essentially the area of your image which is in focus. Some images may have a small area of focus, where the background is very blurry, this is shallow depth of field. If you have a portraiture mode on your phone, this is the affect that is trying to replicate. Using the aperture (f stop) of your lens is the simplest way of controlling your depth of field.

I’m a very visual person, so I think the best explanation I can give is by example. Here are two similar photographs, the first is shot at f16 (a deep depth of field), and the second is shot at f2.8 (a shallow depth of field). You can see how the shallower depth of field allows us to control the focus of the image a lot more, and the background becomes a lot less distracting for the audience.

Composition

Now, I’m not going to bore you with the basics of composition in photography, the so called ‘rules’ and also the guidance to break them, because I think it’s also important to explore what YOU find visually interesting. The key is to explore and experiment, don’t always use the first composition for the subject you first see, move around the subject, try different angles and perspectives. Don’t always place the subject in the centre of the frame, investigate how it looks when placed in the far left or right. Here I’ve shot the previous image from a different angle and placed the car to the far right of the frame, I prefer this to the car being centred in the shot, but everyone has their own different preferences.

Light

One of the most essential things in photography is light. As a motorsport photographer most of my shooting life is observing the natural light of that time of day and reacting to it, from where to shoot a track session, to shooting portraits of the drivers in the pitlane. It’s always about the light! Window light is an excellent and free light source in your home. It will diffuse light into the room and around the subject of your image. The earliest photography studios actually just used big windows rather than expensive light set ups. I’m very lucky to have my desk in front of some windows which get a lot of lovely natural light in the afternoon, perfect for a lockdown portraiture session with Mahindra Bear!

I shot these images at the end of the afternoon on a sunny day, so the sun is pretty low in the sky and the light is crisp. I placed Mahindra Bear in the window, and used an A4 piece of white paper as a reflector, to bounce the light back and to fill in the shadow on his face, making the lighting more even.

The first image is without using the paper to reflect the light, and the second is with the paper. You can see the difference the bounced light creates.

That afternoon light was casting harsh shards of sunlight across my desk at this point, so I grabbed the car again to make the most of this nice lighting. Using the sunlight as a spotlight, I was able to shoot some dramatic detail shots of the car, similar to how I would at the track.

Panning

Obviously, I couldn’t do a photoshoot with a race car, no matter how small it is, without trying a bit of panning. Typically, panning is the technique motorsport photographers use to show the motion of the cars on track. It combines slow shutter speeds with moving the camera to follow the car on track to create a sense of speed.

So I had a go at creating an ePrix from my desk…

And then, I recruited some help to launch the car for me and absolutely did not spend the next hour practicing some panning for the inaugural desk ePrix…!!

I really can’t wait to see all of your isolation creations! If you have any questions regarding anything I’ve mentioned in my post, or any other photography queries, please do feel free to get in touch with me over on twitter or Instagram (@loujohnsonphoto) and I’ll do my best to explain further or help out where I can.