Photography Week Pro Interview with Tim Wallace
21/02/13The 'Pro' interview that commercial car photographer Tim Wallace gave to Photography week (Issue 21) is now available through iTunes and is now available to download on your iPad!
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Extracts from the full feature
Tim Wallace is a commercial automotive advertising photographer. He's picked up a string of awards for his work, including International Advertising Photographer of the Year and UK Motor Industry Photographer of the Year. And he's only been a full-time pro for six years…
To provide high-quality car imagery for corporate, media and commercial clients. Tim also delivers training seminars and provides training videos on behalf of Scott Kelby
Tim has bases in the UK and Switzerland, but travels the world shooting cars for advertising and promotional work.
Tim uses DSLRs (Nikon) and medium format (Hasselblad).
How did you get into commercial car photography?
"Shooting cars was purely a business decision. I'm not really a petrol head, but I'd always quite liked cars from a sculptural point of view. However, I'm very into 'products' and how things are sold."
You shoot promo pictures for the likes of Aston Martin, Jaguar and Audi - how did you land those plum clients?
"A lot of photographers start out believing that they need to shoot everything so they have a chance of getting some work in. It was something that I thought of as well in the first few months, but you're not going to build a reputation for doing everything – you need to find a niche. And my niche was going to be expensive, prestige cars. I also wanted to centre on the classic side of things. Because you're going to pay, what, £160,000 for a DBS, but a DB5 can set you back up to £600,000. So from the product point of view, to sell a DB5 is harder and it needs powerful imagery."
What's the toughest aspect of the job?
"The lighting. A lot of people will say if you're shooting an Aston Martin DBS with a Hasselblad, you can't really fail to get a good picture. But trust me, you can. If you shoot on a Hasselblad it doesn't guarantee you a good picture. If you don't put the effort in, all you're going to end up with is extremely high resolution sh*t. Also, cars are basically multi-angled reflective surfaces and they are very difficult to light. Every car is different – some can be quite easy from a lighting point of view, while others are very difficult."
So, you've got the cars, how do you find the right locations to shoot them in?
"That's the bane of my life, to be honest, although Google Earth is the most fantastic tool for people like me as you can literally drop yourself into a place and have a look around. My partner, Jess is an absolute star when it comes to trying to find locations and the logistics of getting there, as it can be a nightmare for us with our equipment. Most of the time I'm trying to dissipate gear over several people and pretend that the incredibly heavy Peli cases we're using as hand luggage don't weight anything."
How do you pull off the dramatic low-angled pictures of cars in motion?
"One of the places I use quite a lot is the high-speed test track at Gaydon, as it's not something I would attempt on a public road. I know that there are a lot of kids out there who hang out the back of their mate's car while someone hangs onto their belt, and they try and take these dramatic pictures. But I have harnesses that I bought from companies that supply safety equipment to oil rig workers. I don't even fix myself into one point, I fix myself into three different points in the car, just in case. I had to shoot some stuff for Jaguar where we were doing about 80mph, and I'm basically sat backwards on the tailgate, roped in with a harness on, trying to shoot this car at about 1/15sec. The pictures looked really dramatic, but safety always comes first."
"I left the Royal Marines, went into media network management and got made redundant. Twice. Everyone said that I should go into photography, so in November 2006, I spent five days doing a business plan."
"I don't use camera straps. People find it a bit weird, but if you shoot a lot out of cars that are moving, you would understand why no-one ever wears a camera strap in my game – it can potentially rip your hand off."
"Different paint types affect your lighting set-up. BMW does a silver paint which disperses the light – you can go right into the bodywork with the light at 90 degrees and it'll disperse it, scatter it, and it's gorgeous. But you can get the same silver in other make and you just get a burnt highlight that looks bloody awful."
"If it's the standard day-to-day stuff, such as brochure work, then I wouldn't spend longer than about 10 minutes retouching an image. I tend to try and achieve everything in-camera that I can using lighting, rather than thinking I'll put it right later on in Photoshop."
"People don't really develop their own photographic style as much these days. They tend to spend a lot of time analysing and trying to reverse-engineer people's work that they see online. I don't look at other car photographers' work, because I'm going to be influenced by it – you can't help it."
"I use DSLRs and I use medium format, but ultimately they're just tools. I do get people occasionally commenting on my Hasselblad, saying that it looks expensive and must take amazing pictures. And I always think, it's interesting that. If you went into Gordon Ramsay's restaurant and had a fantastic meal, you wouldn't turn round to him and say 'you must have a fantastic oven, mate.'"