For Darren Capp cars are not only a means of transport – they are also an inspiration.
Darren Capp is a car photographer with over 25 years in the business. Based in Australia, he travels all over the globe, most often working with clients in Australia, China, India and New Zealand. Shooting in such different places and working with great people from diverse cultures is one of the great perks of his job. Darren proves his skills under any conditions; whether it’s in the studio or on location, with bright daylight or at night – he can handle it all. He has captured plenty of stunning images for various brands; from Asian manufacturers like Toyota and Honda to European ones, such as Mercedes-Benz, Renault and BMW.
We asked Darren to tell us more about himself and his experience shooting cars.
Production Paradise: You’ve been a car photographer for more than 25 years. How did everything start? Have you always shot cars?
Darren Capp: During the final year of my bachelor of arts course I assisted a number of photographers in Melbourne who shot cars. It wasn’t a conscious decision to work with these guys, it just kind of fell that way. As a kid I was always drawing cars etc., so it really felt right to work in this field. I then worked with Terry Foster on a full time basis, where he shot a variety of different areas besides cars. So this was a good background into aspects of photography other than cars. When I started my own business cars were around 30% of what I did, over the years this percentage has certainly changed.
Production Paradise: How has the automotive photography industry changed since you started?
Darren Capp: It’s changed massively due to the ‘digital revolution’. When I first started, it was pretty much one take as it was all analog and scanning of transparency film was very expensive. We tried to get the shot in one take back then. This was great as a background into what we do now but it was also very constricting. We couldn’t really light out parts of the car that maybe needed extra attention like we do now as this would affect other areas of the sheet metal. So things were pretty straight forward in terms of lighting, for instance. We’d also need to do polaroids to check lighting balance & compositions etc. Then we’d need to run film tests to the lab which could result in losing three hours of a shoot day while waiting around.
The current digital environment certainly is a hell of a lot different. We get so much more done these days in a faster fashion than on the old analog ways. The shots are a lot more composited now though, with various areas lit separately to the main ‘base’ capture. This adds depth to each shot. But you really need to watch that things aren’t going too far in that regard as it can get over complicated. I think things are moving back the other way right now, with a more realistic look being applied. Probably less compositing with more of it captured in-camera – certainly the art directors and photographers would prefer this, it’s just convincing the client that the look works for their product.
Production Paradise: Do you have a preference between shooting in studio or outdoors where you have to incorporate landscapes?
Darren Capp: Definitely outdoors, wins every time! So much more enjoyable being outside. Then it’s all about balancing the light from the location with our artificial lights to sculpt and blend the car with the scene. Having said that, in Australia and China deadlines and budgets are tight so at times we have to shoot the cars in studio and make them look as though they’re on location. This is definitely much harder to achieve, as we have to make a studio look like it’s a beautiful sunny day for instance. We use a heap of lights but the key is to make it look like there’s one light source, i.e the sun if it’s a daylight type shot. We also utilise HD projection. This is where we project parts of the scene that we’re dropping the car into onto the studio walls, which reflect back onto the car’s panels, making it look like it’s at the actual location. With the right exposures it does look very realistic. We then blend these captures into others of the studio lighting.
Production Paradise: You describe your style as cinematic, can you tell us a bit more what your artistic approach is when shooting cars or landscapes?
Darren Capp: I like utilising the ‘tile-up’ method of my Cambo Wide RS camera, which results in quite wide ‘panavision’ style images – by shifting the back of the camera left and right you extend the width of the frame. It’s also about creating a mood within each shot that’s based around the look of the scene ensuring it’s not too posed, you need to blend the car into the scene. Likewise, if we’re shooting talent with the car, the talent is part of the scene and those three elements (car, talent, scene) work together.
Production Paradise: You’ve worked a lot between India and Australia, are there different challenges when it comes to shooting cars in those two locations?
Darren Capp: Two vastly different places for sure. Australia is a large land with few people, about 24 million. On the other hand India has a slightly smaller land mass, but over one billion people. That number blows my mind. For example, in Melbourne city people are ok about not being in the area of the shot we have booked through permits. Whereas in India, we have the permits, but with so many people whose lives are built around selling or working in a particular area, asking them to not come into our frame for a moment or two is quite difficult. I’m very conscious of not disturbing people, but at the same time we do need to get our shot, so we do need to strike a balance somehow. In fact, in India we tend to book more private locations where it might be a more desolate area or a private hotel area, or we shoot late at night. For instance, on a recent job we booked at parts of Lavasa which is a gated community near Pune. Whereas in Australia this doesn’t matter so much as long as it’s not a major highway in peak hour traffic.
Production Paradise: Is there a particular car brand or model that you’d like to shoot in the future?
Darren Capp: I’d love to shoot for Tesla, I really like the idea behind their cars. I must admit Elon Musk is a bit of a hero of mine. Also their shapes are really cool with so many interesting surface angles and planes.
Production Paradise: What upcoming projects do you have coming up?
Darren Capp: In Australia I shoot a lot for Nissan so there’s always something going on there. I’m also waiting to hear on a job for a large European manufacturer in India, so hopefully that comes off. And there’s always something going on within China with Honda job in the next few weeks.
Production Paradise: How important is Production Paradise for your online visibility?
Darren Capp: Production Paradise is huge for me. For instance, I shot a Chevrolet Beat brochure in India over January and the job was commissioned through an art buyer in Thailand who saw my work on Production Paradise. With the client from Singapore and the crew from India it really was a league of nations. I also picked up my agents from India and also China through Production Paradise, so it has been good to me over the years I’ve been involved.
We would like to thank Darren Capp for the insights to car photography and sharing his knowledge and experience. To see more of Darren’s portfolio, go on his website or check his member page on Production Paradise.
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