There are so many details in automotive photography you have to take care of in order to ensure you take that perfect shot -considering reflections on the car, motion blur planning and choosing the right time of day, appropriate camera, the car’s colour, right angle, location, and more. The few that master these nuances can become professional car photographers. But there’s more to great automotive photography than technical skills, as we’ve learned from Sean C. Rice, professional car photographer who exceeds clients’ expectations. Keep on reading to find out how Sean dove into his career, mastered tricks behind some of his major projects and understand his approach towards the shoots.
Production Paradise: To begin the interview, can you share 3 interesting facts about yourself?
Sean C. Rice: I just recently discovered who my adopted father’s birth parents are, I’m learning how to speak Croatian, and I have a visual distortion in my left eye as a result of accidentally looking into the solar eclipse.
Production Paradise: Many successful photographers identify one project as the most crucial event as starting point of their professional career. Did you have a big break, how did it all happen?
Sean C. Rice: Toyota was launching the Prius C Persona series, the production company they hired was tasked with filming a short series with Monster Energy, part of that budget included the stills for the vehicle launch. Thanks to that opportunity I was tasked with the direction “We want this black car shot, at night, in Vegas, at the Neon Sign Museum” and that was it. The entire concept was left up to me, and I got to present what I wanted to do to the client. The challenge was that the signs needed to be shot at dust/dawn (since only 4 signs light up) in order to achieve proper highlight and shadow detail, we had one night to shoot 13 shots and only 2 of those hours could actually be shot at the museum itself due to the ridiculously expensive hourly rates. Not to mention the city and sky’s also had to be shot entirely separate as well. We also had 2 hours of thunderstorms before we could actually start shooting and because of that we had to shoot the front 3/4 and 7/8 at the same time with 2 cameras to make up for the lost time. I felt like I had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at me and still pulled it off.
Production Paradise: You are mostly focused on car photography. Why did you choose this direction?
Sean C. Rice: I had spent a lot of time working as a digital composite artist, most of my clients were automotive, it got to the point where I had to reshoot a lot of what I was working on, so it was at that point that I decided to start doing it all for myself.
Production Paradise: You are definitely an inspiration to many aspiring photographers, but who (what) inspires you to create the most?
Sean C. Rice: Doing something that was originally thought of as something that could not be done. I generally tell my clients if you can think it, we can make it. When Red Bull came to me and they wanted to do a 185’ mural of Neymar Jr. perpendicular to the camera while standing on a bridge and having the background rotate vertically to become parallel to the camera, I was like: ”bring it on!”. At first, I was scared shitless, not having any idea of how to do it, but after a bit of testing we shot over 350 drone shots of Los Angeles and stitched them all together, using Photoshop, no CGI. That’s the moment I was truly inspired to understand that anything was possible.
Production Paradise: You did a great job making 5 episodes of “The Journey to the Mint 400”, where Jay Leno participated as a race driver. How was it to work together with him and was there something special about that project?
Sean C. Rice: The challenge with that project was taking 2 episodes of building a truck in a shop and make it interesting, being able to tell a story, and educating the viewer about the content they were watching. The solution was always keep the camera moving, this really made it interesting and transitioned into the race action very nicely. Delivering everything in 4K surround sound also was also a challenge with such a small budget. In order to film everything in 6K with RED cameras, I was tasked with doing the editing myself. Jay’s a professional, you tell him what you needed and he always gives that to you in one take.
Production Paradise: We’d love to peak at your kit. What are the items that you always take to the shoot?
Sean C. Rice: My lap top and camera. Before I do any shoot I spend hours researching and sketching out comps of exactly what it is I am trying to do. Sometimes I’ll even pre scout the location using Google earth to make sure it’s exactly what I want. Preproduction is everything to me. I mentally walk through the shoot before I am actually doing it. I make sure I know exactly what I want before the shoot so that way when I have 8 minutes with a subject the last 7 minutes are a bonus where I really get to push the limits of what is possible.
Production Paradise: What is the role of Production Paradise in your professional career?
Sean C. Rice: It’s my visibility to the outside world.
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