Car Shooting Tips from Christian Bouchez

Seattle-based car and portrait photographer, Christian Bouchez, returns to the blog with some handy photography tips. The advice he shares may be focused on a specific type of photography, but the rules apply regardless of your shooting forte.

If you missed out Christian’s previous article, check it out here. The remainder of this article comes from him. Thanks, Christian!


ChristianBouchez-cars-1Always strive to get the best shot out of the camera. This saves time in post, makes you slow down and think, and ultimately will make you a better shooter. Above all, try to have a good time behind the lens. The more fun you have, the more inclined you will be to get your camera out tomorrow.

Stop and Think

When approaching a vehicle, think about what makes it unique. It could be a split rear window, the lower balance rear diffuser, its elaborate stance, etc. Every car has unique qualities, somewhere. A recent client wanted pictures of their prized Ferrari–most importantly the dashboard where the hefty $600,000 price tag is proudly embroidered. Things like this help tell the story behind the make, model, manufacturer, current and previous owners, and even the design team.



When a session has been established, and the subject is chosen, I immediately begin visualizing the shoot. This happens long before the subject is in front of me. When I first arrive I evaluate the location, such as how much room I have to work with, how much light I have, and I’ll note any major distractions nearby. I always make a backup plan, too.

Lens Selection

Visualizing helps me choose the right lens, which is my 50mm most of the time. I pull out the 85mm if there is ample room. For shooting indoors, I grab my 17-40 F4.0. Be mindful of distortions when shooting with a wide-angle lens, it’s the last thing you want to see. Distortion will modify the lines of the car, blurring it’s uniqueness. If you have to shoot with a wide lens, try to keep the vehicle in the center of the frame where it won’t be affected by the distortion as much.



Always, always use a circular polarizer when you’re shooting something reflective like a car. It’s one of the most important investments you can make when shooting vehicles. Polarizers do a number of things to enhance your picture quality. They block reflected light, tone-down reflections, save you from hours of tricky photoshopping, and they improve color saturation in the photo. They are simple to use, and because of the way they polarize light, they don’t interfere with autofocus or TTL light metering.


Burst mode eliminates some of the hand shake generated by pressing the shutter. Accidental blur in the capture can make or break a photo. If you’re looking for a shaky shot, have at it. Most of the time, it’s something that I’d rather do without. When in doubt, use burst mode.



Close-ups are an important part of any photo shoot. They are a way to celebrate minuscule details–the little finishing touches–that set each car apart. Design details can be found on the headlights, taillights, air vents, exhaust, stitching around the steering wheel, etc. Learn to love detail shots because you’re capturing the car’s fingerprints.


Don’t be afraid to get low for a different perspective. There are some beautiful cars out there with amazing technology that you can’t see unless you get close to the pavement. Think about how aerodynamics improve traction with downforce or how the air whips around the car at high speed.


*Quick Perspective Tip*

If you want to change up your perspective for a shot, use a tripod. Set your camera on a focus timer or infinity and make it shoot on a 10 second timer. Next, get close to the car and lift the tripod as high as you can. Aim the lens down at the car, of course. You may want to hold your breath while the timer counts down. Every little bit helps.

I use this technique in car shows frequently. It’s the best way I’ve found to capture a quantity of vehicles attending the venue, and it works for unique interior shots, too.

File Type

Always shoot RAW, if you can. Lossless file types give the ability to produce the best possible image, and they also allow for multiple variations of the same shot.

Check out more of Christian’s work on his website, or follow him socially on Facebook, and Twitter.


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Flickr Photo of the Month – January 2014

alien skin flickr photo of the month


Big congratulations go out to Camilo Diez who kicks off 2014 on a high with the Flickr Photo of the Month award for January.

Double exposure photography is very much in vogue at the moment, thanks in no small part to the awesome work by Dylan and Sara Howell, whose tutorial on the subject has been looked at and emulated by photographers all around the world since it was posted back in April last year. However, this image takes the double exposure technique to a new level given the highly complementary composition and content of the two images which combine to create a unique effect. The fact that the angle of the subject’s face corresponds with that of the building under construction means it works really well visually. The final touch of post-processing in Exposure for the grainy black and white effect is subtle enough to not overpower the image; it just takes it to another level. The end result is both surreal and beautiful. A very powerful image indeed.

Camilo wins a copy of our Photo Bundle and an Alien Skin Software t-shirt. Well done, Camilo!

Finally, don’t forget to check out our post on the Photo of the Quarter Competition we just kicked off this month. There are some pretty serious prizes such as a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens or an 85mm f/1.4 up for grabs. Get your best images submitted to our Flickr Alien Skin Software group and you’ll be in with a shout.

Good luck to everyone and have a fantastic 2014!

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Timing with Andrew Foord

Fashion and glamour photographer, Andrew Foord, returns to the blog with with a humorous take on the importance of timing. If you missed out on his introduction article, check it out, here. The rest of this article is from him. Thanks, Andy!


Ask me why I’m such a good comedian…Okay, why are you such a goo–TIMING!

I know it’s an old joke, but it gets the point across. There are many reasons why timing in photography is so important, but let’s not just talk about them, let’s look at a few examples, too.

1 second early

1 second early

1 second late

1 second late

You’re probably wondering what the perfectly timed shot looks like. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that in a minute. Let me give you a little background for the shoot, first. For this series, I wanted to get messy, really messy. If you haven’t done a messy shoot like this before, give it a go. It makes for a low-stress environment when everyone is laughing and having fun.

Lighting and Camera Settings

I needed to light the powder from the side in order to preserve its texture. One strobe with a silver beauty dish and grid did the trick. It was positioned slightly elevated above the subject, tilted down at a 45 degree angle. I used a silver reflector opposing the model to fill in the shadows of his face and neck.

The strobe was set at full power, and I used my trusty light meter for proper exposure. I set my light meter to 1/200th of a second–my camera’s maximum sync speed–with 100 ISO. The meter gave me an aperture value of F/13. Below is a diagram.


Shutter speed, strobes, and freezing motion

Speaking of sync speed, let’s pause here for a moment. I hear a lot of photographers use this term in the wrong context, so let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Sync speed is the maximum shutter speed for which the curtains are completely open at the time of exposure. This is when the flash fires. Every camera and strobe models have different sync speeds, which you can easily discover in the manual or online.

As a rule of thumb, a good shutter speed to use with studio strobes is 1/125th of a second. Some strobes let you shoot with a higher shutter speed, but it may require a little research before you can start clicking off photos. If you’re just getting started with using strobes, set your camera’s shutter speed to 1/125th for now. This can produce a crisp freeze motion shot; however, the freezing doesn’t come from the camera, it comes from the light.

The flash lasts only about 1/1000th of a second. A fast pop combined with low ambient light and a small aperture–F13 in my case–the camera sensor will only ‘see’ the light from the strobe.


With my camera and lights in place, the next thing to focus on is… you guessed it, timing. I advise everyone to shoot with both eyes open. This lets you keep one eye in the viewfinder for composition and the other eye on your powder-thrower. I told my assistant, the models 7 year old daughter, when I count to 3, throw the powder–hard, try to hit your dad in the ear and knock him off his feet.

Always account for human error when you’re on set. Not on the photography portion alone, but with your assistants, and models as well. My assistant did a superb job of hitting her dad in the face with the powder, but when my count got to 3, she would pause a moment before throwing. It’s not a huge deal, most of the time, but this reinforces my shoot-with-both-eyes-open suggestion.

BOOM! Perfect timing!

BOOM! Perfect timing!

As you can see in this photo, the powder is just hitting the side of his head, and we can still see his face clearly. This was the shot I wanted. It wasn’t easy, and luck played a part in it, but I ended up with an awesomely timed masterpiece. It was a great experience, and a lot of fun. Give it a try!


Final Image


Check out more of Andrew’s work on his blog and website. Follow him socially on Facebook and Twitter.


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Flickr Thursday

Here are our photo selections from the Alien Skin Flickr group for the week. Great work, everyone.

Don’t forget that there are serious winnings on the line! The shots that you share are eligible for consideration for the Photo of the Quarter Award. Follow the link for more details.

Jas Bassi Johann Espiritu


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Bokeh and Exposure Video with Chris Yates


Below is a new tutorial video that demonstrates the combination of using Bokeh and Exposure on an image in Photoshop. In the video, I closely follow the workflow of editorial fashion and beauty photographer, Chris Yates.

The image I used in the tutorial came from a shoot Chris did back in 2013. The concept was to combine fashionable evening attire with a historic scene. The original capture has beautiful tones and color textures even prior to editing.

Chris used Bokeh to add lens-specific blurring that helps draw your eye into the shot. He loves the effect that his Canon 50mm 1.2L produces, but he didn’t use that lens on on location. Bokeh as an invaluable asset for his post-processing workflow because it allows him to produce the same creamy blur even after he snaps the shutter. The effect, like what he did here, helps him bring his photos up to a new level.

Exposure was used to add custom coloring to the image. Chris is a whiz with curves, so I followed suit in the video. The effects from Exposure allowed him to creatively manipulate the image per his preconceived vision of the scene.

As always, I’ll take you step-by-step through the whole process, and give you a bunch of helpful tips and tricks along the way. Enjoy!

YouTube Preview Image
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Alien Skin Photo of the Quarter Award

A couple of months ago, we announced the Flickr Photo of the Month competition and it’s been really great to see you guys sharing more and more of your amazing work with us. In fact, the standard of work on show is so good that we wanted to raise the stakes and offer a really cool prize for the image we deem the very best of the quarter.

So how does it work and what do you need to do?

Well, we’re simple folk and we like to keep things uncomplicated around here, so all you have to do is submit your best photos to our Alien Skin Software group on Flickr. Once a month, we will continue to choose a Photo of the Month, which will win a pretty cool Alien Skin t-shirt and some other goodies we have lying around the office. Then, at the beginning of the next quarter, we will go back through all the submissions of the previous three months and choose our favourite image. The winning photographer will then get the chance to choose between a Canon or Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 or an 85mm f/1.2/1.4 as their prize. Not bad, eh?

As these are some pretty major prizes, I’d like to lay out the following rules:

  1. There is no limit to the number of images you can add to the group, but please do just share the very best photos in your portfolio. If we’re scrolling through pages of repetitive or poorly executed images by the same photographer, the chances of your very best photo slipping through the cracks are going to be high. If we see people spamming the group trying to game the system, we may need to step in and revisit this, so help us keep the submissions open by keeping the quality high. As photographers we need to make sure we’re only presenting our best work, so remember the famous phrase: “You’re only as good as your worst photo!”
  2. Like all art, opinion on the merits, or lack thereof, of someone’s photographic work is a subjective matter, so you need to know that the qualities we will be looking for will be based on the standard areas we strive to perfect as photographers: composition, lighting, toning, posing, conveying of emotion, defining moments, etc. Basically, we want to see good photos!
  3. The use of Alien Skin Software tools such as Exposure, Bokeh or Snap Art in the post-production process is required, but we will be giving extra points to photographs that use the toolset to enhance versus overpower the photo. For example, taking a photo of a modern Ferrari and applying one of Exposure’s wet plate effects will probably not impress us too much; but using that same effect with an image of a model dressed in antique garb might be just what it needs to take it from good to great. In other words, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should; let the photo dictate the effect rather than vice-versa.
  4. Photos submitted using a trial version of Alien Skin products are valid for this competition. If you don’t own any of our products, you can download a free trial here to see what you’re missing.
  5. The judges’ decisions are final. We won’t be getting into any dialogue with anyone about the quality of their images.
  6. Closing dates for each quarter are March 31st, June 30th, September 30th and December 31st.

So that’s it as far as rules go. Any questions can be left in the comments section below.

Best of luck everyone! Let the games commence!!

24-70 f/2.8 prizes


Product photos courtesy of the good people at The Digital Picture.

Posted in Alien Skin Software, Announcements, Competitions, Fun, Photography | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments

Flickr Thursday

Here are some of our favorite shots from the Alien Skin Flickr group this week. Terrific work, all!



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Classical paintings in Snap Art 4 with Melanie Myhre

Fine art photographer, Melanie Myhre is well-known for creating ethereal images. She’s been featured on our blog before. If you missed out on the article, check it out here. In the article below, Melanie share’s her opinions about Snap Art 4 and offers some technical tips for creating painterly images with a classical feel.

The rest of this article comes from her. Thanks, Melanie!


This is one of my earlier works, but it has always been a favorite of mine. This shot embodies the classical look I’m after. I color-toned in Photoshop and added some texture with Snap Art 4. I’m pleased with the way it turned out.
The background was black because she was facing into the setting sun. The Impasto preset on canvas looked best to my eyes. I masked details in her face to clarify her features. Popping the highlights made the effect appear like a classical painting.

I grew up in a highly artistic family. My mother is a painter, so naturally I learned to paint long before I picked up a camera. I started with crayons and wax pencils, then moved through other mediums such as pen and ink and acrylics. I spent long hours studying art history books, drooling over the works of the masters, hoping I could produce a fraction of what the greats created effortlessly.

In 9th grade, I discovered photography and everything changed. I’m still passionately inspired by the great painters throughout history. The Romanticist and Art Nouveau painters of the 18th and 19th centuries are particularly dear to my heart. John William Waterhouse celebrated feminine beauty with an ethereal, sacred grace. He portrayed women as goddesses, exemplifying attributes of the ‘English Rose’ such as soft feminine features and classical beauty. On the other hand, Alphonse Mucha celebrated the glitz and glamor of his era while still maintaining a goddess-like grace in the women he portrayed. Both artists emotionally evocative works used flowing hair, soft poses, and billowing fabric as prominent elements within the scene.

I just wanted to add a touch of painterly effect to emphasize the subject’s storybook features. In Exposure 5, I added a little blue to the shadows, making them appear milky, and I increased the highlights. Snap Art 4’s Impasto preset with the wood canvas texture looked best to me. All of the adjustments were minimal with one caveat–setting the photorealism slider as high as it goes. I used the detail masking feature to reserve the details of her face.


I chose to vignette this image and increase the warmth and saturation in Exposure 5 to add drama. In Snap Art 4, a thickened oil paint on canvas effect was enhanced further by adding directional strokes. I feel this increases the sense of movement in the image. I tightened the facial features by masking them and going to a very fine brush and increased photorealism.

I use much of the same approach in my photography work, even though it’s a different medium. I carefully arrange scenes in the natural outdoors–sometimes I’ll make my own props and wardrobe–and combined with creative posing, I can bring the shot together in camera. In my opinion, Photoshop composites just don’t have the same feel as the real thing.

I’ve experimented with various textures, color filters, packaged actions, and Photoshop techniques to give my shots a painterly look, but nothing satisfied the aesthetic I was after–until Snap Art 4. The realism of the effects rendered by this software is exactly what I’m after. They’re realistic enough to make people ask if it is a photo or a painting.


It is important to study the image(s) you have. Does it have a classical style, or is it more contemporary? This determines which elements of the image to emphasize and will help you to choose which effect in Snap Art will be the most believable. This image has a strong emotional element that I wanted to enhance. I chose a thicker Impasto preset and used a fine brush with lower photorealism. I increased the photorealism for the details with detail masking. This gave the image greater depth. I increased the highlights and shadows, the saturation of her hair, and I emphasized the creaminess of her skin with Exposure 5. As a final touch, I gave it a little warmth to add life. It started out as a cool-toned scene.


Watercolors are usually high in saturation, so I increased it in Snap Art 4. There was quite a bit of detail masking to keep the details of the face, hands, and toes legible. I adjusted the paint coverage to maximum to help maintain detail. The scene was backlit with the setting sun, so I increased the warmth a bit more and accentuated the sun flare in Exposure 5.

Check out more of Melanie’s work on her website, or become a Facebook fan to follow her workshop schedule and hear all of her latest updates.

Posted in Fun, Photography, Snap Art | 1 Comment

Flickr Thursday

Here are some of the eye catching shots from the Alien Skin Flickr group this week. Great stuff, everyone!

AppleCrypt OritPnini PieterTenBroek

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Natalie Walsh

Natalie Walsh is a fashion photographer working out of New York City. She’s reasonably new to photography, but she has a unique eye and undeniable talent. I asked her to share a little about herself as a photographer. The remainder of this article comes from her. Thanks for sharing, Natalie!

I started pursuing photography about a year and a half ago. I originally left England in pursuit of an acting career. I fell out of love with acting, so I had to find another creative outlet. I fell in love with being behind the lens. So much so that I would take random photography walks around the streets of New York–the subject didn’t matter, I just wanted to shoot.

Within the last year, I started into fashion photography. Basically, I’m just working on my portfolio. It’s a slow process to build up a strong collection of work. I’m gun-shy when it comes to fast-tracking my career because I favor longevity over speed. I will occasionally catch myself feeling like I’m a running wild horse. The excitement of developing quickly can get out of control if you don’t pay close enough attention. In my opinion, nothing can compare to the importance of studying, assisting photographers, and experimenting with tests. So this is what I do. I want to take my time and carefully build a strong foundation.


I keep my shoots simple, for now. I work with a hair and makeup artist occasionally. I prefer to style the wardrobe myself. I will occasionally use a single light setup, but for the majority of my work I use natural light. I have a small studio setup in my apartment, and I shoot on location. New York can be an amazing background.


On a recent shoot with Anne-Marie, the yellow chair was a happy accident. Yes, the Anne-Marie Mueschke from NBC’s Siberia. We planned for an outdoor shoot in a local park. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t agree with our plans. It rained most of the day. I improvised with a vintage chair and some flowers that I had at home. I used natural light from a nearby window–I wanted to give her a softer feel than the character she plays on TV. This was my third shoot, ever. Aside from a few setbacks, I thought it was successful overall.



The shoot with Vera was done with this article in mind. We took a short trip out to the lower east side. I enjoy returning to that area because it was the place I first called home when I moved to the U.S. For me, it gives the shoot the feeling of a girl who is all about New York. Vera hadn’t been to the lower east side, so it was interesting to share the location with her and tell her stories. Personal interactions like this can help put model’s minds at ease, so I kept them coming. We shot in an old telephone booth and made use of the different backdrops and textures that we could find. It was just me and her on the location as not to draw a crowd.




Sam, the blonde, was shot in my apartment along with Vera. I shot with Sam while Vera was in makeup. I kept it simple. I took shots that were all about the talent. I recommend doing this when you’re shooting for agencies. They have to use your images to promote the model, so I want to make their job easy.

Sam is new to modeling, so we started on the chair. This is a good place to start posing because it helps newbies relax into the shoot. Both the model and the photographer need to get acquainted before we can work well together. Also, it’s best to review the model’s current portfolio prior to the shoot. You don’t want to duplicate what they already have.


Editing and Retouching

I always try to get the shot right in the camera as much as possible. This keeps my photo editing a simple process. It’s only used to enhance my shots. I edit solely in Photoshop and finish them in Exposure 5. The first time I saw a photographer friend use Exposure, I was amazed. They could effortlessly take their images up a level with a few clicks through the presets.

One of my favorite Exposure features is the Overall Intensity control. This lets me change the intensity of the effect right inside of the software–no more techie adjustments in Photoshop! I also use the favorites list religiously. I’ll use it to highlight specific presets for a shoot. I usually name the presets after the model. My shoots are simple, so this system works well for my needs. I save some custom presets, designate favorites, and the next thing you know I’m all done. It’s fast, efficient, and easy.

Check out more work from Natalie on her blog, or follow her socially on Facebook, Flickr, and 500px.

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