Before & After: Automotive Rig Photography

You ever wondered how those car manufacturers created such gorgeous, streamline motion blurred photographs of their cars? Back in the day before extremely expensive editing software, photographers had to use what is called an automotive photography rig to create such shots.

(All shot on Canon 5D Mark III with 16-35mm f/2.8L)



My friend Toan Ta’s 2008 Mitsubishi Evolution X. Before; after.

A proper rig can be built with around a $300-$400 budget as compared to the cost of software that can be well over $2000. My personal rig is made out of photographic grade suction cups, clamps, my existing tripod head and some sturdy aluminum poles from Home Depot. Pieced together, my rig is 18 feet long however we dare not use the entire 18 feet for safe weight distribution across the rig. And of course obviously a decent camera and an super wide angle lens is preferred)

How it’s done: Photographers take their homemade or professionally made rig and clamp it down using suction cups across the car. Mount in such a manner that gives the camera view an aesthetically pleasing composition. Once the photograph is framed, set a self timer and a long shutter speed; because of the long shutter speed this will generally create and overly exposed image, to compensate, use an ND (neutral density) filter to darken the setting. Leave the car in neutral and push the car from an angle that cannot be seen from the camera. After the exposure is made, it’s time to edit!

In whatever software you use (photoshop) you can use tools such as the clone stamp tool to clone out of enormous pole and match it to the background. I like to use the combination of the clone stamp tool and patch tool. This is an extensive process that may take several hours. After this is done, you may edit the photograph in terms of lighting and colors to come to a final image.

Of course rigs are old technology and they can only do so much. They are still a platform many automotive photographers(like me) use due to its relatively low price in comparison to the software called Virtual Rig.



Billy Nguyen’s 2004 Subaru WRX STi with Karlton Widebody Flares. Before; after.



Justin Smith’s 2009 Subaru WRX. Before; after.





My 2014 Mitsubishi Evolution X. Before; after. (The only two shot on Fujifilm X-Pro 1 with XF 10-24mm f/4)




Once again, Billy Nguyen’s 2004 Subaru STi.

Thanks for reading/viewing!
See you next post!!


2 thoughts on “Before & After: Automotive Rig Photography

  1. This is really interesting. I never knew how the shots were taking and always found them to be intriguing. It’s crazy that there is a rig involved. I also like how you showed the before and after of the edited shots. I look forward to seeing more photography from you!

    Jenna Lancaster


  2. Wow, those are some great shots. This was a fascinating look behind the scenes of car photography; I can’t imagine the stress of having an expensive camera mounted to a pole hanging off of your roof while you whiz down road.


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