I have often admired the car photography of Sarel van Staden and became curious about the "FDL light technique" he has developed.  Unfortunately there is very little on the web other than an article in FStoppers and some YouTube videos by Elmer van Zyl.

I got enough out of Elmer's videos that FDL is basically light painting with a diffuser and the post production is a lot of layering and masking.  I don't have access to the beautiful cars these gentlemen have built their careers around so used the one vehicle I did have access to - my 2011 Jeep Wrangler.

Here is what I learned - the camera captures and lighting technique are keys to any kind of success.  It took a bit of practice and my technique could use a lot more of that.  The layer structure shown below is what evolved out of some trail and error and hints from the videos available on YouTube.

The workflow was more or less importing the selection of photos I wanted to composite, group them in a folder and change all of their blend modes to "Lighten", add a solid black Color Fill as a background and using the pen tool outline the vehicle and create a mask for the group.  I added a patch layer (it is a 2011 after all) and another solid black Color Fill on top of that.  The trick was to then mask out the top black Color fill to showcase the vehicle.  I tried a number of techniques including luminosity masks but ended up settling on using just the brush with a very low (1-2%) flow rate.  The gradient map was used to add a little bit of blue to image
Layer Structure

You may also like

Back to Top