Meet the master of strobe-lit automotive photography!

Meet the master of strobe-lit automotive photography!

Ian Wood is an automotive photographer based in Los Angeles. He is known for his colourful, beautifully-lit images of some of the world’s most elegantly-designed cars, which he shoots on location using strobes. His images are shot using SIGMA Art primes. Find out more below.

How did you get into photographing cars?

I’m Ian, and I photograph beautiful cars in my spare time when I’m not doing my day job as a UX Designer. I’m a dual citizen of the UK and US, and currently live in Los Angeles. I spent most of my life in the UK, but moved to the States about 16 years ago. I graduated from Coventry University’s Transport Design course, so I have had a long-running interest in automotive design.

Moving to California recharged my interest in cars, and social media fuelled my desire to learn more about photography. Starting with a camera phone, I quickly graduated to an entry level DSLR, and am now using a Nikon D850.

The first serious lens I purchased was the mighty SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art. I was initially drawn to it for its ultra-wide F1.4 aperture, because I wanted to use the shallow depth-of-field to isolate the subject from the background. But I discovered it’s also extremely sharp. This started a quest to use the best possible equipment to capture my subjects.

Maserati Khamsin 09 W - Print
Maserati Khamsin 28 W - Print

What is your set-up and how do you light the subject?

Initially I started shooting cars in natural light, and I was focusing on capturing only small sections of the vehicles. In 2018 I visited about 140 events so I became really immersed in the automotive world. I produced my first series of images, which I called ‘Specific’.

When COVID stopped most of the events taking place, I turned my attention to a new project, which I called my ‘Naked Color’ series. This exclusively used strobes, and I have developed and refined it over the last couple of years. I use a ‘mobile studio’ setup, which enabled me to shoot cars safely, usually alone in a building or in an empty lot at night, which meant I could keep taking pictures through the pandemic. I still mostly use strobes to light the cars.

Using flash means I’m not dependent on natural light, which is very variable, so I can achieve consistent results wherever the cars are shot. The lighting allows me to shoot at F11, enabling most of the car to be in very sharp focus. My Naked Color style of shooting allows cars to be seen the way that designers imagine them, free of reflections and other environmental distractions, almost like a concept rendering.

What Sigma lenses do you use?

I still use my trusty SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art, and I’ve also added the 40mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art,  and the 85mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art, both of which are fantastic lenses.

The 40mm F1.4 DG HSM, 50mm F1.4 DG HSM and 85mm F1.4 DG HSM from Sigma’s Art line.

Why have you chosen to use Sigma optics?

The strobe lights expose so much detail in the cars, but also any limitations with the equipment. My capture process undergoes constant refinement, and every aspect of the ay I shoot is analysed for improvement. I initially started with a kit zoom lens and a few other primes, and switching to Sigma primes has been the biggest quality leap.

I use the 85mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art for the side shots with less perspective, and rely on the 40mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art for the angled views. I have found the 40mm to be the perfect lens for this, offering a perfect tension between the straight view of the 50mm and the dynamic perspective of a 35mm.  Both Art lenses provide astounding levels of colour, contrast and detail, leaving the camera’s 45MP sensor as the limiting factor. I always thought the 85mm was king of quality until I met the 40mm!

See more of Ian’s work