Unveil The Elegance: Lighting Techniques To Make Cars Shine

Note: River Wey Studios was Re-branded to Tannery Film Studios at the end of 2023.

Lighting a car in a white cove studio (white cyclorama), requires a slightly different approach to ensure the vehicle is presented in the best possible light. From managing reflections to creating dynamic visual effects, the techniques used can greatly impact the final outcome. Here at Tannery Film Studios, we have upgraded our studio to get fantastic results when filming or photographing cars. This blog post is designed to guide production companies looking to dry hire our studio for car shoots, offering insights into the various lighting techniques that can be employed for an optimal shoot.

The Importance of Diffusion

Studio 1 with magic cloth diffusion overhead
Ford Transit in the white cove- Studio 1
Ford Transit in the white cove- Studio 1

When filming in a white cove, one of the biggest challenges is dealing with reflections. Cars, with their glossy surfaces and curves, tend to reflect everything around them, including lighting equipment and crew members. To mitigate these reflections and highlight the car’s design, we recommend using a form of diffusion over the top, such as silk.

A silk diffusion panel placed above the car helps to smooth out and accentuate the curves of the vehicle. This technique not only reduces unwanted reflections but also softens the light, creating a more appealing and natural look. The diffusion works by scattering the light, which eliminates harsh shadows and hotspots, ensuring that the car’s contours are gently highlighted. For instance, at Tannery Film Studios, we have an edge-to-edge magic cloth diffusion that runs under our space lights. This setup can be pulled out on request, offering a beautifully soft light source that is perfect for car shoots. The magic cloth has 2.5 stops of diffusion, making it an effective bounce as well. High-powered lights from the ground can be bounced off the magic cloth to direct soft, diffused light onto the car, enhancing the vehicle’s appearance.


Large Light Sources and Textiles


To achieve a clean and pristine look, large sources of light that pass through various textiles are essential. These large light sources provide an even and soft illumination that wraps around the car, emphasising its form and details without creating harsh reflections or shadows. Textiles like diffusers, scrims, and bounces can be strategically used to control the quality of light.

Creative Lighting Techniques

While a clean and soft lighting setup is often desired, there are other creative ways to light a car in a white cove studio. Adding various lighting textures onto the walls of the cove can create specific moods and accentuate different aspects of the car. For example, projecting patterns or gobos onto the cove walls can introduce interesting visual elements and break up the monotony of the white background.

For a moody feel, dimly lighting the cove can create dramatic shadows and highlights. This technique can be particularly effective for high-end or luxury cars, where the interplay of light and shadow can evoke a sense of sophistication and allure.

Case Study: Aston Martin Shoot

One of our notable projects involved filming an Aston Martin in our studio. Before installing our magic cloth, we employed a different lighting setup to achieve the desired look. We placed a grid above the car and hung 20 Astera light tubes around it. This arrangement created an interesting and dynamic visual effect. We also programmed animated chase sequences along the Astera tubes to add movement and excitement to the visuals. This setup not only highlighted the car’s sleek design but also added a modern and edgy feel to the shoot.

Practical Applications for Clients

White cove studios like ours are ideal for press releases and promotional materials. A general clean lighting setup can be easily achieved by using the techniques mentioned above. For clients looking to showcase their cars in the best possible light, a white cove studio provides a versatile and controlled environment.

Why Choose Tannery Film Studios

At Tannery Film Studios, we ensure that our clients’ needs are met as straight out of the box as possible. Whether it’s a simple clean look or a more complex lighting design, our expertise and equipment make it possible to achieve some absolutely stunning shots of vehicles.

Furthermore, our studio is equipped with six bi-colour, high powered space lights and various customisable lighting setups to meet the specific needs of any production. The edge-to-edge magic cloth diffusion under our space lights is just one example of the solutions we use to enhance the quality of your shoots. This diffusion system not only provides a soft, flattering light but also offers versatility in how the light is directed and used.

Our team of experienced professionals is always on hand to assist with setup and provide technical support, ensuring a smooth and efficient shoot.

aston Martin


In conclusion, lighting a car in a white cove studio involves a combination of diffusion, large light sources, and creative techniques to manage reflections and highlight the vehicle’s design. At Tannery Film Studios, our edge-to-edge magic cloth diffusion and other advanced lighting tools enable you to create stunning visuals for car shoots. Whether it’s for a press release or a promotional campaign, our studio is equipped to deliver exceptional results. We invite production companies to dry hire our studio and experience firsthand the benefits of our state-of-the-art facilities and expert support.

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author avatar
Craig Murdoch