Michael Schnabel Uses All the Tricks for Infiniti
Cars are not people. They cannot be manipulated into emotional moments, a laugh or a pensive look. They cannot smile. Photographers who work with vehicles have a much more technical challenge than the artist who photographs people. The story that’s being told about the car has to be done in line, color, and atmosphere. Every tiny part of the composition must be considered, and nothing can be taken for granted. On top of that, cars are heavy, fast, and huge. They can be driven, but their power requires an incredible amount of precaution to keep everyone safe. There are so many obstacles to getting it right. Michael Schnabel has solved all of them.
In the small 10-day shoot, Michael and his team were producing 40 images along with four videos. “We had a big amount of work to do,” Michael says. “We had a great crew.” At times, that crew swelled to 30 people, including Director Matthias Berndt and DOP Willy Dettmeyer. After the marathon shoot was over, Michael says, “I was super thrilled by the results because I knew we got a lot of great work.” And then he adds with a laugh, “And I was super exhausted.”
This massive team effort helped to solve the first question: How does one capture the whole moving car while still keeping the look crisp and clean? When Michael shot the 2015 Infiniti Q70L, he captured images with a fantastic amount of movement while still remaining true to the luxury brand’s reputation of focus and clarity. His solution is a metal rig attached to the car on one end and the camera on the other. Michael explains: “The car is connected to the camera so once it moves forward, the camera moves along with the it, so the car is going to be sharp. But the background is blurred.” Once they have that variable locked in, the next thing to consider is how the car will fit into the environment.
Depending on the story that Michael wants to tell with the brand, they consider background and movement. For Infiniti they wanted the illusion of speed in a big city. Since the camera and car were one item, Michael could use some tricks to get the exact look he was going for without barreling down the streets of a densely populated city. So, he had the car pulled. “I need to capture a driving distance of about six feet,” he says. “That six feet is going to give me the impression of the car moving fast.” Depending on how fast the shutter speed is, the car doesn’t even need to be going particularly fast. It’s all about the composition.
To get the cityscape they wanted, there were an incredible amount of factors. From alignment of the street, to time of day, to geographical placement within the city, it’s all predetermined. “In this case we were in Miami because we had a lot of ocean vistas for this whole body of work,” Michael explains. But he also had to share the car and the locations.