lighting car interior – day

Shooting car interiors always pose their very own challenges – especially when the car is moving. So how do you get exposure without blowing out the windows? What about reflections? And how do you make it all look natural? Here is how I did it.

The lighting seutp I’m going to present here is part of a car commercial I shot for the Fiat Egea Hatchback for the Turkish market. Here is the final film:

As you can see the car interior with our testimonial Erdal Besikcioglu only takes a few seconds in the film. However, it is one of my favorite shots. So here is my approach.

We shot on a low loader. That always helps in terms how big of a lighting setup you can have, just because the low loader can carry generators, bigger lights and it is possible to have a solid rig set up for everything that goes along with it. The idea was to make it all look as natural as possible.

close up of Erdal

The most pleasing and least obvious light source I could think of was a soft light in terms of quality. So what we did was to rig a 4×4 frame with full white diffusion (216) right outside the driver’s door. Through it, we shot an M18 at full flood. Don’t be distracted by the image below, in the final setup we had a little more distance between lamp head and frame.

side view – M18 through 4×4 wd frame (216)

We tried to cover as much of the side of the car with black duvetyn as possible to avoid actual sunlight hitting the inside of the car. Over the windshield we did the same. That not only cancelled out  sunlight, but to also prevented too much front light hitting our testimonial and therefore keeping some contrast. That also took out the reflections of the sky in the windshield, which would have otherwise obstructed our view of Erdal.

A polar filter wouldn’t have been an option as the camera was moving on a slider, so the angle would have  changed constantly. Modern windshields in general tend to be curved so a polar only takes care of part of the windshield, but I would only try that with a locked off camera.

rear view – M18 (1/2 wd – 250) shooting through rear window

I prefer shooting car interiors in the middle of the day. The sun is at its peak, which is not the most flattering light for the exterior of a car.

As for giving the inside of the car depth we had a second M18 shoot through the rear window. It had half wd (250) on it to soften it a bit. Without that light the interior would have felt flat. It also gave Erdal a nice sheen on his leather jacket.


What should be said about the whole rig is that it needs to be absolutely tight. No cloth should be flapping about as the wind will catch it when you drive at a certain speed. Also be careful of loose parts (i.e. barndoors), they start to vibrate and can ruin your sound.

And here is the lighting diagram for a better understanding.

key: M18 through 4×4 full wd (216). fill: white bounce board. back: M18 half wd (250)

I hope this was helpful!




camera:      ARRI Alexa Mini
framerate:   25p
Apect ratio: 1 : 2.4
lenses:      Leica Summilux-C primes
LUT:         not LUT, log-C

Leave a Reply