How To Photograph Hot Wheels On Black With Reflection


I am asked quite often how I photograph Hot Wheels on black with reflection so I thought I’d put a little tutorial together if you will.

It took me quite a while to source the proper materials – I’ll detail that below. The setup is relatively simple. I don’t have a fancy setup with flashes, umbrellas, or strobes. I’ve just got a 5 socket CFL reflector/lamp combo. This can be achieved with a flash or even a simple flashlight. As for camera, this should be able to be accomplished using any camera that has manual adjustment for shutter speed. I would also suggest a stable surface or tripod. Camera shake is never a good thing. Both light and camera placement is critical to achieve the desired result but with the black surface being reflective, it is simple to do. I can’t pass along any more advice than to say it’s just trial and error.

The black ‘plate’ on the bottom is just an opaque black acrylic 12″ x 12″ sheet I bought from McMaster Carr. Here’s a link -> Opaque Black Acrylic If I were to purchase another, I would probably go for 12″ x 24″. The little added length would help with taller subjects as well as add a little more flexibility all around. If using Plexiglas and a black sheet beneath, while it will work, it will lead to double reflections. The top and bottom planes of the both act as reflective surfaces. Important note – be careful when cleaning the acrylic. It scratches VERY easily. I use either a very soft brush or an bulb-type duster. Wiping down with glass cleaner and common paper towel isn’t the best idea. Believe it or not, microfiber scratches as well. I learned the hard way.

On the wall behind the black acrylic, I tape a piece of black velvet. Being black and velvet, it will capture any light that would otherwise be cast back onto your layout. As simple as it is, it took me a while to figure it out.

After the shot, it’s off to Photoshop for a little post production editing and cleanup. Dust LOVES the black acrylic. You’ll find yourself cleaning it off quite a few times during the same shot. There’s not much that can be done about this short of building yourself a clean room. If the humidity in your area is elevated, that will reduce the amount of dust but will not eliminate it completely.

Here’s a graphic I put together to crudely illustrate the setup.

Graphic - Hot Wheels Photography Setup
I hope that with the graphic I put together and the above description that I have captured the basics and that this helps those that are interested. If anyone has any more questions, please feel free to ask. I am more than happy to help out however I can.

Good luck but most important, HAVE FUN!