His name is Bland. Webb Bland. And He shoots cars
For the past two years, automotive photography has become an integral part of our website. We cannot even think of anything related to it without work from people like Webb Bland. Even way before his work was featured here, we admired his photoshoots and amazing editing on the forums worldwide. The great selection of supercars, advanced scouting for locations, great impressions from readers everywhere, he is really one of the more legendary photographers, automotive content wise.
During the course of the last few months, we did a lot of planning concerning articles and forward motion of our site. One of the checked out ideas was an interview made with Webb. We collected information from us here at the office, talked to some of our more active readers, thought of the things we wanted to ask, made the question-list and delivered it to Webb Bland.
Even though the guy is extremely busy, he became the photographer who did the official photography for for Dodge and Chrysler on their latest models. One of them is the new Chrysler 300 which we featured earlier on the site. Quite an advancement in his career. To find out how it all started, what equipment he used, where did he sharp his skills and much more, coming after the jump in this interesting interview.
Let us start by introducing yourself to our readers. Even though most of them know you by your work, your personal life is a mysteriously narrated set of myths told by one fan to another during track days.
Hi. My name is Webb Bland, and I’m a professional automotive photographer currently based out of my hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. I started off shooting for private owners and collectors around the country, and continued improving my skills in the private market over the course of the last four years. However, since August of 2010 I have been focusing nearly all of my time and energy on my newly acquired commercial clients, Chrysler and Dodge, where I have been shooting much of their press release photography for their upcoming 2011 vehicles.
When did you start getting an interest in photography in general, let alone automotive photography?
I’ve had a passion for photography my whole life; I picked up my first camera when I was five years old. I actually still remember the camera, it was a Kodak point-and-shoot that used 110 film cartridges. Over the years I owned countless other cameras; several 35mm Olympus and Sony point-and-shoots growing up, a vintage Pentax 35mm SLR, and then eventually I broke into digital photography with a Canon 350D, then a Canon 40D, and now my current body, the Canon 5D MKII. So I’ve been shooting on and off for 21 years- five years professionally; it’s certainly been an adventure!
How much time did it take you to get a hang of it, to make the first photos that you were impressed with?
Photography in general? I was particularly fond of the images I was producing in the late years of middle school leading into high school. The subject matter was varied- from landscapes to architecture to abstract nature macros. I attended boarding school in Connecticut and rural Tennessee, so at the time, the ever-changing landscapes kept my creativity level high. In terms of automotive photography, I really started to get excited about the potential of my work several months after I graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design (with a degree in Graphic Design, I might add; no formal photography training in my past), in mid-2007. I knew I was heading in the right direction while attending, but I wasn’t quite producing the level of work that I was striving until some months later, when I started developing several new editing techniques, that I really had an idea of where my career was going.
What was your first setup? (camera, tripod, lights etc.)
My first camera system that I used in a professional capacity, would probably be the 40D. I used the 350D in college, but only starting out, and not on any sessions there I would have labeled myself a professional at that point. The 40D allowed me to produce higher resolution work, which was necessary since a large part of my income came from selling prints of the photos after the session was complete. I had a small handful of lenses, no L glass; 10-22mm f/3.5, 17-85mm f/4, 60mm f/2.8. I wasn’t using any lighting at that point, so it was all ambient. I also wasn’t using a tripod, since I was shooting hand-held for every session. Everything fit in a sling bag. What I would give to go back to traveling that light, haha.
When did the photography work became work, not only fun and games? For who and what did you shoot?
You know, it still hasn’t really transitioned. I mean, the projects are certainly more demanding and the clients much more high profile, but at its core, its still fun and games to me. I quite honestly have my dream job, and I wouldn’t trade my career for anything in the world. So doing what I do every day- scouting for locations, shooting 12+ hours a day while on a job, editing 16+ hours a day after a job, experimenting with new lighting and editing methods in between jobs- it never really feels like a ‘job’, so to speak. I’m just doing what I love.
But if a non-answer doesn’t suffice, I’d say once I started shooting commercially, the extreme deadlines for the final product definitely added a new sense of urgency that I previously hadn’t experienced.
Your favorite car of all time?
For ten years- a solid decade- it was the Lotus Exige. Then I drove a Maserati GranTurismo for two hours. That’s all it took to shake my core beliefs.
But being such a passionate car guy, it’s still terribly hard to narrow that down to just one car. Instead I’ll expand on your question and list my top ten, in sequential order from most desired to tenth-most desired, because choosing favorites is maddening to me and also because I’m borderline OCD. Just look at my ever-changing ‘Best Of’ section on my site. Deciding which image to replace when I have a new addition is near heart-wrenching.
Webb Bland’s Top Supercar List
01. 2011 Maserati GranTurismo S – in Bianco Eldorado with Bordeaux interior and Grigio Mercury Birdcage wheels
02. 2011 Aston Martin DBS – in Hammerhead Silver
03. 2010 Lamborghini Murcielago LP670-4 SuperVeloce – in Arancio Borealis with the optional large spoiler
04. 2011 Audi R8 GT – in Samoa Orange
05. 2011 Land Rover Evoque Coupe – in Vesuvius Orange
06. 2011 Nissan GTR – in Gun Metallic
07. 2011 Mercedes E550 Coupe – in Steel Grey
08. 2011 BMW M3 Coupe – in Alpine White with Fox Red interior
09. 2011 Lotus Exige S – in Isotope Green
10. 2011 Shelby GT500 Super Snake – in Sterling Gray with matte black SS stripes and powdercoated wheels
(I’m very specific about my dream cars)
What do you drive as a daily commuter?
I rock a 1999 Dodge Durango with 162,000 hard-earned miles and still going strong. It certainly won’t make the rounds in my portfolio, but it hauls all my equipment cross-country no problem, and I can hop up on the roof without worry to get elevated angles while shooting.
Favorite setting for automotive shots? Any special place you like to take the best rides to?
I used to favor the decrepit, abandoned industrial look for much of my work, but lately I’ve been enjoying shooting in more natural environments. But really, it all depends on the car in question.
That custom matte black Challenger SRT8 that I photographed was destined for that overpass haven that I used; once I discovered the location on a scouting search, I immediately knew what car I was going to use there. And while that Verde Ithaca LP560 I shot would have probably worked equally well in a similar location, I knew going into it that I wanted to use a forested locale for the car instead, to play off the car’s natural color.
I try to refrain from recycling locations when possible- it’s a simple way to keep my work fresh, so if I have access to several cool cars in a row, I’ll make sure that each vehicle is photographed in its own, unique location. It’s also just more fun working with new areas each session, as each one presents its own compositions and challenges to make the series a success. If I were to keep hitting one location again and again, my work would suffer.
Working with big companies, is it any different than the work you’ve done for random people over the years?
Very. The always-looming deadlines are one primary factor, but before such a job takes place, the general knowledge that such a mega-profile client has put all their trust in your creative vision can be nerve-wracking.
Once the shoot is under way and the cars have been rolled into place and detailed for each angle and my assistants are moving lights and the magic starts to happen, all those nerves immediately fade and it just becomes another photoshoot. Granted, it’s generally a much larger shoot with many more moving parts than just myself and a private owner driving the car from one spot to another, but in essence, it’s the same. And amazingly with Chrysler and Dodge, the art direction has been more or less all my call. I’m given a shot list by the marketing team before each job, with a number of very specific angles I need to shoot, and a list of several suggested locations they want to see, but beyond that, all compositions, lighting and post-production are left up to my own vision.
Being able to work that freely on a series of such high profile shoots where the cars are pre-production and still under wraps has been incredibly rewarding, especially when I get feedback directly from the Presidents and CEOs of the companies.
Any advice for our beginner photographers which pose as our readers sometimes?
Absolutely; go out and location scout whenever you can, wherever you can. Scouting in advance has been crucial to the success of my work; if you’re hired on short notice for a session with a local client, having a library of pre-scouted locations to browse through to see which would work best with the car in question can save you a lot of stress on shoot day.
At any given time, I’ll have 15-20 different unused areas that I’ve found in town while driving, and have documented with my camera phone. So if it comes down to it, I can quickly mix and match a variety of locations on a whim, and instantly have 2-3 locations to work with tomorrow. Advance location scouting is key, and that’s the number one tip I always offer. Also, off-camera lighting isn’t a bad investment, either.
Any final thoughts?
Yup! Will Stern says hello.
(The guy who does great photography, but sometimes we feel like he’s the all seeying eye from Lord of The Rings – sees all and is everywhere)
An impressive explanation of the automotive photography world by Webb Bland. We can only point you to the selection of his articles we have on the website right now. Make sure to visit NotBland (his official photography portfolio) for the latest and greatest of his work!
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