Behind the Scenes on a KW Suspensions Photoshoot

John Pangilinan

Words and photos by John Pangilinan

I typically don’t shoot models, and while I surround myself with cars and car culture, I really don’t shoot vehicles too often. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, but I have too many talented car photographer friends in the industry that simply are experts in this field, so I usually leave these projects for them. But when KW Suspensions told me their creative concept for the shoot I couldn’t turn this project done as I’ve worked with the company for several years at various levels, and they supply me with suspension for my project cars. The project called for two shoots with two different models in two locations and with several vehicles for images to be used for marketing materials including two posters.

What initially drew me to the project was the collection of Porsche 911s that ranged from early air-cooled models to their latest flagship for the marque. Each 911 represented a unique style from the Hoonigan RWB 911 with aggressive styling with its wider arched fenders sitting low to the ground to BBI Autosport’s red Carrera that is more performance and sport oriented. The challenge would be to assemble the group of cars together in a fashion that would show off each one equally for the poster. 

The venue KW selected was gorgeous: A private collector’s garage nestled in a secret location in Los Angeles. The recently renovated mid-century factory has been transformed into the ultimate man cave with exposed wood beams and polished concrete floors. The vehicles were positioned with various lighting sources from soft window light from the factory windows to the skylights, but this also created some shadows in unwanted places. To help balance the light we positioned a couple Einstein lights to help light the front of a few of the vehicles. 

The first step was to position a giant ladder off center to give the room a little definition, making sure to include the details of the building, while showing off each of these beautiful machines. For the next part, we strategically re-positioned each vehicle ensuring each one got proper exposure. Obviously, the vehicle on the lift was permanently affixed to that location, but we were able to raise and lower it slightly. 

The beautiful red 911 was placed in the center with a couple of the white 911s flanked around it. A mint green Porsche remained on a lift in the back and the client wanted to keep the parts surrounding the car to maintain the authenticity of the working garage.

Enter the KW spokesmodel, Lisa Marie. I’ve known Lisa for a couple years from her work within the Formula Drift motorsports series, but I’ve never shot her before (remember I don’t usually shoot models). We decided on a couple outfits for the shoot, but for the final poster we elected to use a very simple and clean black dress with high heels for an elegant look to match the sports cars. I chose to not have her stare directly at the camera as I wanted to convey a little bit of mystery. She was a pro and really made my job easy making slight changes in her poses with each flash of the strobe. Here is the end result that was printed as a poster that would be given to KW’s fans at events and to their dealer network.

I took additional photos of each vehicle and Lisa. The photos were distributed among the vehicle owners and could be used for the KW website. Lisa didn’t mind getting down and dirty, which made the shoot much more fun and playful. I try to develop a good rapport with the person from the beginning and this always pays off for the final shots.


For the second part of the day we traveled to Downtown Los Angeles to an industrial part of town that housed the clothing brand Hoonigan and the wheel company Fifteen52. Nicknamed the “Donut Shop,” the graffiti-adorned wall would become the backdrop, while professional driver Ken Block’s Ford Fiesta ST street car would be the featured vehicle.

The ability to adapt to various environments is a huge asset when shooting on location. The conditions of this location were not ideal with a lot of dirt and debris on the ground and fresh tire marks. (As we arrived, our friend Hert decided to do an impromptu drifting demo which was great, but also left a mess to clean.) The tire marks actually looked great after we swept the ground before parking the Fiesta in place. I then made sure I didn’t ask the model to sit on the ground until after we got the rest of the shots.

We began the shoot in the mid afternoon and the sun was still pretty high, but luckily the wall provided a little bit of shade and the car was wrapped in a matte charcoal that soaked up the sun's rays rather than reflecting them. To fight off the bright sun, we again used a couple Einstein’s, one to light up the vehicle slightly and one to light the model.

For the model, Angela, this was her first professional shoot. At first she was a bit timid, but she eased into the role throughout the shoot, gaining confidence with every click of the shutter. Part of the job is making sure the subject is comfortable, which may take some coaxing and I’ve learned a few compliments early can pay off. The client wanted a more “street” style shot and the hoodie provided by Hoonigan gave just a slight edge to her outfit. She did a great job, and I had plenty of images at the end to choose from. Here is the end result and a few portraits.

For this shoot I brought along my video team to document the behind the scenes of the shoot and create a couple Instagram videos to help promote the posters and new spokesmodels for the season.

KW and ST Suspensions 2015 Poster Shoot from John Pangilinan on Vimeo.

Additional thanks to Andrew at Stanceworks for a few more behind the scenes photos.


BTS JJohn Pangilinan photography

← Older Post Newer Post →