Des Kleineibst has been a professional photographer in Cape Town and Johannesburg since 1980. He obtained a National Diploma in Photography and assisted 3 of SA's top car photographers before branching off on his own.
Today he is recognised as one of the best automotive photographers the country has ever seen, and has produced exceptionally fine advertising images for almost every brand of car and truck on the South African market.
Des co-developed his own carbon-fibre-tracking rig that extends 30 ft (10 metres). That's the secret to those brilliant background-blurred-while-car-is-in-sharp-focus shots you so often see in magazine advertisements!
He has built up such good relationships with clients that he frequently get to sit in on the initial conceptualisation meetings with agencies' creative teams. As a result of this trust, he gets lots of freedom from clients in deciding on concepts.
What are the challenges? Replicating outside light in the studio, he says. He uses big panels to evenly light his subjects, but he doesn't follow the European route of using massive, crane-hoisted reflective panels. In South Africa, we simply don't have the budgets to do that, he says - which brings him to his main gripe: having to produce first-world advertising with third-world budgets.
Des uses digital media exclusively. It beats film hands down, he says of his Hasselblad 6x6 and Sinar 4x5 cameras fitted with a Phase One instant capture back (22 million pixels!) which downloads the captured image directly into an Apple Mac notebook. He also uses this digital back on his trusty Canon 35mm lenses, via a special adapter, for interior shots of cars.
Lighting is everything in automotive and other advertising photography disciplines, he says. Des uses tungsten (continuous) light for his studio shots of trucks and cars, and studio flash for product shots. When shooting with tungsten, he frequently uses exposures of as long as 8 seconds to get the shot.
Styles for shooting vehicles have changed over the years. Where in the eighties and nineties Des used long lenses for extra compression, shooting cars from low down with wheels turned to make them look "mean & horny", the rounder shapes of cars now dictate shorter lenses and less compression of the perspective to accentuate the roundness and sexiness of modern cars.
His advice for newcomers
Des recommends work-shadowing - working as an assistant for no pay in order to learn the finer points of the profession and hopefully to eventually find an opening as a junior photographer. Although a tertiary education in photography is still essential, he finds that the students still know very little about lighting when they start assisting, and learn lots under the tutorship of professionals. He also recommends learning Photoshop skills as an essential art to the modern photographer.