Light painting a Mini Cooper with Speedlite flash

Speedlites are great for lighting smaller subjects like people and things, but when you get outside and need to light bigger subjects you need lots of Speedlites or maybe it’s time for studio pack, or a different approach.

A full system + 3 more Speedlites

I recently shot this quick picture of a Mini using just three Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes controlled with a Speedlite ST-E3-RT. The resulting image shown is not possible to shoot in one frame with Canon’s radio flashes – but would in theory be possible with the older optical wireless system.

Light painting a Mini Cooper with Speedlite flash

Lighting a Mini Cooper with Speedlite flash over six separate frames


Canon radio Speedlite flash system only supports 16 devices; 15 slaves, 1 master
I used a couple of Manfrotto super clamps with spigots and umbrella swivels to mount two of the three Speedlite 600EX-RTs partway up a tall light stand, and the third flash was right at the top. I added sandbags on the stand as that’s a lot of money to come crashing to the ground from almost 4 metres up in the air. I then moved the stand for each of the six pictures.

The car was parked on a grass lawn which wasn’t quite flat hence the movement in the height of the lights from one shot to the next. Speedlites were each zoomed to 70mm and set manually from the ST-E3-RT to 1/8th power. For each move of the light stand I used another light stand as my guide to keep the spacing consistent.

Camera was set to manual 1/200s, f/5.6 ISO 100, locked on a tripod then triggered with a TC-80N3 remote release. I had to run back and forth to move the lights, then take a shot, then run back, move the lights etc.. Though afterwards I thought I could have used the TC-80N3 to take a sequence of six pictures spaced at 40-second intervals.

I layered the six pictures in Photoshop, converted them to a single smart object and then blended the stack of images using the maximum option. There was a slight lift of the exposure on the car and some darkening of the foreground.

Many thanks to David and Allan for helping out with this shoot 🙂

No doubt the eagle eyed will notice the lens flare from some of the flashes – I must clean my lens.

About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag