Darren Woolway: Canon Automotive Photography Workshop

May 10, 2018
Photographer Spotlight

UK-based photographer Darren Woolway is no stranger to speed. Rather, he has photographed some of the fastest, classiest cars on the planet. 

Frankie Jim from Canon Professional Services reached out to Darren to gauge his interest in putting on an automotive photography workshop in collaboration with Porsche Club GB for their members. Frankie was looking for two automotive photographers with different styles to run the event. After Darren signed on, it was announced that the other photographer would be Rod Fountain, known for his behind-the-scenes work for BBC's Top Gear.

Rod typically shoots cars in motion or out in their environment and has to work quickly, using available light and dodging obstacles along the way. Darren typically works in a much more controlled environment, using extensive lighting setups and staging shots to get the signature look. On Darren’s recommendation, Frankie also found a retoucher, Mark Lacey, to work with photographers throughout the event.

Since the Canon Automotive Photography Experience was part of the celebration of Porsche’s 70th anniversary year, Darren challenged himself to make the event memorable for the attendees.

Porsche 997 with swirling green smoke by Darren Woolway

The workshop took place over two consecutive days with 75 members in attendance each day. The activities were split between product demonstrations, technical presentations, and live sets for hands-on photography. The schedule was the same for both days, but the teaching style was different based on the different guests attending each day.

The first day was available to Canon Professional Service members and focused on technical shooting material. The second day was open to Porsche Club GB members, so the workshops were more concerned with explaining the basics of lighting cars and composing images.

Porsche interior shots for workshop by Darren Woolway

Darren was the first to arrive on Thursday to set up for the event. Starting to unload the truck by himself helped him realize just how much kit had been ordered. Because some of the shoot would take place outside, there was additional gear to account for weather and scenario changes.

I have to admit I felt like a kid in a candy shop, there were lines and lines of Canon cameras and lenses, along with all the gear Manfrotto, Broncolor and Lastolite had sent me.

Canon provided enough bodies and lenses for everyone who attended the event to interact with the equipment and take photos. Darren also borrowed a lot of lenses on his own to help illustrate the differences and inform his presentation topics.

Porsche interior for Canon workshop by Darren Woolway

Despite the unlucky connotations regarding Friday the 13th, it turns out that the first day had completely sold out within an hour of going on sale, but the first workshop day went off without a hitch. 

Because the CPS members would be in search of a more technical challenge than the Porsche Club members, Darren set up some challenging interior and exterior shots of a 356 Coupe. During the second half of the day, Darren worked with the CPS members to set up a special shot featuring a Porsche 997 with swirling green smoke.

Porsche 1500 shot during Canon workshop by Darren Woolway

Throughout both days, the attendees were split into two groups to reduce the number of people doing any one activity and allowing everyone to get a turn taking photos in each set. After photos were taken, they could visit Mark for some minor retouching before having their image printed on A2 paper on the newest Canon printers.

The second day of workshops was geared towards the Porsche Club GB members and helping them take great shots of their vehicles. To ensure he had a great variety of cars to shoot, Darren scouted the parking lot to see what the club members had brought along. He ended up featuring several members’ cars on various sets. The first shot of the day was a Porsche Targa 4 GTS interior using studio gear, followed by an outdoor shot using natural light of the Porsche 356 Coupe.

Darren and Rod chose to set up some outdoors shots to emulate open-air car shows that many of the attendees were familiar with, and give them tips on how to take great shots of their cars during those events. He also illustrated some common photo techniques, like how to use chandelier glass for diffraction effects.

The afternoon group helped Darren to set up a Porsche Cayman GTS for the final set. He had planned on this being a crowd-pleaser and pulled out all the stops to get a great visual effect. 

You should have seen the owners face when she saw smoke billowing out from her beloved car; however, she was more than thrilled with the results.

Porsche Carrera GTS with clouds of colored smoke by Darren Woolway

Darren chose to use authentic military-grade smoke grenades for the shoot because they pump out a good volume of smoke. To compensate for the overcast day, the smoke was additionally lit from the back and sides to create variable diffusion and different grades of color.

I wanted the event to be something that people would remember and talk about for a long time. I mean, how often do you get to photograph a Porsche with pyrotechnics?



Darren had an enjoyable weekend, and the event received positive feedback from attendees and sponsors alike. Darren would like to conduct more workshops like these, especially in a racetrack setting where opportunities for tracking and panning shots would be readily available.


Porsche Club GB General Manager: Chris Seaward

Canon UK: Frankie Jim

Photographer: Rod Fountain

Retoucher: Mark Lacey

See more of Darren at darrenwoolway.co.uk!

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