Post Processing: Creating Transparent Hoods - Anthony Massie

Nikon D90 w/ Nikkor 18-105 @ 25mm | F10 – 1/200 – ISO200 | © Anthony Massie Nikon D90 w/ Nikkor 18-105 @ 25mm | F10 – 1/200 – ISO200 | © Anthony Massie

If you’re shooting a car with a particularly nice looking engine bay, you might want to consider giving this transparent hood effect a try. An image like this shows off the powerful nature of a car and is sure to evoke questions from your viewers. In this article I’ll break down the step by step process that I used to create this photo of IND’s M5.

Equipment Used


1Ladder - The focal point of this image is the engine lying just beneath the hood. For this reason, it is good to have the camera positioned up high and aiming down at car in order to capture more of the engine bay in the photo. Shooting from up high also allows for an increased focal length, which keeps distortion to a minimum. However, it is ultimately your own stylistic preference that will decide the angle of your image.

2Magic Arm or Tripod - When creating a transparent hood photo it is imperative that the camera remains 100% stationary – shooting handheld simply will not work. The reason for this is because you will need to take two identical photos and later overlay one on top of the other in Photoshop. For this reason, a Magic Arm can be easily attached to the top of the ladder enabling the camera to be positioned exactly where it is needed. If you would rather shoot from a lower angle, then a tripod will suffice.

3Remote Shutter Release - This tool assists in keeping the camera 100% stationary. Standing on the ladder and pressing the shutter button can possibly move the camera - even if only slightly. This would cause your two images to be misaligned when you later overlay them on each other in Photoshop. For this reason, you should stand on the ground and used a wireless shutter remote to take the two photos.

4Lighting (Optional) - For this image I used two Alien Bee B800 strobes equipped with 36” soft boxes positioned at about 45° on either side of the car.


With your camera and lighting set up to your desired specifications, take one photo with the hood closed and one with the hood open. As for the camera settings, I would recommend using a high f-stop to ensure all the details of the engine remain in focus.

Hood Up Hood Down The two images above will later be combined to create the transparent hood effect.

Post Processing

Start by opening the closed-hood photo in Photoshop, and then place the open-hood photo directly on top of it. At this point you will have two layers: the bottom layer will be the closed-hood photo and the top-layer will be the open-hood photo. Next, reduce the top layers opacity by 50%. By doing this you will instantly begin to see the effect take place.

Images Aligned 50The open-hood photo is placed directly on top of the closed-hood photo with its opacity set to 50%.

This image is not yet complete – the hood is still floating directly in front of the windshield and will need to be removed. The next step is to add a layer mask to your top layer and fill it with black. This will remove the open-hood layer from view, thus showing only the closed-hood layer below. In the black layer mask, draw a white radial gradient extending from the center of the hood to just beyond the edges of the car to expose the engine. Try experimenting with the size and position of your gradient as well as the open-hood layer’s opacity percentage to achieve the desired effect.

Radial Gradient Layer MaskA white radial gradient drawn on the open-hood layer mask exposes the engine. Even though we started with a layer opacity of 50%, you may need to adjust this percentage depending on the color of the car and the lighting conditions.

This image is almost complete. Next, use a black linear gradient or a large soft brush to paint over parts of the white linear gradient; this will remove the remaining unwanted elements of the top layer and create a smoother transition from opaque hood to transparent hood.

Adjusted Layer MaskNotice how I changed the shape of my white linear gradient to better fit the engine bay. By doing this I was able to completely remove the open hood make the transparent hood effect more transitional.

When satisfied with your transparent hood effect, merge the two layers and continue to edit the photo the way you normally would. You’re finished! Now you have a captivating and technical addition for your portfolio that is sure to impress anyone who sees it.

IND M5 FinalNikon D90 w/ Nikkor 18-105 @ 25mm | F10 – 1/200 – ISO200 | © Anthony Massie

Anthony Massie

A professional photographer based in Southern California.

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