How To Price Your Motorsport Photography

How To Price Your Motorsport Photography

How To Price Your Motorsport Photography

I don’t know why this is such a taboo topic not just in motorsport photography, but even in general. Short of point blank asking other photographers. Even then, it is the most avoided question among shooters.

It’s understandable as not one price fits all situations and there are a few factors that going into pricing photography. Top tier Formula 1 teams pay a lot more than a junior karter.

What makes pricing doubly difficult is there are literally hundreds of motorsport fans out there willing to give away photos for free. Be that because they think it might lead to opportunity or just don’t understand the value of their photo.

Pro Tip: If somebody wants to use one of your photos, it has an inherit value. I’m not saying that you must send an invoice for a lucky shot that you got as a fan, especially if you are not trying to pursue motorsport photography professionally. But that photo has value, and you should get something in return.

So how do you price your motorsport photos?

There are three models that professionals typically use when selling their images: individual photo sales as a photo package, or at an hourly/daily rate.

Both methods have benefits and are suited to a variety of business structures.

Per Photo

Per photo pricing is straight up the most difficult to give you a definitive answer in terms of price.

Pricing on single photo usage really depends on how it is intended to be used and this can vary greatly.

A driver wanting to use a photo on social media is a very different prospect to a sponsor using the same image for an advertising campaign.

Obviously, it’s unreasonable to charge a local junior karter in the thousands for an image to post on social media and it’s equally unreasonable to only be paid $20 for a photo used in a national marketing campaign.

That’s why I personally try to avoid this method of pricing where possible, especially with regular customers.

It’s a clumsy model that requires you to ask a lot of questions, which can be both frustrating for you and the customer. It is also very hard to explain when approaching new clients.

That being said, it’s not uncommon to be approached by a competitor, who is not a customer to view your work through social media or within the media and reach out to discuss single image rights.

This is one of the few times where it’s not unexpected to ask questions about how the person/business intends to use your photos and demonstrates professionalism in doing so.

So how do you price single images?

If you are dealing with a reputable media outlet, (magazine/website etc) it should have a rate card for the images used.

The less reputable outlets will try to take advantage of naive photographers and is an unfortunate part of the industry. If the media outlet doesn’t have a rate card or isn’t willing to give you a price per image, then it’s not worth pursuing a relationship in the future.

For top tier motorsport (we’re talking Formula 1, IndyCar, WEC, WRC etc), if you would like to get an idea the value of a photo, agencies like Getty, AAP and Motorsport Images list their photo individual sale prices as well as the usage limitations they have for those prices.

For commercial usage it’s much harder so more questions need to be asked. Just keep in mind that some series (F1, WRC, Supercars etc) don’t allow images to be sold commercially if media credentials have been awarded and there are significant consequences if this occurs.

If you are allowed to sell images commercially, then enquire about the project budget to get an understanding of where the customer is at. The overall budget, if given an answer will save you from underselling your work by a large amount.

For individuals, again just be careful about what rights you’ve signed away when you accepted your media credentials, but I’d be less concerned about under selling yourself. Instead focus on building a relationship that enables you to sell photo packages (see below) at future events on an ongoing basis.

Photo pricing for individuals is a very arbitrary thing. I’ve had people tell me that $5 is way too much for a single photo and others tell me that $50 is a bargain. It depends on the shot and where the customer is coming from. Be prepared to negotiate a little.

I’ll give you some tips on how to find your price in the market in the next section.

Photo Packages

If you pay attention to professional motorsport photographers, you’ll quickly work out each will have a group of customers that to cater for.

It’s really the only way to be able to cover all costs (particularly travel expenses) and turn a profit each race weekend. This is a livelihood after all.

The easiest way to manage this is to offer photo packages.

What a photo package includes, will vary greatly between photographers and each of their client’s needs. But that’s all part of building the relationship with each customer.

Some photographers will offer a strict limit of photos they include as part of their package.

I tend to be a little more flexible with mine given that no two tracks are the same and there are a number of factors outside of my control, which dictate how many photos can be captured during a race event.

At the end of the day a photo package is about documenting the race weekend for your customer and providing a collection of images that best showcase their story from the event

How should you price your photo packages?

Again, this isn’t a one price fits all situation. What I have is a tiered pricing model based on different levels of motorsport.

If you are just starting out and covering a small club event at your local track, a $100 per package is a very fair price to deliver between 10-20 photos for a two-day race meeting with a couple of on track sessions (maybe two hours of on track running in total).

However, this price should not be transferred to a national stage or a large, high profile event.

Progressing through the various levels of motorsport, images have further uses other than social media updates and keepsakes, which include press releases as well as to supply to sponsors.

This needs to be factored into your pricing.

The best way to find out prices is to ask other photographers and this can be done by building a rapport within the media centre. By developing a friendly relationship an accurate or near enough answer should be forthcoming, which will ensure there isn’t a major undercut in price.

I could give you my pricing, but that’s not a universal answer and this blog is read by aspiring motorsport photographers from around the world and my packages are not relevant to many potential customer bases of the readers.

The best way to find a good price point is to gradually increase until clients push back. This
will give you a definitive answer as to what the value of your photo package is in the marketplace that you are serving.

You might lose a couple of sales in the process, but you will quickly work out what your best price point is.

Hourly/Day Rates

Hourly and Day rates are a little harder to manage in motorsport photography especially during a race meeting across multiple customers.

You will find it is very uncommon for professional motorsport photographer to use this pricing model for race meetings, and if they do, it’s certainly not charged out at an hourly rate.

If you are in the very fortunate position of being approached by a customer to work exclusively for them, be that for a race meeting, but more likely a sponsor ride day, manufacturer event or test/media day, then offering a day rate is your best option.

An hourly rate is too variable and each day at the track is very different. You might plan to start early but get held up with fog or the car might have issues that require a lengthy stop in garage.

If your pricing is based specifically on hourly rate, all the customer is thinking in the price racking up.

Instead, I stick with a day rate which just gives customer certainty of what the price is and give you a little more flexibility if things don’t run smoothly.

How should you price your day rates?

Your day rate should factor in the time spent at the venue, as well as editing and delivery of images. Travel cost should also be considered since you are working exclusively with one customer.

If you are just starting out and have some basic photography gear, $300 is a reasonable day rate for a local track. This equates to $30 per hour for 10 hours to cover 7-8 hours at the track plus 2-3 hours to edit and deliver images.

Obviously, this is just a very conservative starting point, so as your skill improves and invest in better, more professional gear, as well as refine your editing process an increase can be considered.

Pricing yourself for these style of track events with a day rate will give your customers peace of mind that they have a fixed cost and it’s much easier for them to include that in their racing budgets for the year.

Another note, if your customer only needs a few hours, then a half day rate is perfectly acceptable middle ground.

Pro Tip: My half day rate is usually 60-70% of my full day rate, because a half day is never truly a half day and it is difficult to get two half day bookings to line-up perfectly on the same day.

At the end of the day, pricing your photography is all about finding your value point in the marketplace you are serving.

I know everyone wants to shoot Formula 1, IndyCar, WEC and those top levels of the sport, but start out with the local club events then as you hone and develop your skills and then as you grow you can move your way up to high level events with a refined offering and proper understanding of the value you are offering.

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Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

How To Remove Stuck Filters/Polarisers

How To Remove Stuck Filters/Polarisers

How To Remove Stuck Filters/Polarisers

As a motorsport photographer, filters definitely come in handy.

You might be using UV filters to protect the front of your lens, or polarisers that just make everything better, but it becomes a real pain when they get stuck!

Polarisers can be particularly tricky with the rotating front element, so how do you free them up when they do get stuck?

Rubber bands

In my kit bag, I always have a rubber band or two to help get a grip on filters when I need to remove them.

It’s a fine balance between putting on filters too tight, and not tight enough, especially when you use polarisers.

Too loose and the filters come straight off when you adjust the front element. Too tight and you can’t get them off when you need to.

In order not to lose or damage a polariser (they are an expensive piece of glass after all), I tend to lean on the side of over-tightening.

This is where the rubber bands come in. At the end of the day, the extra grip and being able to lock both elements of the polariser make it a hell of a lot easier to get them off.

As with all things photography, you can buy a special tool, but a rubber band will do the trick 95% of the time.

Jar Lid Gripper

If you want to get fancy about it, a kitchen jar lid gripper will also do the trick.

These non-slip rubber pads will definitely help you get better leverage on your filter.

You could use this instead of, or in addition to the rubber band method that I just mentioned.

In personal experience, the kitchen jar lid gripper option works much better with UV and ND type filters. The moving parts of polarisers, particularly the narrow part closest to the lens make this method awkward.

Temperature

In the event that the filter is properly stuck, try cooling down your lens.

Metal expands when it’s hot, so if you’ve been out shooting in the sun all day then you might find you just can’t remove the filter. That’s perfectly normal.

When you get back to the media centre, leave your lens on the desk to cool down (hopefully the air conditioning will do the trick) for as long as you are able. You should find it significantly easier to remove the filter once it’s cooled down.

In the event that doesn’t work, after the race meeting, try putting the lens and filter in the freezer. Ideally, you should cool the filter more than the lens to help create some separation between the two and there are a couple of ways to do it.

It’s much easier with smaller lenses, you can stand them up on with the filter on something already frozen to help with the cooling process.

Just make sure you put the lens in something watertight, a plastic bag of some description. Getting moisture inside your lens is not a good thing.

If you are being super cautious, you could also put some of those silica gel moisture remover satchels in as well, just for good measure.

Oil Filter Wrench

In the event that you really have an issue getting your lens off, duck down to one of the garages (preferably one with team members you know) and see if they have an Oil Filter Wrench in their toolbox.

The strap style wrenches, when paired with rubber bands or something else to give you a better grip on the filter and give you that extra bit of leverage.

Just be careful not to over tighten the wrench if you would like to use the filter again.

If all else fails?

In the event that none of those work, then you might need to use a little brute force. You will most likely damage your filter but at the end of the day a filter is only a couple of hundred dollars and a lens is a couple of thousand.

I have never had to resort to this method personally, even with cross-threaded filters, one of the previous methods has always worked.

Desperate times, call for desperate measures!

Using pliers forcefully grip the outside of the outside edge of the filter and twist it. This won’t work for polarisers as is. You will need to smash the front element at the very least (probably both elements) to get the required grip on the whole metal frame of the filter to remove it.

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Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

How To Keep Safe While Taking Photos at Motorsport Events

How To Keep Safe While Taking Photos at Motorsport Events

How To Keep Safe While Taking Photos at Motorsport Events

Motorsport is dangerous, it’s quite literally written on the back of every ticket and in each program.

Highlight reels demonstrate the risk associated with the sport and for photographer’s safety is paramount due to the areas accessed adding emphasis to the extra responsibilities to do the job in the safest way possible. This not only for our own safety, but to allow future photographers the same access we’ve been granted.

Every incident has consequences and for us photographers it always seems to be losing access to great photo spots.

So, what can you do to keep safe at motorsport events?

Here are my best tips and advice for a good safe day working as a photographer at the track.

Pay attention to the photographer brief.

This might not be the case at every track/venue around the world (unfortunately I have not been to every track out there), but a lot of tracks will conduct some sort of photographer safety brief. Be it a formal meeting or a simple piece of paper a track map and some notes.

WRC is particularly good at this with a meeting and a full suite of notes.

If it’s a track that you’ve never visited before, or one that you haven’t been to in quite some time, please pay attention to this. You’ll get very important information, especially about areas that you aren’t allowed to take photos from.

If there is a designated “No-Go Zone” it’s probably for a good reason and the last thing you need to be doing is arguing with an official about where you are and aren’t allowed to stand.

It’s also worth keeping any track map/notes in your pocket so if you are pulled up by an official and you are in the right spot, you can show them (without being argumentative, they are volunteers after all).

Always keep a safety barrier between you and the action.

This one should be common sense, but more than once I’ve had to pull up a first timer (or at least someone with limited experience), who has put themselves in a precarious situation.

For circuit racing this is immediately obvious. It’s usually the concrete, armco or earth bank barriers around the circuit. If there isn’t one of these between you and the cars, you are absolutely in the wrong place.

In other types of motorsports like rallying, off road or hillclimb events this isn’t always possible, but you should always try to have some sort of natural barrier between and the oncoming cars.

These style of non-track specific motorsport events, it’s really important to never position yourself on the outside of an exit of a corner. In the event that something goes wrong (which as we discussed previously is the spectator appeal or motorsport, so it does happen), this is the most likely place for a car to go off. Ideally, you should position yourself on the inside of the corner.

If you are unsure of where a safe place to stand, watch to see what other more experienced photographers are doing. If no one is using a particular area, it’s probably for good reason and if you are really unsure, ask another photographer to give you some tips about safe places to stand.

Pro Tip: Professional motorsport photographers will often be quite protective of their favourite/best shooting spots around different venues, but if you ask them about some safe places to shoot from you might get some insider tips on good places to shoot at different circuits.

Presence awareness

This is just a fancy name for using your senses to be aware of what is going on around you.

It can be very easy to focus down the barrel of your lens and miss what is going on much closer (or further away) to you. Especially if you are using a long zoom lens like a 400mm or 600mm.

If I’m not pushing the shutter button at that very second, I’ll usually be looking over the top of my lens to see what is going on at the time. It’s also a great way to be able to react to crashes and other high action moments out on track.

Use your other senses to understand what might be happening as well is also important. The screeching of tyres is always a dead giveaway that someone has lost control even just for a split second. While the unmistakable sound of two cars colliding is also a fairly solid indicator.

Other sounds that could indicate an issue could be cars running over ripple strips, kicking up gravel, the change of engine note, or even the response of the crowd.

You’ll often see me at the track with earphones in, but I’m not jamming out to tunes. Instead, I’ll have the track commentary dialled in so I know what is happening around the circuit.

A very useful tool in being able to tell the story of a race photographically, but also to understand if and when something has happened on the circuit, a car leaking fluid, an incident etc.

Always have an escape plan.

In the event that something goes wrong, where do you go?

It’s worth having a think about when you arrive somewhere you haven’t shot from before.

Some places it will be quite easy to duck behind a wall, there could also be plenty of open space behind you to move so it’ll be easy to workout.

Other places where spectator fences are close to the barriers, or in the tight confines of street circuits it might warrant a few extra seconds of consideration.

Another thing to keep in mind, is that a lot of the barriers around circuits move, armco and temporary concrete barriers in particular, so make sure that you account for this also.

Give yourself a bit of a buffer and not be hard up against the fence.

All in all, in being a motorsport photographer there are risks that we need to accept, it’s part of the nature and the thrill of the sport, but these are risks that can be mitigated.

At the end of the day, it’s hard enough to maintain the access to great photo spots around circuits that we do have, with safety gurus easily able to prove how dangerous where we are able to stand is.

The last thing we need to give them any more reasons to make our lives harder.

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Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

Using Back Button Focus In Motorsport Photography

Using Back Button Focus In Motorsport Photography

Using Back Button Focus In Motorsport Photography

As a photographer the one thing you need to nail is focus. You can make any number of creative decisions, but if the subject of your photo is out of focus it will be absolutely unusable.

Now in motorsport, there is the added challenge the subject can be travelling at in excess of 300km/h, which is even a test for the best autofocus systems in the world’s premium sports cameras on the market.

So how do you make sure your photos from on track are in focus?

The best tool available on modern cameras is separating the focus button from the shutter button and that’s where back button focusing comes into it.

By default, all digital cameras are setup with a half press off the shutter button to focus before a full press to take the actual photo. No doubt something you are very familiar with.

However, in DLSR and Mirrorless cameras you can change the button configuration to use one on the back of the camera to focus. This method is known as back button focus.

So what is back button focus specifically?

Back button focus is a simple technique that separates the focusing from the shutter, so you are able to apply them individually.

This is achieved by changing the settings in your camera and allocating the autofocus function to a separate button on the back of the camera.

Some cameras have a designated button for this feature enable this, notably the AF ON button on Canon and Nikon cameras. In other manufacturers cameras, you can replace the function of another button with autofocus.

But what is the problem with having the shutter button do both jobs?

There are a number of reasons to change this, firstly being able to pre-focus.

In motorsport things happen quick. Really quick! To maximise your potential to get sharp in focus shots of a particular section of the track you can pre-focus so the camera doesn’t need to hunt to find the target.

Secondly, there are times where we don’t want the camera to be adjusting focus. Particularly while taking panning shots if you have focus set-up in AI-Servo mode (that’s a whole article for another time).

While panning, pre-focus on a particular area of the track and then bring your attention to using a smooth motion to get clean crisp shots. Not bumping around the camera pushing different buttons.

Finally, composition.

This is becoming less of an issue as the latest mirrorless camera offer nearly 100% focus coverage. But on DSLRs – even the top tier ones – focus points were heavily centred in the middle of the frame. And in motorsport photography, we rarely want the subject of out photo dead centred in the frame.

Are there any drawbacks to using back button focus?

Switching to back button focus takes a little getting used to. So, I have it set up on all of my cameras. Even ones I wouldn’t necessarily use at the track. It’s a rhythm and feel thing.

In fact, these days if someone hands me their camera it takes me a couple of seconds to remember the regular way of using the auto-focus.

So, if you don’t get it straight away never get too concerned. It will take a bit of practice until it becomes natural.

Just make sure that you give yourself time to adjust that won’t impact on paid gigs.

Check out these deal from our supporters:

Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

How To Organise Memory Cards As A Motorsport Photographer

How To Organise Memory Cards As A Motorsport Photographer

How To Organise Memory Cards As A Motorsport Photographer

Storage and memory cards become an important area of focus when the seriousness level of your photography grows.

To highlight this, across my three cameras on a race weekend I will easily use 40 memory cards and for larger events this amount is generally not enough.

This is a lot of cards to keep track of making it integral to not misplace or lose these as the images cannot be captured again. It also important to not format cards without downloading the images or backing up your library.

With all these considerations, how do I organise my memory cards?

Let’s get into it.

Why have so many cards?

First and foremost, I don’t want to be in a position to have to format a single memory card until the event is over. In fact, I don’t format my memory cards until I’ve made it back to the office to make sure I’ve got multiple back ups of the images I’ve taken first.

There are two key reasons for this. If you don’t have to format a card during the event, you take away the possibility of accidentally formatting the wrong card and losing images that you have managed to download yet.

Unlike many other types of photography, high action sports like motorsport can’t simply be recaptured the next day making it imperative to not risk losing any images that customers have purchased for any reason.

Secondly, having a copy of every image captured during an event serves as a backup until I’ve had a chance to create multiple of these.

During motorsport events, the days are long and the turnarounds on images are tight meaning the opportunity to sit down and back up everything properly at the media centre is rarely possible.

Downloading your images to the computer, while still leaving them on the card will give you at least one extra copy if you have an issue of any sort during or shortly after a race weekend.

To take this to another level, all professional cameras offer dual card slots. I set mine to record to both cards, creating another separate copy in the scenario a card fails during an event.

It’s rare, but card failures can and do happen.

How to make sure you don’t lose memory cards?

This one is fairly straightforward.

I make sure I use memory card wallets to prevent this, which store enough to fill each slot and my camera at all times.

It’s a quick and easy visual reference, if there is an empty slot, there is something missing. I never just pop a card into my pocket or leave one on a desk in the media centre. I always make sure all the cards are in their place when I’m moving around.

Not only are these cards expensive, but due to being so small are easily misplaced or can fall out of your pocket while travelling around the circuit making it almost impossible to locate.

So how do you keep track of which cards have been used?

I have an organised system in my memory card case that helps me visually identify which cards are empty, have remaining storage or are ready to be downloaded.

Memory cards face up (with all the manufacturer branding) as pictured are fresh cards that have been formatted and are ready to be used.

The memory cards face down (with the blank space to record your details) are the cards that have images on them that have need downloaded.

While cards that are sideways (in the instance of my CF cards) or upside down (SD cards) are the ones that need to be downloaded to the computer.

I might take an extra second to think about while you are trackside or getting preparing to head back out, but it’s a system that has saved me plenty of times from checking which cards need to be downloaded at the end of a long day at the circuit.

Given how quickly things happen during motorsport events, it’s these little checks that you put in for yourself that make life so much easier.

This organisation technique saves you from explaining to a customer why they haven’t received images from a particular session.

Unless of course they didn’t make it out on track, it is motorsport after all.

Check out these deal from our supporters:

Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

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