What Is A Carnet? And Why Do You Need One

What Is A Carnet? And Why Do You Need One

What Is A Carnet? And Why Do You Need One

If you are planning on taking your camera gear overseas to work at a motorsport event (or for any other work-related reason), you will need a carnet.

Being able to travel around the world to photograph motorsport events at some of the most iconic race tracks is extremely exciting, but it does also add some extra logistical considerations. Especially when bringing your expensive camera gear.

Take it from me: a Pelican case of equipment will always draw extra attention to you as you pass through a country’s border control. So you need to make sure you have everything in place to ensure that you don’t have any issues and get your camera gear confiscated at the border. One of those things is a carnet.

What Is A Carnet?

A Carnet, also referred to as an ATA Carnet or a merchandise passport, is a document that helps facilitate the temporary importation of goods into a foreign country without having to pay duties or taxes on those goods. The purpose of a Carnet is for goods that will be re-exported out of the country you are visiting after a short period of time. Like taking your professional photography equipment to and from an international event.

As an official document, a carnet serves as a guarantee to the foreign government that the goods will either be re-exported or that any applicable duties and taxes will be paid for those items. The carnet contains a detailed list of the goods being transported, and it is validated by customs officials each time you pass through customs, both in your home country and destination country.

Carnets are issued by National Guaranteeing Associations (NGA), which are organisations authorised by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), typically your local chamber of commerce, and are valid for up to one year.

There are two types of carnets, but the only one that applies to photography equipment is the Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission (ATA) carnet.

Why Do I Need A Carnet As A Motorsport Photographer?

As a photographer travelling internationally, particularly with a lot of expensive professional camera gear, you will need a carnet to take with you into another country for a short period of time.

Without a carnet, you may be required to pay customs duties or taxes on the equipment you are travelling with. Either when you arrive at your destination (and possibly when you return home). Additionally, you may encounter delays and difficulties when trying to clear customs, as customs officials may need to verify the value and origin of your equipment.

While you might draw too much attention if your camera gear is compact and fits into a backpack. The second you start travelling with something like a Pelican Case to keep your gear properly safe and secure, you will start to draw the attention of customs officials.

A carnet simplifies the customs process by serving as a temporary import-export document that allows you to enter a foreign country with your equipment without paying duties or taxes. The carnet acts as a guarantee that you will re-export the equipment within a specified period of time and pay any applicable duties or taxes if you do not.

If you are travelling with business-related equipment, using a carnet can save you time. Instead of being held up and being questioned about your gear, they simply check what you have, complete the carnet and send you on your way.

A carnet also ensures that you’re not permanently out of pocket and helps you avoid potential legal issues that can arise when travelling with professional equipment internationally.

Just note that not all countries require a carnet, and it’s typically only required for equipment you are bringing for professional use and not for personal use. However, it can be hard to justify personal use if you carry multiple camera bodies and lenses.

How Can I Get A Carnet?

The process of obtaining a carnet seems complicated, but it is actually fairly straightforward. But you will need to follow these steps:

Find A National Guaranteeing Association

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) maintains a directory of National Guaranteeing Associations (NGA) on its website that will issue a carnet in your country.

Typically, your local branch of the Chamber of Commerce, the NGA, is an organisation authorised by the ICC to issue and guarantee carnets within a specific country. NGAs serve as your local point of contact for carnet applications, and they provide support to individuals and businesses seeking to obtain a carnet.

NGAs are responsible for processing carnet applications, collecting associated fees as well as providing guidance on carnet usage and regulations. In my experience, they know the ins and outs of the carnet process and are very easy to deal with, so make sure you ask any questions you have to get all the information you need to ensure that your travels are as smooth as possible.

If you can’t find an NGA for your country, you can also contact your local customs authorities and inquire about the designated NGA for issuing carnets.

Provide Required Documentation

The process of obtaining a carnet can sometimes require a fair amount of supporting documentation. What this includes exactly varies from country to country. You may be asked to complete the following:

  • Application Form: You will need to complete the application form provided by the NGA. This will typically require information about yourself, your travel plans, and details about the equipment you intend to travel with.
  • Equipment List: As part of the application you’ll need to prepare a detailed itemised list of the equipment you plan to bring, including make, model, serial numbers (if applicable), and values. The values should reflect the current market value of the equipment.
  • Proof of Ownership: You may also need to provide receipts/invoices as proof that you own the equipment listed on the carnet application.
  • Valid Passport or Identification: You may also need to provide a copy of your valid passport or identification document as part of the application process.
  • Travel itinerary: The application will request the country you plan to visit and the dates you intend to travel, but you may also be required to provide a more details copy of your travel itinerary.
  • Insurance Documentation: Some NGAs may require proof of insurance coverage for the equipment being transported. This can include a copy of your equipment insurance policy or a letter from your insurance provider.
  • Security Bond: Depending on the NGA’s requirements, you may need to provide a financial guarantee, such as a bond or cash deposit, to ensure payment of any potential customs duties or taxes if the equipment is not re-exported. This could be up to 50% value of the equipment.

Just keep in mind that this process can take up to two weeks, so make sure you plan well in advance of your trip.

Validate The Carnet

Once your application is approved and you’ve received your carnet, there are a few more things you need to do. Before leaving your home country, you must have the carnet validated by customs officials, which involves the document being stamped and authorised at your point of departure.

Most of the time, this can be done at the airport just before you leave, and Customs officials will need to inspect your equipment and verify that the items listed on the carnet match the equipment you are carrying. Your local NGA will be able to tell you where to go to have your carnet validated either before or during check-in for your flight overseas.

Your carnet will also need to be validated by customs officials each time you enter and exit a new country. This part is a little easier, as customs will typically ask you to declare whether you are travelling with equipment for work or business purposes and then direct you accordingly.

Remember that once your carnet is validated, it is equally as important as your passport for transiting through countries and should be protected as such.

Return The Carnet

Once you’ve completed your travels and returned to your home country with your camera equipment in tow, you must return the carnet to the issuing NGA within the specified time frame.

You will be motivated to complete this as quickly as possible on your return home so that your security bond can be returned to you. Upon return of the completed carnet, you will be asked to complete a security bond request form to have it returned to you.

Carnet Bonds

The biggest issue with carnets is the bond. Depending on where you are travelling, you may have to pay a bond of up to 50% of the value of the equipment in order to facilitate the carnet. Although, specifically, how much varies depending on the country/countries you are visiting with your gear.

Now, the bond is such that you will get the money back after you return the completed carnet to the issuing NGA, as long as all the equipment has been returned to your home country. This should be verified by the successful completion of the carnet by customs upon arrival in your home country.

That said, it can still be a significant amount of money in holding that you can’t get access to for at least a couple of weeks upon returning home.

There is also an obligation on you to complete the carnet each time you enter and exit a country. If the document isn’t completed properly each time, you might have issues getting your bond back.

As an alternative, some NGAs will offer an insurance option to cover the bond, which is less, but you’ll not get that money back at all. Something to keep in mind.

Conclusion

It does sound like a complicated process, but it will save you a lot of heartache going through customs when you arrive at your destination. The last thing you need is to have all your expensive camera gear confiscated by customs officials for illegal importation.

And if it makes you feel any better, Formula 1 teams need a carnet to cover every piece of equipment they travel with for each and every Grand Prix. A camera bag of gear is much easier to manage.

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 Use A Carnet

How To Use A Carnet

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Best Camera For Motorsport Photography in 2024

Best Camera For Motorsport Photography in 2024

Best Camera For Motorsport Photography in 2024

Motorsport photography is quite unique, and so are the requirements of the camera gear you use to capture the action

The high-speed nature of the on-track action really pushes the ability of even the best cameras available. Autofocus tracking, frame rates and buffer size all get pushed to their limits when capturing motorsport photos.

However, camera technology is ever-evolving as different manufacturers bring new developments with each new camera body they release. With that in mind, heading into the new motorsport season for 2024, here are the best cameras available for motorsport photographers.

Canon R3

As Canon’s top tier (at the time of writing this) sports mirrorless body, it stands to reason that it would be the brand’s best-suited camera for motorsport photography and my personal camera of choice heading into 2024.

That said, Canon actually developed this camera with motorsport photographers in mind, introducing features with the R3 like vehicle subject detection autofocus and panning assist.

But what made the Canon R3 stand out to me when I tested it, prompting me to purchase the camera body when it was first released, was the speed and responsiveness of the autofocus system. Even from using the latest Canon 1DX at the time, the improvement was enough for me to want to make the move across to the Canon R3 as well as all the other incremental improvements you see with each new evolution of technology.

There are a couple of drawbacks to purchasing an R3 in 2024; firstly, it is quite a costly purchase, especially if you need to buy two of them as a professional. While aspiring professionals might find it a bit too expensive when just stating out.

Also, there are always rumours that something better is on the horizon. The widely rumoured Canon R1 could potentially be released this year. With the 2024 Olympics in Paris, Canon has a history of releasing updated versions of its 1 Series (particularly the 1DX range) cameras in the lead-up to each Olympics which would suggest that something better than the R3 may not be far away.

Check out the latest pricing on the Canon R3 – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Cheaper Alternative To The Canon R3

If the Canon R3 is a bit too far out of your budget, then the Canon R7 is a solid cheaper alternative.

A step up from the entry-level cameras, the R7 is a good middle-of-the-range option in Canon’s camera line-up. Obviously not as featured-packed as its top-of-the-line counterpart, the R7 does benefit from some of its features being filtered down – notably the vehicle subject detection autofocus mode.

The crop sensor does give the added benefit of extra reach, which certainly does come in handy in capturing motorsport photos from the spectator areas at most race tracks, but there are limitations in its speed and performance as you would expect for the price difference.

Check out the latest pricing on the Canon R7 – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Want to know the best Canon lenses for motorsport photography? Check out this post.

Nikon Z9

While it’s not enough for me to switch brands, Nikon also has some very good camera options for motorsport photography. The stand out is Nikon’s flagship mirrorless camera, the Z9.

As the undisputed top-tier camera in Nikon’s mirrorless range, the Z9 features the best that the brand has to offer, including its own advanced auto-focus system that includes 3D subject tracking of multiple subjects. From my experience with the Z9, albeit limited compared to Canon, it is equally as responsive, picking up race cars and following them without issue.

The Nikon Z9 easily beats its Canon rival with a higher-megapixel sensor but loses out with a slower frame rate for full RAW images, a smaller buffer and high ISO performance. Either way, both cameras are very good tools for motorsport photographers to use.

That said, there are a couple of other considerations when it comes to the Nikon Z9. While it is the top tier of Nikon’s range, it was only released a month after the R3. So, if Nikon wants to keep pace with whatever Canon is working on with the R1, I would expect an upgraded version of the Z9 in the not-too-distant future as well.

However, the biggest thing to consider when looking at the Z9, given that you are probably already a Nikon user, is the other cheaper cameras in the Nikon mirrorless range, the Z8 in particular. All of which I’ll get into in the next section.

Check out the latest pricing on the Nikon Z9 – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Cheaper Alternatives To The Nikon Z9

As I just mentioned, the Nikon Z8 is a slightly cheaper alternative to the Z9 with nearly identical internal specs: same sensor, same processor, same frame rate. Externally, there are some differences. The Z8 is smaller without a vertical grip and has a smaller battery, but you can purchase the battery grip, which resolves both of those issues.

Additionally, the Z8 doesn’t feature onboard ethernet and only has one CFexpress slot, its second card slot being an SD UHS-II (the same as the Canon R3).

Check out the latest pricing on the Nikon Z8 – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Alternatively, the recently released Nikon Z6III is an even cheaper alternative. Designed as a step up from their entry-level cameras, it features the frame rate and buffer size that you’d want for motorsport photography. Still, it lacks subject detection and some of the autofocus responsiveness of the other two Nikon options mentioned above.

Check out the latest pricing on the Nikon Z6III – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Sony A9III

Due to arrive in January (this week at the time of posting this), Sony’s latest iteration of its high-speed sports camera, the A9III, promises a bunch of new technology that should appeal to motorsport photographers.

The global shutter on a full-frame stacked sensor is touted as having many benefits including the complete elimination of rolling shutter. Although, if I’m honest, I’ve never seen a noticeable issue with rolling shutters in motorsport photography in any mirrorless camera I’ve used or tested. Other improvements in autofocus and 120fps shooting do seem very interesting.

That said, the A9III is expected to have less dynamic range than you expect from other Sony Alpha cameras, which isn’t ideal.

My best advice for Sony photographers is to wait until the Sony A9III comes out and is thoroughly tested before making any decisions about which camera body to purchase in 2024.

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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.

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How To Use A Carnet

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How To Photograph Light Trails In Motorsport

How To Photograph Light Trails In Motorsport

How To Photograph Light Trails In Motorsport

One of the most visually striking photos you can capture in motorsport, especially when it comes to endurance racing at night, is light trails.

Light trails make for some of the most iconic motorsport photos you’ve seen. You know, the ones – underneath the Dunlop Bridge at Le Mans, through Eau Rouge and Raidillon at Spa and down through The Esses at Mount Panorama, just to name a few.

So, how do you start adding these amazing light trail photos to your motorsport photography repertoire? Let’s run through everything you need to know.

Understanding The Basics Of Light Trail Photography In Motorsport

In its simplest form, a light trail photo is just a panning photo at night, but instead of moving with the car, you let the car move through the frame.

Just another term for long exposure photography, light trails require a slower shutter speed while controlling your exposure, to allow the lights of the race cars to draw their way through the photo as they move at speed through your shot.

Obviously, the more steady your camera is, the more success you are going to have in capturing light trail photos. But we’ll get into that shortly.

Essential Equipment For Capturing Light Trails

How To Quickly Find The Best Photo Spots At A New Race Track

The only real essential equipment you need to capture light trails is a DSLR or mirrorless camera where you can control the settings manually.

However, I’m going to suggest bringing a tripod with you is going to help you a lot. I have captured light trail photos completely handheld before, but the success rate wasn’t great, and I was really limited in how slow I could drop the shutter speed. You could also take advantage of any number of solid surfaces around the race track to stabilise your camera, but that really does limit how you compose your shot. So, light trails are one of the few instances where I really do recommend bringing a tripod with you to the race track.

Camera Settings For Perfect Light Trail Shots

What Is A Carnet? And Why Do I Need One As A Motorsport Photographer

As I just briefly mentioned, manually controlling your camera settings is crucial for capturing light trails. Here are a few of my guidelines on the settings you should use:

Shutter Speed

Using a slow shutter speed is fundament to capturing light trails. However, 3 seconds can be a long time at the start of the race. Depending on the effect you are going for and the amount of ambient light, try to make sure your light trails follow the track right through the frame. This could be as little as 2-3 seconds, or for a wider, more scenic shot, you might want to set your shutter speed to 30 seconds.

I find that for motorsport, 5 seconds is a good place to start, and then I adjust as I need to.

Aperture

Typically when it comes to capturing motorsport action at night, you want your aperture as wide open as possible. However, with the longer exposure time required to capture light trails, you really want to stop down your lens to a narrower aperture.

I find that starting somewhere around f8 is best. This will allow you to get a nice broad area in focus, something that we’ll touch on in a second.

If you find that you have too much ambient light for the shutter speed you want to use, you can progressively stop your aperture all the way down as small as it can go. This has the added benefit of a much wider focus area, but it can also introduce other artifacts into your shots, like bringing into focus any dust and debris on your sensor and creating interesting star effects with any permanent light sources in your frame.

ISO

Keep the ISO at its native low setting; for most camera manufacturers, that is ISO 100.

Increasing ISO adds digital noise to your image, and while that really isn’t noticeable on high cameras until you get into the higher ranges of its ISO capabilities, keeping your ISO as low as possible will give you the best chance at getting a great photo. Use adjustments in the shutter speed and aperture to get the exposure you are looking for first.

Focus

In motorsport photography, we tend to lean on the auto-focus capabilities of our cameras quite a lot. However, when it comes to capturing light trails, I recommend that you switch to manual focus instead.

The movement of the cars, the changing of the light, and even the complete lack of ambient light, depending on how and where you are composing your photo, can all cause your autofocus system to hunt for focus while lining up your shot, especially if your camera is still configured in its continuous autofocus mode (AI Servo on Canon cameras).

Instead, what you want to do is prefocus your camera and then switch to manual focus. What I do is look for something (a wall, tree, sign, etc.) roughly where I want my focus to be that is either lit up enough that I can lock focus on it and that I can light up enough with a torch to get focus. Then once I’ve got that spot dialed in with focus, I switch over to manual focus and don’t touch my lens again while capturing those light trail photos.

Stabiliser

If your camera is set up on a tripod, make sure you turn your stabiliser off. Sometimes, particularly in poorly lit scenes, it can bounce around because it’s got nothing to lock on to.

That said, if you are trying to capture a light trail photo handheld, definitely take advantage of your camera and lens stabilisation system. It’ll give you the best chance of getting the shot.

Tips For Capturing Dynamic Light Trails in Motorsport

Tips For Capturing Dynamic Light Trails in Motorsport

Now that you know the settings you need to dial in to capture light trails, here are a few more things you need to consider to capture dynamic light trail photos during motorsport events.

Positioning

The best light trail photos in motorsport showcase movement through a series of corners, usually including some sort of elevation change. Look to set yourself and compose your shot so that you can showcase this movement throughout your frame.

Timing

Again the best light trail photos showcase movement throughout the entire frame. So you want to make sure you anticipate the action and start the capture just before the car/cars enter the frame. Always remember, you can always adjust your shutter speed a be a bit longer to ensure that you get the shot you are looking for.

Taillights Look Better Than Headlights

This might just be my personal opinion, but taillights make for much better light trail photos than headlights. The colour and intensity just make for much better photos. Often, for endurance races at night, cars are fitted with high-intensity driving lights, which are great for the drivers to be able to see further down the road, but they are just too much for light trail photos.

Conclusion

Capturing light trails is one of my personal favourite things to do in motorsport photography. It’s a unique way to showcase speed and motion in a photo. As with all motorsport photos, when it gets dark, they can be harder to capture than you might be used to, but the resulting image is well worth the extra effort.

Want to make your nighttime motorsport photos pop… Check out my Lightroom preset specifically for your night shots. Or check out my bundle with all of my Lightroom presets to speed up your workflow.

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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How To Use A Carnet

Travelling overseas for your photography is super exciting, but taking a tonne of expensive camera gear with you can cause issues with customs when...

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Optimising Your Cameras For Motorsport Photography

Optimising Your Cameras For Motorsport Photography

Optimising Your Cameras For Motorsport Photography

The art of motorsport photography is an intriguing blend of speed and precision.

To be able to capture the essence of motorsport requires more than just a quick reaction to press the shutter button. The sport’s high-speed and unpredictable nature demands an in-depth understanding of your camera’s capabilities and how to optimise them to photograph anything that plays out on the race track.

Let’s take a look at the tools at your disposal to capture all the action, so you can tell the full story of any motorsport event you attend.

Advanced Camera Settings for Motorsport

Advanced Camera Settings for Motorsport

Autofocus Modes

When capturing high-speed action, your autofocus needs to be as responsive and accurate as possible. While autofocus systems continue to advance with each new evolution of camera body and lens technology, fine-tuning how your camera uses its autofocus will go a long way to maximising the amount of sharp photos you capture each time you are at the race track.

For an in-depth look into the settings and options you can adjust with your camera, check out this post. 

Continuous Shooting

Taking advantage of your camera’s continuous mode (burst mode) is a great way to ensure that you don’t miss any of the action. Not only does the higher frame rate increase your chances of capturing that perfect moment, but should anything unpredictable play out in front of you, you will give yourself the best possible chance of capturing the moment.

Just keep in mind that the more photos you are capturing in quick succession, the more likely you are to run into an issue known as buffering.

Metering Modes

While the “pros” will tell you that you should always use manual exposure, there is a time and a place to use the camera’s inbuilt automated modes, particularly shutter priority mode.

That said, if you are using shutter priority, then you need to make sure your metering is set up to ensure you get the ideal exposure each time. I’ve found that my exposures with spot metering and center-weighted average metering modes are too subject to variation, particularly with white and black race cars. So, I tend to stick with the average metering mode.

The real pro tip is to understand the scene that you are capturing and use the exposure compensation to either under-expose or over-expose what the camera thinks is the ideal exposure to ensure you are capturing the shots that you want. If you are shooting toward dark tarmac, you might want to under-expose the image a little. While if you are shooting backlit, you might want to over-expose the image a little.

Using Back-Button Focus

Using Back-Button Focus

Do you want to know the best way to control how and when your camera uses autofocus? It’s by separating the autofocus from the shutter button. That’s where back-button focus comes in. Check out this post to learn about using back-button focus in motorsport photography.

Just be warned, using back-button focus does take a little getting used to. I would suggest testing it out at an event or even just a few sessions where you don’t necessarily have to deliver images to customers while you get comfortable with how to use the different buttons.

Choosing The Right Lenses

Even more so than any of the settings you configure in your camera, the lenses you choose to use will have a huge impact on how you photograph motorsport events and the quality of the photos you capture.

That said, it’s not about having dozens of different lenses. It’s more about having a select few lenses that cover a range of focal lengths to be able to adapt to different shooting scenarios. To find out what lenses I recommend you need for motorsport photography, check out this post.

Understanding Lens Stabilizer Modes

Understanding Lens Stabilizer Modes

Equally as important as it is to use the right autofocus modes to ensure sharp photos, using the right lens stabilizer modes can have a huge impact on the quality of your photos.

Yes, that little switch on the side of your lens with two or three modes has a purpose and can help give you the best chance of getting sharp photos each time you are trackside. While this post is written specifically about Canon’s lens stabilizer modes, the fundamentals apply to all camera and lens manufacturers. In fact, the way that the three different setting options work is universal; the only difference is some of the manufacturer-specific terminology.

The Advantage of Carrying Multiple Cameras

No doubt you’ve seen professional motorsport photographers carry two (sometimes more) cameras with them each time they are trackside. From not missing a shot, to keeping your sensor clean, there are actually a few reasons why you should incorporate a second camera into your kit, especially if you want to take your motorsport photography more seriously.

When you are just starting out, that doesn’t mean buying two of the latest and greatest cameras. But as you progressively upgrade your gear, hang on to your older camera and continue to use it as part of your workflow.

Wrap Up

The speed and unpredictability of motorsport make capturing photos of it a unique challenge for even the most recent high-end cameras. However, with a few considerations and changes to the configurations, you’ll give yourself the best chance of capturing sharp photos each time you are at the race track.

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 Use A Carnet

How To Use A Carnet

Travelling overseas for your photography is super exciting, but taking a tonne of expensive camera gear with you can cause issues with customs when...

read more

How To Get Started In Motorsport Photography: A Guide From An Expert

How To Get Started In Motorsport Photography: A Guide From An Expert

How To Get Started In Motorsport Photography: A Guide From An Expert

So you want to get started in Motorsport Photography? How exciting.

I’ve worked as a motorsport photographer since 2012, and over that time, numerous people have asked how I get to do what I do. In fact, it’s probably the question I get asked most frequently.

While it’s easy to focus on the thrill of being trackside exhilarating moments in racing, camera in hand, that you see as a fan, there is also a lot of hard work and artistry behind the scenes as well. It’s not just a job; it’s a passion. And it has to be if you want to pursue motorsport photography seriously.

In this guide, I’ll share insights from my own experiences, shedding light on both the exhilarating highs and the gritty realities of pursuing motorsport photography as a career. If you’ve got the drive and the determination, you’re in the right place to start your journey.

The Reality Of Being A Motorsport Photographer

The Reality Of Being A Motorsport Photographer

I’m just going to hit you with the harsh, honest truth to start with. While motorsport photography is exhilarating, it also demands hard work and dedication.

Race weekends are more than what you see on TV or at the track. You might be aware that most motorsport events are three days of track activity, but there is also setup day where teams bump in, and there are a bunch of media activities. All of these days include early starts (well before the fans arrive) and late finishes, all while being subjected to heat or rain all day. All while meeting the tight deadlines of instant social media updates and news stories for websites. 

It’s also going to be extremely hard for you to get an opportunity to work with the teams and brands you want to work with. Most of them will have well-established relationships with veteran motorsport photographers who have been in the sport for years.

While on the other side of things, you’ll be among a bunch of new photographers all trying to get a foot in the door. Every year, I see so many fresh faces turn up who have secured their media accreditation for the first time, super enthusiastic and desperate to make it in a very competitive industry.

The reality is that most of these aspiring motorsport photographers will disappear after only a couple of events, while only one or two will see out the entire season and really start their journey.

All that said, if you are willing to put in the work, there are opportunities out there.

Building Your Skills

Motorsport Photography - Building Your Skills

Now, if I haven’t scared you off entirely, it’s time to work on your skills. And there is only one way to build your photography skills: go to motorsport events as a spectator and take photos… Lots of them.

Why lots of photos? It’s the only way you are going to be able to build up a diverse set of skills and develop your own distinct style. As I just mentioned, there are always many aspiring motorsport photographers looking for an opportunity, but what’s going to help you stand out from the crowd is being able to consistently deliver high-quality photos in your own unique and consistent style of photos.

While a lot of photographers are going to assume that just means occasionally nailing a panning photo and applying creative edits, there is much more to it than that:

Practice

Just like honing any other skill, practice makes perfect in photography. So keep regularly attending events and snapping away.

Don’t worry if you don’t have access to big events or different circuits at this stage. Keep going back to the same circuit; most of the permanent race tracks I’ve been to offer some great photo opportunities from the spectator areas, and you’ll continue to fine-tune your skills while finding new and interesting angles the more you keep shooting.

It doesn’t have to be the big headline events either, in fact, state and local events are an even better place to practice as you do have to contend with the big crowds and other ticketing restrictions that come with the bigger events.

Consistently practising is also essential so you are sharp and ready when you do get your chance to shoot bigger events.

Most of the essential skills for motorsport photography come down to rhythm and timing, and it doesn’t take long to get rusty with them. In fact, even we professionals need a practice session or two to get our rhythm back after the offseason.

Showcase Your Best Work

Showcase Your Best Work

The difference between getting a good motorsport photo and being a motorsport photographer is being able to consistently deliver good-quality photos.

Showcasing your best work is a great way to prove to any prospective customers that you can deliver on that.

Ideally, you would have your own website with a portfolio of your best images that you regularly update. However, social media platforms like Instagram are also a great place to regularly share your work, and create awareness of your photography.

Remember, consistently showcasing high-quality images is the gateway to creating opportunities for yourself, so make sure your account looks professional and has a decent amount of photos to show both the quality and the range that you’re able to produce. 

Many professional photographers (myself included) have successfully kickstarted their careers through social media. 

Patience and Perseverance

Like any creative endeavour, success in motorsport photography doesn’t come overnight. Patience, persistence and continuous improvement are going to be fundemental if you want to become a motorsport photographer professionally.

Motorsport photography is a highly popular and competitive field, with very few opportunities for the number of people wanting to take them – particularly here in Australia. If you’re serious about getting into it, it is going to take a lot of hard work and a bit of luck to stand out from the crowd.

Keep working away at it, keep showcasing your best work, and opportunities will start to present themselves as you progress. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I’ve seen many photographers show up for a handful of events. But it’s the few that show up consistently who get noticed and eventually succeed.

Passion

Motorsport Photography Passion

More important than anything else I’ll teach you on this blog is this: do it because you love it.

There are very few people who earn a full-time income out of motorsport photography. It is the passion for both the sport and creating amazing images that are going to be the difference in putting in the effort to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed.

Sure, making money is great, but if you don’t love it, it will reflect in your work. People will see it in your photos, and they will see it in you.

Wrap Up

Your journey in motorsport photography starts with a passion for the craft and a commitment to continuous learning. Remember, great photographs can be taken even from spectator areas. It’s your skill and dedication that will define your success.

Do you want to get started in motorsport photography? If so, what inspired you to do so? Drop a comment below to let me know!

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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.

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