Creative Compositions for Motorsport Photography

by Jul 1, 2024

Motorsport photography is more than just taking snapshots of cars on the track. Anyone with a camera (even a phone) can do that. It’s an art form that showcases the dynamic, action-packed, high-speed nature of this sport that we all love.

One of the best ways to bring your motorsport photos to life with interest and intrigue is to use one (or a combination) of creative composition techniques. Let’s take a look at some of the compositions you can use to enhance your photos.

Slow Shutter Speed Panning

Creative Compositions for Motorsport Photography - Panning

The best tool in our arsenal to encapsulate the action and drama of motorsport as photographers are panning with a slow shutter speed.

I’ve already covered the basics of panning and how to use it in motorsport photography in this blog post. Once you’ve mastered the art of panning, you can start to use it creatively to enhance your photos even further.

From using incredibly slow shutter speeds to using your background and foreground elements to enhance the feeling of speed and motion in your photos, there are a number of ways you can use panning creatively when composing your motorsport photos.

For an in-depth guide, check out my How to Master the Art of Slow Shutter Speed Panning blog post.

Rule of Thirds

Creative Compositions for Motorsport Photography - Rule Of Thirds

It’s a simple one but often overlooked; using the rule of thirds is an easy but effective way to enhance the composition of your motorsport photographs.

If you are not familiar with the rule of thirds, it is very simply dividing your frame into nine equal parts using two horizontal and two vertical lines. Most modern cameras have this grid built-in as an option when you look through the viewfinder, to allow you to keep it in mind while composing your images.

Positioning your subject, usually a race car or driver, at the intersections of these lines helps create a balanced and engaging composition.

Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure you give your subject (particularly the race car) somewhere to go in the frame. An easy way to do this is to keep the nose (front of the car) pointed towards the centre of the frame.

Learn more about this technique in my post, Mastering the Rule of Thirds in Motorsport Photography Composition.

Negative Space

Creative Compositions for Motorsport Photography - Negative Space

Negative space is leaving an empty, distraction free area around your subject to bring greater focus to it. In motorsport photography, it can also be used to convey a sense of speed and motion.

This is best done when focusing on a single car (or bike) and letting the absence of distractions in the surrounding area highlight its movement through the image. You just need to make sure that the negative space complements the subject without overwhelming the frame.

A simple but effective way to use negative space in your photo is to shoot from a low angle and include a lot of sky in your frame.

You can dive deeper into how to use this technique in my What Is Negative Space & How Do I Use It to Convey Motion in Motorsport Photography blog post.

Leading Lines

Creative Compositions for Motorsport Photography - Leading Lines

One creative composition that you will see used quite a lot in motorsport photography is Leading Lines, and for good reason.

Leading Lines create a visual pathway that directs the viewer’s eye towards the main subject of your photo. These can be natural or man-made elements, which there is an abundance of at race tracks, including the painted track lines, barriers, or even shadows.

The main thing you want to keep in mind is that you compose your frame so these leading lines draw attention to where you expect the car (or bike) to be. You can further enhance Leading Lines when you use this creative composition in conjunction with other techniques like panning or negative space.

Explore more about this approach in my Using Leading Lines to Enhance Your Motorsport Photography post.

Dutch Tilt

Creative Compositions for Motorsport Photography - Dutch Tilt

Some people love it, some people hate it, but Dutch tilt, or Dutch angle, involves tilting the camera to create a diagonal horizon line through your frame. This unconventional angle can add an extra sense of speed to your photos.

The biggest thing to keep in mind with Dutch Tilt is that there is a very fine line between a dynamic creative composition and it just looking like you were falling over while taking the photo. That said, when done properly, it amplifies the sense of speed, chaos and movement through the photo.

For detailed instructions, refer to my What is Dutch Tilt and How Can You Use It to Convey Speed in Motorsport Photography post.

Experimenting with Angles and Perspectives

Creative Compositions for Motorsport Photography - Experiment With Angles

The best thing you can do as a motorsport photographer to add creativity to your compositions is to experiment with different angles and perspectives.

By varying the angle at which you capture your photos, you can emphasise different aspects of the action, such as speed, power, and scale.

By getting down low, you can emphasise the speed and power of the vehicles, making them appear more imposing and dramatic.​ Alternatively, by getting up high and photographing from elevated positions, you add context and highlight the complexity of the on-track action.

Conclusion

There are a number of creative compositional techniques that you can utilise, either individually or in conjunction with each other, that will significantly improve your motorsport photography. The next time you are trackside, try to experiment with these different methods but be sure to review your photos and refine how you use these techniques.

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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