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How do I get started in motorsport photography?

by Oct 14, 2019

So you want to get started in Motorsport Photography? I’ve been working as a motorsport photographer since 2012, and in that time I’ve had many people ask just how I manage to get that elusive photographer access to all these motorsport events.

Whether it’s fans lining the fences, or through social media – more and more people are wanting to know the secret to getting that elusive media accreditation, to get closer to the action.

So what I thought I would do is put together some of my tips to help out those who are trying to follow in my – or other motorsport photographers’ – footsteps.

First Things First

But first, I want to put a disclaimer out there… most of the people I spoke to thought this kind of thing would solely be ‘fun’, some thought it would be a good opportunity for them to take better photos, whilst many assumed it was easy – “Oh, I could do that if I really wanted to – after all, you’re just taking photos”.

Now don’t get me wrong, at times it certainly is fun, and taking photos at some tracks gives me a great opportunity to capture images at unique and interesting angles.

But if you’re going to assume it’s going to be easy then you’ve got a bit to learn. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into being a Motorsport Photographer – both from the technical side of things and in managing to make a name for yourself. If you want to make a career out of it, it’s nowhere near as simple as rocking up and taking some snaps.

A lot of fans out there don’t see the early starts, the late finishes, all the running around, and the tight deadlines to meet. Yes, it’s a great career that I’m very passionate about, but it’s far from plain sailing – both on the way to becoming a professional, and maintaining that status when you’re there.

So, if I haven’t discouraged you already, here are my tips for getting started in Motorsport Photography.

Take Photos (Lots of Them)

There is only one way to find your own unique style – both in motorsport photography or any other type of art or skill – and that is to create.

So as a photographer, the first step is to take a lot of photos. Having your own style is the only way to stand out from all the other people trying to become motorsport photographers as well.

It’s a way of getting your name out there, and being recognised by both racers and potential clients. So take lots of photos, work out what you like about them, what you don’t like about them, and how you can improve.

Look at other peoples’ photos too, and work out what you like and don’t like in their work, as it’ll give you a better understanding, and allow you to be more objective about your own.

Practice To Get Better

Similar to my previous point, but just like honing any other skill, practice makes perfect – keep on attending events and snapping away.

Even if you 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 find new and interesting angles the more you keep shooting.

Also try to find the local events that you can shoot regularly. Look for local hillclimbs, motorkhana’s, rallies – there are all sorts of events out there to help you keep shooting and finding new and creative ways to capture them.

Practice To Not Get Worse

As well as teaching you the skills and knowledge in the first place, once you’ve become a proficient photographer, practicing helps keep your eye in.

You might find it surprising, but even after doing this for years, if I’ve had a few of weeks off it takes me a session or two to get my eye back in, and get back to my usual quality.

After the off-season, it could take as long as a day to get back into the swing of things properly, and getting my pans smooth again. I always try to shoot something similar – usually mountain biking – before the first big motorsport event of the season, just to try to get back into the routine.

Having time off is fine, but even the best athletes in the world have to keep practicing if they want to stay there.

Share Your Best Work Online

Since the rise in social media (I mean, who doesn’t use it nowadays?), sharing your work with others is both easier and harder than ever.

Easier in the sense that anyone is able to set up a profile on various sites and have their photos seen from all over the world, but harder because everyone is trying to do just that, and trying to stand out from the rest can seem impossible.

Nevertheless, take advantage of social media – there are some great photo-specific social media services like Instagram, Flickr and 500px for sharing your work to showcase what you can do. As for sites like Facebook and Twitter, you’ll find your photos have a very short life span outside of the few people who see them initially, so you’re better off putting more effort into the photo-specific social media sites.

In ways, your Instagram account can look like your CV – and can be the first thing any potential clients sees of yours. So be sure to make your account look professional, and have a decent amount of photos on there to show both the quality and range that you’re able to produce. You might not gain hundreds of followers overnight (or ever, in fact), but simply having your work out there is essential when it comes to showcasing what you can do.

Many people in the racing world have opened up their careers through social media – there’s a huge array of possibilities out there on the web, so if you’re not there too, you could seriously be missing out.

Patience

Like building any other type of serious career, as much as you might want it to, it’s not going to happen overnight.

Motorsport Photography is a highly popular field, with very few opportunities for the amount of people wanting to take them, particularly here in Australia. If you’re serious about getting into it, it’ll 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; the photographer who turned up to a couple of events is easily forgotten, but the photographer who’s always there will get noticed eventually.

The Most Important Thing…

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

There are very few people who make their full-time income out of Motorsport Photography here in Australia, and not that many more globally. If you actually enjoy the process taking photos, you are going to be willing to put in all the work it’s going to take to get better, and those early starts and long days won’t seem like such a chore.

Sure, making money is great, but if you don’t love it, people will see it in your photos, as well as in you. And for those who think they need media accreditation to take great photos, all the photos featured in this blog post have been captured from general spectator areas.

Yes, that’s right even the photo from the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix was taken from the general admission area.

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

Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand.

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