How To Get F1 Media Accreditation
The ultimate goal of any motorsport photographer is to be able to work at the pinnacle of the sport and photograph Formula 1, right? But how do you actually go about getting that extremely rare F1 Media Accreditation?
It’s a process, and it’s not easy. Trust me. After working in the sport for a decade, I’ve only been fortunate enough to get a media pass to photograph F1 a handful of times. So if you are just starting out, it’s going to take a fair amount of hard work and dedication if you want to do the same.
I’ve lost count of the number of people who have come up to me at top-tier events asking how they can get a photographer vest, but as soon as I mention that they need to put in the work in the lower tiers of the sport first, they lose interest very quickly. So, much like you can’t just show up and say, “Hey, I’m a really good driver; you should let me drive an F1 car this weekend.” you can’t just rock up to a Formula 1 race having never shot a motorsport event before in your life and expect to be able to jump in at the top.
With that in mind, if you’ve never had media credentials before, I’d strongly recommend you read this post so you can start working your way through the ranks and give yourself the best chance to photograph Formula 1 in the future.
All that said, let’s have a look at what you can do to increase your chances of getting those all-important F1 media credentials.
Build Up A Solid Bank Of Work
I know I just mentioned it, but you need to build up a solid bank of work. Not only to help convince a potential media outlet that you are up to the task of photographing Formula 1, but you’ll also need something to show the FIA as well.
Yes, when you submit your F1 Media Accreditation, they are going to want to see examples of your published work. That means links and tear sheets of work that you’d already done in motorsport that has actually been published. As you can imagine, everyone wants to photograph Formula 1, and with so few passes actually available, the FIA is in the unique position to be able to hand-pick out the best/most impactful publications and associated photographers to ensure the sport gets the best coverage possible.
“But how do I build up a Formula 1 portfolio if I need accreditation to photograph F1?” I hear you ask – Well, you don’t you just need a solid portfolio of motorsport work. The publication you apply through needs to have a solid record of covering F1, but what you submit just needs to be a good representation of your work in motorsport. Although the higher the profile of the events, the better you will look.
Build A Relationship With A Reputable Media Outlet
To my previous point, you need to associate yourself with a reputable media outlet. But one more factor you need to consider is that any publication you work for will be limited in the passes they get access to.
They have to pick the people that are going to help them deliver the best possible coverage of Formula 1 to ensure they continue to get passes. However, most publications will only get one or two FIA passes. So they have to be very selective as to who they assign them to.
To give yourself the best chance to be one of those people that your publication chooses, you need to build a solid relationship with them. Reaching out a couple of weeks before your local Grand Prix is unlikely to be enough.
How you go about that is entirely up to you and how you interact with your customers. But please don’t be the person who offers to work for free just to get a pass. Anytime you are doing work, there needs to be an exchange of value.
To this point, I’ve repeatably mentioned how limited media passes are for F1 events. However, you can give yourself a better chance by working for an international publication.
Being a global sport, Formula 1 and the FIA do give preference to foreign and international publications. If you really want to photograph F1, particularly your local race, you will give yourself a better chance if you pursue accreditation through an international outlet – especially one where it won’t be cost-effective for them to send someone out to the race.
Keep in mind that most publications use photography agencies that cover every race, so just because they report on Formula 1 doesn’t mean they need a photographer. But there is certainly no harm in asking.
Pro Tip: This doesn’t just work for Formula 1 races; this works for almost all major motorsport categories. So if you are struggling to get accredited, try to build a relationship with an international outlet.
What Is It Like To Photograph Formula 1?
Truth be told, the on-track elements of photographing Formula 1 are not too dissimilar from other motorsport events. Sure, F1 cars are fast, and they change direction very quickly, but that’s not the biggest difference you will notice. That said, you might need to bump up your shutter speed a bit more than normal.
Actually, it’s easier to work at a Grand Prix over other motorsport events, given the amount of clear track time before and after F1 sessions to ensure that they run to the TV schedule. It’s very different from your local club meet, where they jam in as much track activity into the day as possible.
However, the biggest difference you’ll notice at a Formula 1 Grand Prix is all the off-track stuff you will need to cover. Even before Netflix released Drive To Survive, Formula 1 drivers were elite and given how limited access was, it was a big deal to get candid photos of them, especially interacting with fans – all part of telling the complete story of a race weekend.
A job made very difficult given that access to the pitlane is very restricted, and the garages are very much off-limits except for those few photographers who work directly with teams. This makes sense, given that Formula 1 teams spend millions of dollars are spent chasing 0.001s, so they are very secretive about what they have on their cars.
Now that Drive To Survive is a thing, Formula 1 drivers are now up there with A-List celebrities (at least some of them), so getting those paparazzi-style off-track photos has become even more important. And even harder to get with the swarms of adoring fans all trying to get selfies and autographs. So the off-track photos are just as important (if not more so) than anything you capture on track. Keep that in mind.
One last thing… When you get the opportunity to photograph Formula 1 for the first time, make sure you pay attention to guys and girls who get to do it at every round. You’ll learn a lot.
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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