Expert Guide to Getting Motorsport Photography Media Credentials

by Dec 26, 2023

Photographing race cars and bikes for a living may sound like a seriously cool job – and for the most part, it is. You get to see the action up close and personal, spend your days shooting at racetracks, and meet some of the world’s best drivers and riders.

However, getting into motorsport photography can be a tough gig when you’re just starting out. Obtaining media accreditations for events is something a lot of freelancers struggle with at first.

Having media credentials is not essential if you’re simply doing it as a hobby, but for those stepping up to motorsport photography professionally, a press pass can provide additional access to aid them in their work.

This includes access to the media centre, which offers a secure place to work during the day as well as trackside access in front of the crowd and slightly better access on temporary street circuits.

Better access often means better angles, more networking opportunities, and more chances of snapping photos that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Having worked in motorsport photography since 2012, I know that getting media credentials when you are starting out isn’t easy. To help you out, I put together a comprehensive guide to help you get started:

Building Your Portfolio

To get those coveted media accreditations, you’ll need to work with a well-established, reputable publication that can aid you with your application. To do that, you’ll need a solid portfolio to convince the editors you’re a competent and capable photographer.

It may seem like a closed loop: to get the media credentials, you need a portfolio, and to get a portfolio, you need media credentials for the races… Right? Not necessarily.

When it comes to permanent racetracks, there is little difference between the access that the press pass will grant you and what you can do with a general admission ticket.

Your best bet is to attend events at these tracks on a regular basis, photograph the races, and build up a good body of work that way. This will also allow you to practice your skills regularly so that you can discover your own unique style, and build a portfolio that will get you hired by a publication willing to obtain a press pass for you.

While some racing events may have restrictions on professional camera equipment, this is rare. In fact, for state and club-level events, I will often just buy a regular ticket instead of going through the process of requesting a press pass, and I’m able to do 99% of what I would normally do without one.

Before you contact publications and start the process of getting media credentials, put in the work by simply going to the races as a spectator, shooting as much as you can, and improving your skills as you go along.

Utilising Social Media

As a photographer, utilising social media is one of the best ways to get your work out there and showcase your skills.

Facebook, X (Twitter), Threads, and LinkedIn are all great platforms, but Instagram will offer you the most exposure and networking opportunities in the motorsport photography world.

Create a professional-looking account and post your best shots on a regular basis to showcase your work. When you post photos from events, don’t forget to tag the specific event, racing team, or individual driver. If they love your shots, it might just open a door for a conversation about potential work in the future.

That said, don’t rely on Instagram to do all the work for you, however. It’s about posting regularly, having a fantastic-looking grid, and sharing images that define you and your work and what you know you can consistently deliver to potential clients.

Reputable Publications

Once you’ve built your portfolio and you’re ready to take your skills to the next level, it’s time to hit up some of those bigger publications and try for the press pass.

At first, you may need to simply cold-email editors and pitch them your work. It may feel intimidating at first, but remember that overnight success is usually years in the making, so don’t stop after you get a rejection or two. It’s not personal – it’s simply that your pitch wasn’t of interest to them at this time. Keep at it, keep your pitches short and sweet, show them your best work, and you may get your chance.

Cold emails and calls aside, getting assignments is all about building relationships with the publications. When you attend events, you’ll run into other photographers and media staff working at the races; chat with them, network, and ask for tips.

Often, you may get a foot in the door just by talking to people and asking if you could show them your work or by building a rapport with other photographers who may be able to point you in the right direction.

Sometimes, it may be tempting to offer publications free work in exchange for a press pass. This is a rookie mistake. Not only will you be undermining your own work, but the motorsport media is a small community, and when other photographers find out, it might limit other potential opportunities in the future.

Once you get your first assignment, the key is to deliver quality work on time. Having a good body of work and a reputation for being reliable will go a long way in helping build relationships with media outlets. 

Getting Your Media Pass

Now that you have completed your first few assignments, you’re likely to be able to ask for the publication’s assistance in applying for media accreditation.

You may approach event organizers yourself and ask for a press pass as a freelancer, but most of the time, organizers only issue media accreditations to reputable newspapers, magazines and select websites covering the event.

If you already have a great portfolio, a solid social media following, and a few paid gigs at motorsport magazines and newspapers under your belt, you should have no trouble convincing editors to support your media credentials application.

Be sure to use these opportunities wisely. Getting a press pass doesn’t mean that you’ve made it. It just means that you got a chance to show how good you are and improve your work even further!

Have you struggled with getting media credentials as someone who is just starting out in motorsport photography? What helped you the most at the beginning? Let me know in the comments below!

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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.

8 Comments

  1. Lyazid

    Please can you clear me

    What do you mean by talking about “credentials”

    I’m French, we don’t almost use this term in France

  2. Rhys Vandersyde

    Media Pass or Media Accreditation

  3. Rob Brennan

    I am new in to motorsport photographer and that help me so much l got my frist karts race in Feb that l am looking forward to it and sart of building my new profile

  4. Lyazid

    Thanks for your answer, I find that sharing public and free advices for beginners to get into the motorsport photography field is amazingly helpful and so kind. Thanks for that.

  5. William Stanley

    How old do you need to be to start? Thanks! 🙂

  6. Rhys Vandersyde

    You can start shooting from the spectator areas, no matter how old you are. However, there are limitations applied to media accreditation, which vary from country to country and even venue to venue. I would suggest 18 is a general rule.

  7. Carlos Castillo

    Hello, I photographed as a spectator for many years with a low-end camera and a 200mm kit lens that served me well for learning and defining my style. Starting from this year, with more knowledge and better equipment, I began applying for accreditations to various events, from local dirt track events to WRC, Nascar, and WEC. Everywhere I’ve asked, they’ve said yes, except for Formula 1, but as you’ve already mentioned, it’s a challenging category. I think one thing you missed mentioning is that rallies are a great alternative for photography and learning about the business. You have the freedom to move around and be alongside elite photographers without needing a press pass because you’re in a public area. Moreover, I believe some of the most spectacular motorsport photos come from rallies

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