How To Get Media Credentials As A Motorsport Photographer
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 most fascinating athletes this way.
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 may not be essential if you’re simply doing it as a hobby, but for those looking to get into professional motorsport photography, a press pass can provide 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 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 others.
Having worked in motorsport photography since 2012, I know that getting media credentials as a newbie isn’t easy. To help you out, I put together a comprehensive guide of how to get started:
Building Your Portfolio
To get those coveted media accreditations, you’ll need to work with well-established, reputable publications that can get you your press pass. And to do that, you’ll need a solid portfolio to convince the editors you’re worth your salt.
It may seem like a closed circle: 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 more 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 on a regular basis, shoot the races, and build up a good body of work that way. Practice your skills as often as 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.
Utilizing Social Media
As a photographer, utilizing social media is one of the best ways to get your work out there.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, 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 racer: if they love your shots, you may just get featured on their accounts and get your name out there this way.
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.
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, and 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 are 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: you’ll be undermining your own work, and with the exception of doing a one-off trial, it’s best to steer clear of giving publications work for free.
Once you get your first assignment, the key is to deliver quality work on time. Having a good body of work and a reputation of 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 finally get that 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 newspapers, online news portals, and magazines 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 organize the media credentials for you.
Be sure to use these opportunities to the max: 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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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.