How To Get Started In Motorsport Photography: A Guide From An Expert

by Jan 14, 2024

So you want to get started in Motorsport Photography? How exciting.

I’ve worked as a motorsport photographer since 2012, and over that time, numerous people have asked how I get to do what I do. In fact, it’s probably the question I get asked most frequently.

While it’s easy to focus on the thrill of being trackside exhilarating moments in racing, camera in hand, that you see as a fan, there is also a lot of hard work and artistry behind the scenes as well. It’s not just a job; it’s a passion. And it has to be if you want to pursue motorsport photography seriously.

In this guide, I’ll share insights from my own experiences, shedding light on both the exhilarating highs and the gritty realities of pursuing motorsport photography as a career. If you’ve got the drive and the determination, you’re in the right place to start your journey.

The Reality Of Being A Motorsport Photographer

The Reality Of Being A Motorsport Photographer

I’m just going to hit you with the harsh, honest truth to start with. While motorsport photography is exhilarating, it also demands hard work and dedication.

Race weekends are more than what you see on TV or at the track. You might be aware that most motorsport events are three days of track activity, but there is also setup day where teams bump in, and there are a bunch of media activities. All of these days include early starts (well before the fans arrive) and late finishes, all while being subjected to heat or rain all day. All while meeting the tight deadlines of instant social media updates and news stories for websites. 

It’s also going to be extremely hard for you to get an opportunity to work with the teams and brands you want to work with. Most of them will have well-established relationships with veteran motorsport photographers who have been in the sport for years.

While on the other side of things, you’ll be among a bunch of new photographers all trying to get a foot in the door. Every year, I see so many fresh faces turn up who have secured their media accreditation for the first time, super enthusiastic and desperate to make it in a very competitive industry.

The reality is that most of these aspiring motorsport photographers will disappear after only a couple of events, while only one or two will see out the entire season and really start their journey.

All that said, if you are willing to put in the work, there are opportunities out there.

Building Your Skills

Motorsport Photography - Building Your Skills

Now, if I haven’t scared you off entirely, it’s time to work on your skills. And there is only one way to build your photography skills: go to motorsport events as a spectator and take photos… Lots of them.

Why lots of photos? It’s the only way you are going to be able to build up a diverse set of skills and develop your own distinct style. As I just mentioned, there are always many aspiring motorsport photographers looking for an opportunity, but what’s going to help you stand out from the crowd is being able to consistently deliver high-quality photos in your own unique and consistent style of photos.

While a lot of photographers are going to assume that just means occasionally nailing a panning photo and applying creative edits, there is much more to it than that:

Practice

Just like honing any other skill, practice makes perfect in photography. So keep regularly attending events and snapping away.

Don’t worry if you don’t have access to big events or different circuits at this stage. 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 continue to fine-tune your skills while finding new and interesting angles the more you keep shooting.

It doesn’t have to be the big headline events either, in fact, state and local events are an even better place to practice as you do have to contend with the big crowds and other ticketing restrictions that come with the bigger events.

Consistently practising is also essential so you are sharp and ready when you do get your chance to shoot bigger events.

Most of the essential skills for motorsport photography come down to rhythm and timing, and it doesn’t take long to get rusty with them. In fact, even we professionals need a practice session or two to get our rhythm back after the offseason.

Showcase Your Best Work

Showcase Your Best Work

The difference between getting a good motorsport photo and being a motorsport photographer is being able to consistently deliver good-quality photos.

Showcasing your best work is a great way to prove to any prospective customers that you can deliver on that.

Ideally, you would have your own website with a portfolio of your best images that you regularly update. However, social media platforms like Instagram are also a great place to regularly share your work, and create awareness of your photography.

Remember, consistently showcasing high-quality images is the gateway to creating opportunities for yourself, so make sure your account looks professional and has a decent amount of photos to show both the quality and the range that you’re able to produce. 

Many professional photographers (myself included) have successfully kickstarted their careers through social media. 

Patience and Perseverance

Like any creative endeavour, success in motorsport photography doesn’t come overnight. Patience, persistence and continuous improvement are going to be fundemental if you want to become a motorsport photographer professionally.

Motorsport photography is a highly popular and competitive field, with very few opportunities for the number of people wanting to take them – particularly here in Australia. If you’re serious about getting into it, it is going to 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 as you progress. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I’ve seen many photographers show up for a handful of events. But it’s the few that show up consistently who get noticed and eventually succeed.

Passion

Motorsport Photography Passion

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

There are very few people who earn a full-time income out of motorsport photography. It is the passion for both the sport and creating amazing images that are going to be the difference in putting in the effort to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed.

Sure, making money is great, but if you don’t love it, it will reflect in your work. People will see it in your photos, and they will see it in you.

Wrap Up

Your journey in motorsport photography starts with a passion for the craft and a commitment to continuous learning. Remember, great photographs can be taken even from spectator areas. It’s your skill and dedication that will define your success.

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

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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.

12 Comments

  1. Ashley

    My boyfriend is getting discouraged. He loves motorsport photography and have done everything to get his name out there, but nothing is sticking. Any advice?

  2. Rhys Vandersyde

    It’s not easy. But all photography careers can be like that. It takes a lot of hard work and patience. I’ll keep adding more posts here with tips and advice as I think of things and people ask me questions. I’m also considering opening up a coaching service if that might of interest?

  3. Wes Baker

    Insightful read Rhys. It’s been a journey for sure but I love taking those shots the other photographers don’t.
    I have found that some of the full time photogs don’t like helping out the ‘newbies’. Very interested in working/ learning with somebody that’s been in the game a lot longer than me.

  4. AJGr33n Photography

    This is a great read and so helpful for someone starting out. I have had many ups and downs so far as well as a number of knock backs due to not photographing for a magazine or publication. But I do it because I love it and I love to improve every time I go out by the track. I have found so far having the support of a couple of car clubs has helped me a lot with access and getting my work published more and more. Though I still seem to be stuck at that level at this point of time. I saw in your post comments you mentioned about a coaching service. I would be very very interested as I feel I am just blindly doing my best at the moment and some help and direction through coaching would go a long way.
    Kind Regards
    AJ

  5. MVFTW

    Hey ! A great write up 👍 THE question here is how to actually get paid ? How much to charge if someone hires you? Is it per hr, or per event? Or something else, what are the options? Etc etc. THANKS

  6. Rhys Vandersyde

    Great suggestions. I’ll put together an article about that over the next few weeks.

  7. Jane Knowlson

    My daughter is studying photography at university and wants to be a motor sports photographer. She is struggling to make any connections as many photographers give her the cold shoulder. She’s already the media photographer for a womens football team and has won 2 awards for her images. She has a social media account to showcAse her images and a MotoGP rider has even reposted her image of himself.
    Any connections she can make would be very much appreciated. Thank you

  8. James Pendry

    I planning to do photography at college so I can become a motorsport photographer. I’ve only been doing motorsport/car photography since 2017. I started doing it a lot last year going to a lot of events at Laguna Seca and around Monterey during Car Week, arriving at the track at gate opens and leaving fairly late. Im hoping to cover all off the major events at Laguna this year and I got an offer to get a Press Pass for the Moto America (US Moto GP) Laguna Seca round a couple weeks ago.

  9. Ben Newburn

    Solid write up! I’m hitting the decadeish in on shooting rally in the US and last year was the first where money was made. The part about being a fixture at events has paid of for me for sure. The US rally folks have seen me around their events for over a decade in various capacities including crew for teams so they know I’m about it and they trust me to tell their story visually.

  10. Matt sennett

    Hello,

    My name is Matthew Sennett and I am currently in my last year of sixth form. I am doing A Level photography, Digital Media and ICT.

    I am interested in taking up a motorsport photography apprenticeship or would be interested in hearing about any other training scheme you run in this genre.

    There is a link to my Instagram account below:

    https://www.instagram.com/i._kuva/

    Also If you do know of anyone who offers apprenticeships or training schemes I’m happy for you to forward my details on to them.

  11. LD

    Can you tell me how one goes about getting property release forms for pictures from tracks like Laguna Seca without a media pass credential? I take lots of pictures there and post on 500px but cannot find a way to get the property release to get myself out there more.

  12. Rhys Vandersyde

    If you are looking to obtain a property release, then you would be looking to sell your photos commercially. Many events and venues do have restrictions on this, so you would need to check with them directly.

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