Keeping The Creative Spark Alive As A Motorsport Photographer
Do you keep going back to the same race track over and over again and taking similar photos?
Trust me; I’ve been there. In fact, I think you will find that almost all motorsport photographers have experienced this at some point in their careers.
It is very easy when you go back to the same tracks regularly and keep photographing the same categories all the time to fall into a routine of capturing certain photos. And while these photos are very good in their own merit, they start to become repetitious for your customers and uninspiring for yourself as a photographer.
And there is nothing worse than getting to the end of a race weekend and not being happy with the photos you captured, especially in our own personal high standards that we often set for ourselves as creatives.
So what can you do to keep the creative spark alive and continue to capture great motorsport photos that you are really happy with? Here are a few tips from my own experience that might just help you.
Seek New Perspectives
For some people, this might be obvious. But I give myself a mission to seek out a new perspective that I have not photographed before each time I go to a circuit.
As a motorsport photographer, it’s easy to fall into a routine of shooting from familiar angles and positions. To reignite your creative spark, you also need to challenge yourself to explore new perspectives.
Try shooting from unconventional angles, maybe wander into the crowd and look at the track from a different viewpoint. At the end of the day, you might not be happy with all the shots. However, you often need to try different shots to find new creative ways to showcase a venue.
Try Different Lenses
You’ve got the go-to lenses that you attach to your cameras the moment you arrive at the media centre. I know it because I do it as well. But what would happen if you tried some different lenses?
From personal experience, I know that I tend to look for photo opportunities based on the lenses I have mounted to my cameras at that particular time. While I’ve built up that skill over years of experience, it’s almost become second nature to the point where I sometimes can’t see other photo opportunities that might be present. And I’ve got no doubt you do something similar, whether you realise it or not.
So why not mix things up by using a different lens than what you typically use? Maybe spend a day using that wide-angle lens that typically sits in your camera bag that you don’t tend to use very often. Maybe it’s not a wide angle, it’s a fixed prime, but we’ve all got that one lens that we bought that we thought would be great but never seems to get used. Give yourself the objective to use it for a full day and see how it sparks new creative ideas in your motorsport photography.
If you are a member of your camera manufacturer’s professional services, you could also ask them to borrow a different lens for a race weekend. It’s often included as part of your membership, and while we typically use it to temporarily replace gear being cleaned or repaired, why not use it to try something new? If you shoot with a 400mm, try a 500mm or 600mm lens. Ask them to try out a super wide angle or even a fisheye lens. How about a wide aperture fixed prime that you never used before?
It’s all about forcing yourself to look at things differently, and you’ll be surprised at where new and unique photo opportunities present themselves.
Attend Different Tracks And Events
I can tell you right now that the number one thing I can do for my creativity is to go to a new circuit or event.
New and different events and venues are always exciting (and sometimes a little scary). The simple process of doing something different will force you to look at your motorsport photography with fresh eyes. Best of all, I’ve found that fresh perspective also carries over to events and tracks that I regularly cover, at least for a little while.
Even if you have to pay to travel and attend the event as a spectator, being able to challenge yourself in a new environment with a category that’s been on your wishlist to see for some time is going to be massively beneficial when you return to your regular tracks and customers.
As such, I budget for and actively pursue opportunities to cover international events, particularly ones off my bucket list. Especially ones that fall outside of my usual schedule of events.
Take A Day To Explore
Do you have to travel to motorsport events around the country (or the world)? How often are you going straight from the airport to the track and vice versa? Or do you drive straight home after a big race weekend?
I’ve found that spending an extra day in the destination of the venue and doing something not specifically motorsport related (although visiting the odd car/transport museum often happens) is a great way to reset and not feel like you are just bouncing from race track to race track. When you start out as a motorsport photographer, any opportunity to be at a race track is amazing fun. But as you start to return to the same venues over and over again, you’ve got to look for other ways to make it fun and keep the travel exciting. Otherwise, if it starts to feel monotonous, so will your creativity.
So I do recommend that you take the opportunity to take advantage of the travel (where you can) to spend an extra day doing something touristy or even just different to keep that fun factor alive. As an added bonus, the flights after are often cheaper, and the traffic is often less heading back home a day later than everyone else.
Take Breaks and Recharge
Spending days on end trackside can be both physically and mentally demanding. It is normal towards the end of the motorsport season or after longer endurance race events to need time to reset and recharge.
As you start to cover more and more motorsport events, you may notice that physical and mental fatigue sets in, and your creativity suffers as a result. When you do, it’s okay to take a break away from the sport, especially at the end of the season, and even your camera gear and do other things for a little bit.
At the end of a long season, I’ve covered at least 30 different motorsport events. After the last one, my camera gear won’t get touched for at least a few weeks to give myself a chance to get away from it for a bit.
End-of-season fatigue is a real thing, but once you’ve given yourself that break to recharge, you’ve quickly become eager for the new season to start again so you can get back into it. I know; I go through it every year.
When you start in motorsport photography, everything is new and exciting, so it’s really easy to be creative and feel like you are capturing great images each time you are trackside.
But as you start to cover more and more events at the same venues, it can be hard to hold on to that new and exciting feeling that often sparks much of our creativity. Make sure you look out for opportunities to keep your motorsport photography fresh and new. Otherwise, if you start to feel unenthusiastic and uncreative, that will be presented in your images, and it will be really hard for you to keep motivated to keep creating.
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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