How I Got My Start As A Motorsport Photographer

How I Got My Start As A Motorsport Photographer

How I Got My Start As A Motorsport Photographer

Another one of the questions I get asked fairly frequently by aspiring photographers is: how did I become a professional motorsport photographer?

At the heart of the question, they are looking for information and tips about how they, too, can get their foot in the door and pursue motorsport photography as a career. But there is more to the story than just one particular moment.

So, let’s delve into the story of how I got my start in motorsport photography on my way to becoming a professional motorsport photographer.

My Passion For Photography

I’ve always had an interest in taking photos, starting out with those disposable Kodak film cameras as a kid.

With the development of small digital cameras that would fit in your pocket (long before smartphones took over this role), carrying a camera with me all the time became second nature. I’d always have one with me as I travelled around, be that for work or for leisure.

As most young people do after finishing school, travelling overseas was high on my priority list. While I’d taken the opportunity to go to a couple of countries, however, it was one fateful trip to Canada, in particular, the majestic landscapes of Banff, that made me take my photography a little more seriously. You see, the photos I took with my little point-and-shoot camera really didn’t do the scenery justice, and it was upon returning from that trip that encouraged me to purchase my first proper DSLR camera – A Pentax with a twin lens kit.

It took me a little while (and another trip to Canada, funnily enough) to really understand the nuances of my DSLR camera. But I’ve owned a “proper camera” ever since – well, except for a short stint where the Pentax was stolen from my car, but that’s a story for another day.

That drive to take better and better photos and to do the scene in front of me justice, especially as I travelled more and more, forced me to understand my camera and work on different composition techniques. Something that I still work on to this day.

My Passion For Motorsport

Humble beginnings as a Flag Marshall

In parallel to photography, I always had a keen interest in motorsport, despite no one else in my family really passionately following it. Watching Formula 1 replays and Supercar races on TV was a weekend ritual for me as a kid. Bathurst and the Australian Grand Prix, in particular, were full weekends glued to the TV.

Despite watching motorsport on TV for many years, I didn’t get a chance to go a track in person until my Dad took me to my first Supercars event at Eastern Creek (now Sydney Motorsport Park) when I was still in school.

It was at this event I was introduced to the concept of volunteering as an official. As you might notice when you are at the track, the track commentary mentioned a few times that they were always looking for volunteers. A couple of years later, and after a couple more trips to Eastern Creek and Oran Park as a spectator, after finishing up school, I decided to try my hand as a flag marshal and spent a few years volunteering as one at Sydney Motorsport Park.

Over that time, I had the chance to be a flaggie at a range of events, from state rounds to Supercars and the A1GP (remember when that was a thing?), and it was that time trackside that allowed me to learn and get an insight into the behind the scenes of the sport at all different levels. Something that would come in handy later when I returned to the sport as a photographer.

Ultimately, I’d stop volunteering after a few years, mostly because my boss at the time wasn’t overly happy with me regularly taking Fridays off work. But it was an extremely valuable experience that I still find valuable to this day.

Interests Combined

After walking away from volunteering at the track for a few years, I still maintained a keen interest in the sport and followed all of the major motorsport categories on TV. I even went back to the track sporadically as a spectator, camera in hand.

Taking photos from the spectator side of the fence, the same drive that pushed me to take better and better photos while travelling, also existed at the track. As I took more and more motorsport photos, I wanted them to showcase what drew me into the sport: the speed, the action and the bright, vibrant colours of the cars’ liveries.

Getting my camera out of “sports mode” took a few events. In fact, I don’t even think that’s an option on new DSLR and mirrorless cameras anymore, anyway. But once I did and started working on my panning and composition, my photos noticeably improved. That continued improvement encouraged me to go to more and more events as a spectator.

One Fateful Event

To this point, I’d been building a career in IT and taking photos just for fun. However, one fateful evening MOTOR Magazine were hosting a track night event at Sydney Motorsport Park, and I decided to go down and take some photos of it. Again, just for fun.

After sharing the photos on Facebook, a friend of mine who happened to work at MOTOR reached out about some of the shots I took, looking to feature them in an article in the magazine potentially. Not thinking much of it, I sent them a link to the photos that I took from the event. Completely unedited. However, to my surprise, they wanted to use a selection of those photos to be featured in a multi-page spread in the May 2013 issue of the magazine (featured below).

Prior to this, I never really thought that there was more to my photography than taking good photos for my own benefit, but having someone else (who actually knew a thing or two about the media, and working in the industry) show interest in my photos really sparked me to more actively pursue opportunities and take my photography even more seriously.

Featured in MOTOR Magazine


In taking it more seriously, I made a conscious effort to get to even more events as a spectator and really work on my skills. In fact, I spent one entire weekend taking panning photos to fine-tune and smooth out my technique.

With each new event, not only did the composition of my photos improve, but so did my selection and editing technique. So when I seized the opportunity to pitch a few other automotive/motorsport events MOTOR that fit in with their brand, without the expectation of the photos being published, I could give them a better refined and edited selection of photos.

To be honest, at this point, I just wanted the experience. Fortunately, the team at the magazine were quite receptive to my ideas, and each of those events that I pitched turned into their own multi-page spreads for the magazine, which was quite cool.

If you’ve got copies of MOTOR Magazine from this time, you can see a considerable improvement in my subsequent features.


The one thing I tell everyone who wants to pursue motorsport photography seriously and try to make a career out of it is that you’ll need perseverance.

You can’t just show up to one event, take one amazing photo and have the world open up to you, despite what I said in the previous section. That wasn’t just the result of one photo. That was the culmination of years of practice, regardless of whether I was actively pursuing motorsport photography as a job or not.

Even then, that was only one publication that not even 12 months later would go through a change of ownership, consolidation and change of editorial team, which would ultimately mean they’d bring in their own preferred photographers. Unfortunately, that has and will always be part of the industry.

However, what established me in the industry was taking the opportunity that was opened up to me and making the decision to do as many motorsport events as I could, including the full Supercars Championship.

It wasn’t easy – from convincing my boss to give me the time off, to having to pay all the expenses of travelling to these events out of my own pocket with very little expected income at the time, it was quite a big commitment at the time. But it was that commitment to show up consistently to all the events over the course of that year (and subsequently) that allowed me to build the connections and customer base that would ultimately allow me to make this a career.

The nature of motorsport photography is that many, many people want to do it. Every new season, I see dozens of new photographers show up trying, promising the world, and even poaching some of my customers, only to disappear after a few events. What will make you stand out is showing up consistently over a long period of time.

The Pay Off

I’ve now been fortunate enough to have been working as a motorsport photographer for over ten years. Covering an amazing range of events, not only all across Australia but even internationally.

However, none of these opportunities has just been handed to me; it’s taken a lot of perseverance and building connections, even as people change roles in the sport. Media outlet editors will change, drivers will come and go, and team PRs will move on to roles with different teams, or even out of the sport entirely. Especially at the end of each season.

Nothing about a career as a motorsport photographer is easy; it takes time, but the payoff is some truly amazing opportunities.

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.

How To Clean Your Camera Gear

How To Clean Your Camera Gear

Motorsport photography subjects our camera gear to some of the harshest conditions possible - especially off-road and rally photography. The...

read more

How To Clean Your Camera Gear

How To Clean Your Camera Gear

How To Clean Your Camera Gear

Motorsport photography subjects our camera gear to some of the harshest conditions possible – especially off-road and rally photography.

The inherent nature of what makes motorsport so appealing to photograph, also means our camera gear often ends up covered in dust, dirt, tyre debris and, on the odd occasion, champagne.

So how do we go about cleaning our camera gear? And even more importantly, stop all the dirt and debris from getting inside our camera. Because, let’s face it, there is nothing worse than getting a series of great shots, only to find sensor dust spots on every single one of them.

Let me take you through how you should clean and maintain your camera gear after each motorsport event.

Firstly – How Dirty Is Your Camera Gear?

First things first, if your camera gear is visibly covered in dust and debris, you really want to avoid opening it up, especially dismounting lenses.

Much like the rain, the weather sealing on pro-level camera bodies and lenses does a pretty good job of preventing moisture, dust and dirt from getting inside your camera. But the second you dismount your lens, that seal is broken, allowing anything on your camera to get inside.

If you’ve just shot a rally, off-road event or even speedway, I’d strongly recommend giving your camera gear a proper cleaning before you even consider taking off your lenses.

For other motorsport events, this is a little less crucial, and a simple wipe over might be all you need to do before packing up your gear for the day.

So do you need to clean your camera gear? Let’s take a look.

Camera Cleaning Tools

Rocket Blower

Something every photographer should have in their camera bag is a rocket blower.

A rocket blower is designed to allow you to direct “clean” airflow to blow away loose dust and particles from cameras, lenses, sensors, and other delicate surfaces.

The best way to use a rocket blower is to position your camera or lens so that the loose dust or particles can easily fall away when dislodged. Facing them downwards allows gravity to assist in dust removal. This is especially important when using them to help clean your camera sensor and the mounting end of your lenses.

Just be careful when using a rocket blower inside your camera. While the airflow from the rocket blower is really good at dislodging dust stuck on your sensor, make sure it does directly touch the sensor, which could damage the sensor.

Microfiber Cloth

I’ve got several microfiber cloths in my camera bag, just because I’ve accumulated them from camera manufacturers and other photography brands over the years, but you should always have at least one with your camera equipment.

Why? They are the only thing you should be using to wipe dust and smudges (usually fingerprints) off the delicate glass elements of your lenses and filters.

I know it’s very easy just to grab the corner of your shirt to quickly dust off the front of your lens (I’m guilty of this one, too), but the other fabrics can (and do) scratch off the element coatings that lens manufacturers use to reduce glare and reflections in your lenses. Or worse yet, properly scratch the glass.

The best way to use a microfiber cloth is to apply light pressure and move the cloth in a gentle circular motion to remove dust and smudges.

Sensor Cleaning Swabs

I want to start this one with a disclaimer – Anytime you touch your camera’s image sensor, you run the risk of damaging it. It is a very sensitive component of your camera. So, if you aren’t confident about the process, you might be better off getting your local camera store or camera manufacturer’s professional services team to clean it for you.

With that in mind, a sensor cleaning swab is a specialised tool used to clean the image sensor inside your digital camera. The electrified nature of the image sensor means that it does tend to attract and accumulate dust and other contaminants over time, leading to visible spots or blemishes in your photographs.

Sensor cleaning swabs are designed to effectively remove this debris as safely as possible.

There are several different styles of sensor cleaning swabs, most of which are fine, but I would avoid any that use a “sticky” element to remove dust and dirt, as this will leave residue on your sensor, which could either damage the sensor or make it even more likely for dust and debris to get stuck back on the sensor.

Keep in mind that sensor cleaning swabs are single-use items, so make sure you purchase a few and leave a couple in your camera bag, especially if you have multiple cameras, as most motorsport photographers do. You don’t want to remove dirt from one camera only to drag it across the sensor of your other camera.

Compressed Air

In most instances, the rocket blower is more than enough to dislodge dust and dirt from your camera. However, for more heavy-duty cleanings, especially for rally and off-road events, a can (or two) of compressed air is very handy.

Back to my point earlier in this post, if your camera is very dirty, compressed air is a very good way to quickly remove a lot of dust quickly. That said, I only ever use compressed air on the external surfaces of my camera gear, making sure all the internals are covered, either by keeping the lens attached or using the lens caps etc.

The nature of compressed air, the air pressure, the moisture and the temperature, can damage the internals of your camera. Especially if you accidentally freeze part of your sensor.

So, while it’s not something I keep in my camera bag, I do usually have a can of compressed air in the office if I need it. And, if I know, I’m going to cover a gravel/dirt-based event, I’ll make sure I pick one up to have with me in the lead-up.

Mr Sheen and Soft Paint Brush

Full credit for this tip has to go to the team at Nikon Professional Services, who helped me out during a particularly dusty rally event, even despite using Canon gear.

Very fine dust can be super tricky to get off your camera before taking off your lenses, even with compressed air. That’s where a small amount of a multi-surface polishing agent like Mr Sheen (available in Australia, the UK and a few other countries) and a soft paintbrush come in handy.

Basically, Mr Sheen (or any other multi-surface polishing agent) helps the brush collect the fine dust, getting off the camera.

Start out by spraying a small amount of Mr Sheen on either the bottom of the camera or the grip (basically away from any of the buttons and openings), and then dab the paintbrush in it and wipe it over the areas where you are having the most issues with the dust and dirt. The brush will allow you to get the dust and dirt out from all the small gaps and seals, especially around the buttons and dials.

Just make sure you don’t get Mr Sheen on any of the glass surfaces. It can leave a streaky residue.

Anti-Bacterial Surface Wipes

I always keep a packet of anti-bacterial surface wipes in my bag because the cleanliness of cheap hotel rooms is often a little bit dodgy – especially those near race tracks.

However, where they come in handy from a motorsport photography perspective is when you are caught up in the podium celebrations – particularly the spraying of champagne.

When champagne drys, it turns into this sticky goo that is a real pain to get off your camera gear. I’ve found that these style surface wipes are really good at getting that off your camera gear.

Just don’t use them on the glass surfaces of your camera and lenses. They do leave a streaky residue.

If you do end up with champagne on your lens, a slightly damp microfiber cloth is your best option to remove it. But really, make sure you get to it before it starts to dry.

Professional Cleaning

How To Clean Your Camera Gear - Professional Cleaning

If all else fails, see a professional.

It goes without saying, that if you are working professionally as a motorsport photographer, you should probably be a member of your camera manufacturer’s professional services program.

One of the services they offer, which are often complimentary as part of your membership, is camera and sensor cleaning. I’d strongly recommend that you take advantage of that service.

At the end of each season, immediately after the last event, I basically drop off my entire camera kit with Canon Professional Services (because, for me, they are located on the way back from the airport). I get them to do a full clean and service any non-urgent issues that have popped up with my gear during the course of the year. Then I can pick it all up a week or two later, ready for the next season.

Tips For Cleaning Your Camera Gear

One of the most important things to keep in mind when cleaning your camera gear is to be conscious of how dusty/dirty the environment you are doing it in.

As with changing lenses, anytime the internals of your camera are open and exposed, there is the possibility of dust and dirt getting inside your camera, which could make the problem worse than it originally was.

Try to avoid using tissues, paper towels, or any abrasive materials when cleaning your camera gear. They will most likely damage your lens coatings.

This is more of a preventative measure, but if you are planning on storing your camera gear (especially over the off-season), use silica gel packs in your camera bag to absorb moisture and prevent mould growth, especially in humid environments. This will save you a lot of issues later.

Cleaning camera gear requires patience. Rushing through the process can lead to mistakes, which can make the issue worse and potentially damage your gear.


As motorsport photographers, our camera gear tends to end up in the harshest of conditions of any genre of photography. This makes it especially important to make sure you have good processes for cleaning your gear, if solely for the purpose of keeping dust and dirt out of our image sensors.

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.

How To Clean Your Camera Gear

How To Clean Your Camera Gear

Motorsport photography subjects our camera gear to some of the harshest conditions possible - especially off-road and rally photography. The...

read more

Keeping The Creative Spark Alive As A Motorsport Photographer

Keeping The Creative Spark Alive As A Motorsport Photographer

Keeping The Creative Spark Alive As A Motorsport Photographer

Has your motorsport photography started to feel stale?

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.

Wrap Up

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.

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.

How To Clean Your Camera Gear

How To Clean Your Camera Gear

Motorsport photography subjects our camera gear to some of the harshest conditions possible - especially off-road and rally photography. The...

read more

Capturing The Action: Overcoming Camera Buffering In Motorsport Photography

Capturing The Action: Overcoming Camera Buffering In Motorsport Photography

Capturing The Action: Overcoming Camera Buffering In Motorsport Photography

Have you ever been photographing trackside, and then all of a sudden, something major plays out in front of you, so you hold the shutter button down in hopes of getting as many shots as possible, only to hear your camera slow down and struggle to take photos? You, my friend, have hit your cameras buffer.

It’s the worst feeling, sitting there waiting for your camera to clear the buffer while something, usually a significant crash, plays out in front of you.

The first time it happens, you might think there is something wrong with your camera. But after you’ve experienced it a few times, you start to understand what it is and when it is most likely to happen.

What Is Camera Buffering

Camera buffering is when you hit the limit of the temporary storage capacity (buffer) of your camera by taking multiple images in rapid succession. This can happen more frequently when you capture photos in burst mode or continuous shooting mode.

Your digital camera doesn’t write photos directly to your memory cards. Instead, it writes the image to a temporary internal storage, known as the buffer and then transfers that image to your memory card to make room for the next photo you capture. As a result, when you take multiple photos in quick succession, the images fill up the camera’s buffer faster than they can be written to the memory card.

With that in mind, buffering happens because the camera’s image processor is recording images faster than the write speed of the memory card allows it to receive the data and clear the images out of the buffer. While the buffer can hold a small number of files while they are being written to the memory card (the number of images and the size of the buffer varies from camera to camera), once the buffer becomes full, the camera slows down or stops taking new shots until it can transfer the images from the buffer to the memory card.

What Causes Buffering And How To Fix It

Now that we’ve discussed the fundamentals of what buffering is, what causes it? Well, there are actually a number of factors that could cause you to experience buffering with your camera.

What Causes Buffering And How To Fix It

Large File Sizes

It goes without saying that the larger the file size of the photos you are capturing, the faster the buffer is going to fill up.

If you are capturing photos in your camera’s full, uncompressed RAW format, the file size is going to be significantly larger than shooting in the compressed JPEG format. And as a result, it’s going to take fewer photos in quick succession for your camera’s buffer to fill up if you are shooting in the RAW format and longer for those files to write to your memory card.

In addition, the bigger your camera’s sensor (the more megapixels it can capture), the larger the files are going to be, both in RAW and JPEG. Keep this in mind you are photographing a motorsport event with two different cameras. One might be more inclined to hit the buffer during those high-action moments than the other.

Slow Memory Card Write Speed

The speed at which the camera can transfer the images from the buffer to the memory card depends ultimately on the write speed of the memory card. The slower the write speed of your memory card, the more likely it will become the bottleneck, causing buffering delays regardless of how modern and fast your camera is.

This can present itself if you buy a newer camera (especially with a larger file size) but continue to use your older memory cards that you’ve had for several years. Something that is more common when using SD Cards as while the card format has remained the same, the technology within them has continued to improve, leading to faster and faster write speeds.

Just keep in mind that different memory card technologies have different write speeds. This is particularly important to note if you are using a camera with dual card slots.

Most current mirrorless bodies from Canon, Nikon and Sony (at least from the middle to the top of their range) will offer dual card slots. Typically one is for a CF Express (XQD) Card, and the other is for an SD Card. And while there are many benefits to recording photos on both cards, the SD Card is always going to be significantly slower (even the latest generation of highspeed (SDHC) high capacity (SDXC) cards) than the CF Express (XQD) Card. It’s just the difference between the two technologies.

I’ll put together a post shortly about the different memory card technologies as well as recording images to two cards at the same time and how they can affect your motorsport photography.

Memory Card Formatting And Maintenance

Have you noticed that your camera is buffering more often than it used to? That might be associated with how you format and maintain your memory cards.

If you move and/or delete your photos off your memory cards without formatting the cards, little trivial artifacts of data remain on the cards. While this may seem insignificant, when your camera writes the next photo to the card, it needs to record the image in and around these small remnants of data. Slowing down the process of writing the image to the memory card, regardless of how fast it is.

The best thing you can do to not only ensure the best performance out of your memory cards but also extend their lifespan is to format the cards within your camera once you’ve downloaded the photos to your computer (and made sure you’ve got sufficient backups).

While your could format your memory cards in your computer, that has a tendency to introduce other data artifacts. So I recommend sticking with formatting the memory cards within the camera itself.

Also, make sure that you avoid getting dust and dirt in or on the pins of the memory cards. When this ends up in card slots, this can reduce the contact between the camera and the card leading the data read/write issues. This could present in slow write performance and buffering but could also lead to data corruption and losing your photos.

While less of an issue with modern cards, with older CF (Compact Flash) cards, you also have to be mindful not to bend the pins in either the camera or the card reader, which could also cause similar issues.

Slow Camera Bus Speed

Occasionally there can be an anomaly in the way camera manufacturers design and build their cameras where the bus speed isn’t sufficient enough to allow images to transfer at the full write speed of the memory card.

One example that comes to mind is the Canon 5D Mark 3. When writing to the CF (Compact Flash) card, the camera would operate at its optimal performance. But if you used an SD Card, no matter how fast it was, you would most certainly hit the buffer because of a limitation in the bus speed of the SD Card slot.

You could get around this by not using an SD Card slot, but it did take away the benefits of using a camera with dual card slots, like always having two copies of your photos.

Camera manufacturers do their best to future-proof their camera bodies, but they are limited to the technology available at the time. So if you have an issue where you hit the buffer regularly on an older camera (particularly DSLRs), buying the latest and fastest memory card may not be the instant fix you are looking for.

Burst Shooting

Shooting in burst mode or high-speed continuous mode is something we do a lot of in motorsport due to the highspeed action-packed nature of the sport, but it is also this capturing of rapid series of images in quick succession that is most likely to cause your camera to hit the limit of the buffer regardless of how good your camera is or how fast your memory cards are.

Higher-end cameras like the Canon R3, Nikon Z9 etc, are built with this in mind and feature larger buffers to give you more time before hitting its limitation, but regardless of the camera, if you sit on the shutter button too long enough, you will find the limit.

I typically leave my cameras in burst mode or high-speed continuous mode so that if something unexpected happens, I can capture it, at least until I hit the buffer. But I’m also mindful to only hold the shutter button down briefly to ensure that I don’t capture too many photos at any one time so that the buffer is as empty as possible just in case something unexpected does happen.


Did you know temperature can impact the performance of your camera? While more common when recording long segments of 4K (and 8K) video footage, large continuous bursts of large photo files (RAW files) can cause your camera and memory cards to heat up – particularly when using CF Express cards.

You might have already noticed this temperature either while holding your camera while taking a lot of photos in quick succession. But when using CF Express cards, you’ll also notice it after you’ve downloaded photos onto your computer. The card can and will get significantly hot both when writing and reading large amounts of data. This will be exacerbated when your camera is out in direct sunlight on a hot sunny day trackside.

When the cards do start to heat up, as a method of protecting itself from overheating, your camera will slow down write speed which will also trigger buffering.

So keep in mind that high temperatures can impact the camera’s overall performance, including buffering. If you find this happening, particularly during a hot day trackside, put your camera in the shade while not using it to reduce its temperature.

Wrap Up

As a motorsport photographer, more so than any other genre of photography, you are almost certainly going to experience camera buffering at some point. Being a high-action sport, we tend to push that element of cameras harder than most other photographers.

But by understanding what buffering is and what can cause it, you can take steps with both the equipment that you use and your shooting technique to minimise the impact that buffering can have while trackside.

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.

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How To Photograph Formula 1

How To Photograph Formula 1

How To Photograph Formula 1

Formula 1 – Not only is it the pinnacle of motorsport, but with the recent resurgence in popularity from the Netflix series Drive To Survive, it seems everyone wants to get in on the action and capture awesome photos of F1 cars.

Now, no matter if you’ve photographed motorsport before or it’s your first time, I have an abundance of tips that will help you get some awesome shots at the next Formula 1 Grand Prix you attend.

That said, most of these tips also apply to all other forms of open-wheel motorsport. From Formula 2 and Formula 3 that, you might also see running at Formula 1 events through to development series like Formula 4 and Formula Ford. In fact, the only open-wheel series that some of these tips might not apply to is IndyCar, where the aero screen makes it more like photographing prototype sportscars.

If it is your first time taking photos at a motorsport event, there are a few basics you’ll need to understand before you get there (and read the rest of this post). I would start with my getting started in motorsport photography guide but also read these posts about speed and motion (panning), shooting through catch fences and how to adjust your autofocus for high-speed action.

For those of you who are experienced motorsport photographers looking to get FIA accreditation to work at your first Formula 1 event, check out this post.

Now with all of that out of the way, let’s dig into all of my best tips on how to photograph Formula 1 – or any other open-wheel motorsport category, for that matter.

Formula 1 Is Fast, But Not How You Might Expect

You’ve seen Formula 1 cars on TV, you know they are fast. If you’ve photographed motorsport before, you should have some idea of what it’s like to capture images of cars coming at you at high-speed.

But it’s not the outright speed you need to account for when photographing F1 cars on track. It’s how quickly they stop and change direction that will catch you out. The braking efficiency and aerodynamic effect of Formula 1 cars mean (more so than any other category of motorsport you might photograph) that you need to understand where the cars are going be and what they are going to do before they get there to capture nice sharp images.

If you are photographing F1 cars as they are braking on the approach to a slow corner, typically where the best grandstand seats are, they will reduce speed very quickly. That can make it very hard to get smooth panning photos, and it also pushes the limits of your autofocus system in your camera to be able to adjust to make sure your photos are properly in focus, especially photographing cars head-on.

The same also applies when photographing Formula 1 cars as they go through corners. They change direction very quickly and hold much more speed through corners than other categories. So instead of trying to follow the car through the corner, at least initially, watch a couple of cars go through the corner so you can predict where they are generally going to be (try to line up the apex of the corner is easiest) and use that to compose your photo and pre-focus to be able to ensure you get the best possible photo. Especially when shooting through catch fences.

Once you’re more confident in predicting how the F1 cars are moving through the corner, you can try something a little more advanced, like panning with them.

Bring The Longest Lens You Can

Bring the longest lens you can, even if you have media accreditation to shoot Formula 1 (which you can find out more about here); the safety measures of most race tracks will mean you are far away from the actual circuit.

Now there is one big caveat to this. If you are a spectator on a regular admission ticket, some venues won’t allow you to bring in a big professional lens that requires a monopod.

Even if you’ve been to the same track before for another event and been allowed to bring your big lenses in, the rules will most likely be different during a Formula 1 event. The extra security and shear volume of people means different rules will apply, and it will be worth checking before you head out to the circuit.

That said, some of the “less professional” lenses are still very good with excellent reach. Canon, Nikon and Sony all offer lenses that you will be able to shoot the on-track action from the stands without spending tens of thousands of dollars or having to carry a big professional lens around that security might not allow you to bring into the venue. Check out this post for my lens recommendations for motorsport photography.

Focus On The Helmet

How To Photograph Formula 1 - Focus On The Helmet

If Netflix has taught us anything, the Formula 1 drivers are the stars of the show. And one of the unique aspects of open-wheel motorsport, of which Formula 1 is the premier category, is the ability to see the driver’s helmet.

So, if you are photographing Formula 1, you need to bring focus to the driver’s helmets. There are a couple of different ways to do this, depending on how and where you are shooting from, but the goal is always the same.

For more static photos, when shooting with a high shutter speed, this can be achieved with good focus and a shallow depth of field. That can be hard when a car is approaching you at 300+kph, but at slower corners where you are closer to the action, it’s worth trying so you can get those awesome F1 photos.

When panning, you want to focus on following the driver’s helmet with a smooth action to ensure that is the part of the resulting photo that is sharp. Particularly important when taking panning photos when you aren’t directly side on to the car. The resulting blur will bring greater emphasis to the driver’s helmet and, subsequently, the driver.

Once you get good at getting the shot, try slower and slower shutter speeds for a more dramatic effect and much more dynamic photos.

Use High-Speed Burst And Auto Focus Modes

Given the high-speed, action-packed nature of Formula 1, you want to lean on all the tools you have at your disposal to get those amazing photos. High-speed burst and servo-autofocus are two of those tools built into almost all digital cameras.

High-speed burst mode will give you the maximum chance of capturing those high-action moments Formula 1 is famous for. Sure, you’ll end up with a lot of extra photos if you sit on the shutter button too long, and buffering is a genuine possibility. But when something dramatic happens out on track in front of you, you will want to make sure you capture it.

As for AI-Servo, it allows your camera’s autofocus system to adjust while capturing photos as the car gets closer to you, especially when photographing Formula 1 cars at high-speed. It won’t guarantee that every photo is sharp, back to my previous point about how quickly F1 cars can change their speed, but it will give you the best chance to capture the maximum amount of sharp photos.

Move Around The Track

Sure, you might have grandstand tickets with some of the best seats in the house, but how can you be sure if you don’t check out the rest of the track?

Take some time to wander around the circuit and see what other vantage points are on offer and what photos you can capture from them. If you have your heart set on watching all the F1 action from your grandstand seat (which I understand, those tickets are expensive), walk around during some of the support categories instead.

If you have a general admission ticket, you’ll be more inclined to try and see the Formula 1 action from a number of different vantage points. But just remember, the crowds are going to flock to the fences right before the F1 sessions start, so make sure you pick out the spots that you really want to get shots from and grab your position for the start of the session.

Formula 1 sessions are long, with an hour for each practice, so you have plenty of time to try a couple of different vantage points. Just be mindful of making your way through the rest of the crowd. Typically, Fridays are the least busy days (at least in terms of crowds) at Grand Prix.

Shoot and Review

Depending on where you are in the world, you might only get one chance to attend a Grand Prix per year. It would be a shame to get to the end of the weekend and not have any photos you are happy with.

The more you photograph motorsport, the more you get a good feel for the shots you are capturing in the moment without having to constantly review the back of the camera. But if it’s your first time photographing Formula 1, or even if you don’t photograph Formula 1 very often, the screen on the back of the camera can be a useful tool to ensure you are getting the photos you want.

Making sure your panning shots are sharp, ensuring the helmet is in focus, adjusting to the speed at which Formula 1 cars change direction. You can easily do this at the end of the Formula 1 on-track sessions on the back of the camera. The good thing about F1 events is that there is a lot of downtime between sessions, giving you ample time to look through your photos and make sure you are getting the shots you want.

That said, don’t just rely on the back of the camera. Get your photos onto your computer as well to ensure your pans are sharp where you want them to be and that your focus is pinned. At the very least, at the end of each day when you get back home (or to your hotel). That way, you can learn and make any adjustments before the next day of track action.

Don’t Forget The Off-Track Functions

As I said before, the drivers and, to a slightly lesser extent, the team principles are the stars of the Formula 1 show.

Your photos of the race weekend wouldn’t be complete without getting some shots of them off-track as well. Luckily, Formula 1 organisers do a really good job of making sure the fans get a chance to see their favourite drivers in person with scheduled driver arrivals and a number of autograph public interview sessions throughout the race weekend.

Make sure you check the schedule for these and use them as an opportunity to get candid photos of the drivers talking on stage, signing autographs and interacting with fans.

However, if you are there as a spectator yourself, don’t get too caught up in taking photos that you forget to get your favourite driver’s autograph as well.


Have fun with it. Photographing Formula 1 is a challenge especially if you don’t photograph motorsport all the time. But a rewarding challenge when you capture some awesome photos of some of the best drivers  and fastest cars in the world.

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.

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How To Photograph Motorcycle Racing

How To Photograph Motorcycle Racing

How To Photograph Motorcycle Racing

Sure, there are a lot of similarities in photographing cars and motorbikes on track. But there are also some nuances you need to keep in mind if you haven’t photographed motorcycle racing before.

No matter if it’s the top tier of the sport, MotoGP, or something a little more local, even the most experienced motorsport photographer will need to make slight adjustments in how they photograph to ensure that they capture the best possible photos of motorcycle racing.

So let’s have a look at how motorcycle racing is different from other forms of motorsport and how you need to adapt to capture amazing photos of the bikes on track each and every time.

The Rider

How To Photograph Motorcycle Racing - The Rider

Unlike cars, where the driver is mostly (if not entirely) hidden away within the vehicle. With bike racing, the rider is very much visible and another dynamic element to include in your photos.

In order to maximise the performance of their bikes, riders move their body weight around, and that’s a major element you need to include in your photos to tell the complete story of motorcycle racing.

No matter if they a tucked in to achieve maximum speed down the straight, sitting up to maximise the bike braking performance or leaning to either side to be as fast as possible through the corners, how a rider is positioned on the bike contributes significantly to the story that the photo is telling. Even more so than any additional compositional techniques you might be using.

With this in mind, you need to keep a close eye on how a rider is positioned on their bike. If they are on a slow lap, not pushing nearly as hard as normal, it will be evident in your photos.

Also, look out for the rider’s head movement. Where a rider is looking will also help tell the story of the race, especially in photos of two or more bikes duking it out for position.

Lean Angle

How To Photograph Motorcycle Racing - Lean Angle

While cars do slide around on the circuit, their pitch and yaw angles don’t typically change, at least dramatically enough to showcase in photos. Whereas in bike racing, the lean angle of the bike (and rider) can be an extremely useful tool in showcasing the speed of the bike.

Typically in motorsport photos, we want to try and hide the wheels when we are photographing high shutter speed photos because it makes it look like the car (or any other vehicle) is simply parked on the track. But in motorcycle racing, firstly, it’s very hard to hide the wheels due to the nature bikes anyway, but you can use the lean angle to help convey speed. A viewer of a photo subconsciously understands the bike needs to be going fast in order to defy gravity and not just simply fall over.

However, the lean angle also has some drawbacks. When capturing panning shots of motorbikes on track, you need to account for this extra movement, especially through corners. The vertical movement of the rider as they approach and exit a corner will affect the likelihood of getting a sharp panning photo.

When taking panning photos during motorcycle racing, look out for the section of the corner where they are holding the lean. Typically the apex of the corner is not only where they will have their knee (and/or elbow) closest to the ground, but they are also at their most stable through the lean. If you pay attention, you’ll be able to hear it in the rider’s throttle application when the lean is at its most stable, and so is the rider’s throttle use. As the rider starts to wind in more throttle, they’ll also start to straighten up the bike.

Once you get into a rhythm at a particular corner, it’ll become much easier to nail your panning photos. Look out for long constant radius corners to give yourself the best chance of getting a good panning photo with the rider’s knee (or elbow) down.

Get Lower

How To Photograph Motorcycle Racing - Get Lower

Sure, changing your shooting angle with cars will give you more dynamic photos, especially if you can get below the car for a cool perspective. But this becomes even more essential in motorcycle racing.

Motorbikes are much smaller subjects, to begin with. However, when we go back to my previous point about lean angles, through corners, when riders get their knee (or better yet, their elbow) down, they are also very, very low to the ground. So if you are taking all of your photos of bikes from above, the perspective will actually make the bikes and riders look even smaller.

Combine this with the fact that riders are typically looking through the corner on the low side of the bike; shooting from above also creates a disconnect with the rider looking away.

To balance this out and bring greater emphasis to not only the bike but also more connection with the rider for the viewer of the photo, you really need to get as low as possible. Shooting up from below the bike on the track where possible.

Obviously, this isn’t practical in all instances. But when it is, it’ll make a significant impact on the photos you capture during a motorcycle race.

Crashes Are Much More Dramatic

Like it or not, in motorsport photography, the crash photos are the ones that are going to get the most attention. This is even more the case in motorcycle racing, where crashes are even more dramatic.

Unlike car racing, where you (at least the majority of the time) only have one or two things to track in the case of a crash. In motorcycle racing, you’ll almost always have at least two, the bike and the rider.

Add in the fact that once a bike and rider dig into the grass or gravel trap, they will most like spin and roll, there is always a lot going on in a motorcycle racing crash to capture.

My best advice is to follow the bike when shooting a crash. In most instances, the rider will have an element of control once they are on the ground. But the bike is the most likely to bounce and flip and contribute to a more dramatic photo.

That said, don’t forget about the rider; they are a compelling part of the storytelling – especially the emotional response after a crash.

I would strongly recommend configuring the “Oh Shit” button on your camera if you can, as crashes in bikes are often extremely unpredictable.


How To Photograph Motorcycle Racing

No matter how seasoned of a motorsport photographer you might be, photographing bikes will add a unique and interesting challenge to your trackside experience. That said, motorcycle racing is also where you are most likely to capture some of your most dynamic and exciting motorsport photos.

Just give yourself a little bit of time to adjust to the nuances of photographing motorcycle racing and you’ll end up with some amazing shots to expand your portfolio.

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.

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