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.

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 Price Your Motorsport Photography

How To Price Your Motorsport Photography

How To Price Your Motorsport Photography

I don’t know why this is such a taboo topic, not just in motorsport photography, but even in general – short of point-blank asking other photographers. Even then, it is the most avoided question among shooters.

It’s understandable as not one price fits all situations, and there are a few factors that go into pricing photography. Top-tier Formula 1 teams pay a lot more than a junior karter.

What makes pricing doubly difficult is there are literally hundreds of motorsport fans out there willing to give away photos for free. Be that because they think it might lead to opportunity or just don’t understand the value of their photo.

Pro Tip: If somebody wants to use one of your photos, it has an inherent value. I’m not saying that you must send an invoice for a lucky shot that you got as a fan, especially if you are not trying to pursue motorsport photography professionally. But that photo has value, and you should get something in return.

So how do you price your motorsport photos?

There are three models that professionals typically use when selling their images: individual photo sales as a photo package or at an hourly/daily rate.

Both methods have benefits and are suited to a variety of business structures.

Per Photo

Per photo pricing is straight up the most difficult to give you a definitive answer in terms of price.

Pricing on single photo usage really depends on how it is intended to be used, and this can vary greatly.

A driver wanting to use a photo on social media is a very different prospect from a sponsor using the same image for an advertising campaign.

Obviously, it’s unreasonable to charge a local junior karter in the thousands for an image to post on social media, and it’s equally unreasonable only to be paid $20 for a photo used in a national marketing campaign.

That’s why I personally try to avoid this method of pricing where possible, especially with regular customers.

It’s a clumsy model that requires you to ask a lot of questions, which can be frustrating for both you and the customer. It is also very hard to explain when approaching new clients.

That being said, it’s not uncommon to be approached by a competitor who is not a customer to view your work through social media or within the media and reach out to discuss single image rights.

This is one of the few times where it’s not unexpected to ask questions about how the person/business intends to use your photos and demonstrates professionalism in doing so.

So how do you price single images?

If you are dealing with a reputable media outlet (magazine/website etc.), it should have a rate card for the images used.

The less reputable outlets will try to take advantage of naive photographers, which is an unfortunate part of the industry. If the media outlet doesn’t have a rate card or isn’t willing to give you a price per image, then it’s not worth pursuing a relationship in the future.

For top-tier motorsport (we’re talking Formula 1, IndyCar, WEC, WRC etc.), if you would like to get an idea of the value of a photo, agencies like Getty, AAP and Motorsport Images list their photo individual sale prices as well as the usage limitations they have for those prices. Check out the Getty price calculator here.

For commercial usage, it’s much harder, so more questions need to be asked. Just keep in mind that some series (F1, WRC, Supercars etc.) don’t allow images to be sold commercially if media credentials have been awarded, and there are significant consequences if this occurs.

If you are allowed to sell images commercially, then enquire about the project budget to get an understanding of where the customer is at. The overall budget, if given an answer, will save you from underselling your work by a large amount.

For individuals, again just be careful about what rights you’ve signed away when you accepted your media credentials, but I’d be less concerned about underselling yourself. Instead, focus on building a relationship that enables you to sell photo packages (see below) at future events on an ongoing basis.

Photo pricing for individuals is a very arbitrary thing. I’ve had people tell me that $5 is way too much for a single photo, and others tell me that $50 is a bargain. It depends on the shot and where the customer is coming from. Be prepared to negotiate a little.

I’ll give you some tips on how to find your price in the market in the next section.

Photo Packages

If you pay attention to professional motorsport photographers, you’ll quickly work out each will have a group of customers that to cater for.

It’s really the only way to be able to cover all costs (particularly travel expenses) and turn a profit each race weekend. This is a livelihood, after all.

The easiest way to manage this is to offer photo packages.

What a photo package includes will vary greatly between photographers and each of their client’s needs. But that’s all part of building a relationship with each customer.

Some photographers will offer a strict limit on photos they include as part of their package.

I tend to be a little more flexible with mine, given that no two tracks are the same and there are a number of factors outside of my control that dictate how many photos can be captured during a race event.

At the end of the day, a photo package is about documenting the race weekend for your customer and providing a collection of images that best showcase their story from the event

How should you price your photo packages?

Again, this isn’t a one price fits all situation. What I have is a tiered pricing model based on different levels of motorsport.

If you are just starting out and covering a small club event at your local track, a $100 per package is a very fair price to deliver between 10-20 photos for a two-day race meeting with a couple of on track sessions (maybe two hours of on track running in total).

However, this price should not be transferred to a national stage or a large, high-profile event.

Progressing through the various levels of motorsport, images have further uses other than social media updates and keepsakes, which include press releases as well as supply to sponsors.

This needs to be factored into your pricing.

The best way to find out prices is to ask other photographers and this can be done by building a rapport within the media centre. By developing a friendly relationship, an accurate or near enough answer should be forthcoming, which will ensure there isn’t a major undercut in price.

I could give you my pricing, but that’s not a universal answer, and this blog is read by aspiring motorsport photographers from around the world, and my packages are not relevant to many potential customer bases of the readers.

The best way to find a good price point is to gradually increase until clients push back. This
will give you a definitive answer as to what the value of your photo package is in the marketplace that you are serving.

You might lose a couple of sales in the process, but you will quickly work out what your best price point is.

Hourly/Day Rates

Hourly and Day rates are a little harder to manage in motorsport photography, especially during a race meeting across multiple customers.

You will find it is very uncommon for professional motorsport photographers to use this pricing model for race meetings, and if they do, it’s certainly not charged at an hourly rate.

If you are in the very fortunate position of being approached by a customer to work exclusively for them, be that for a race meeting, but more likely a sponsor ride day, manufacturer event or test/media day, then offering a day rate is your best option.

An hourly rate is too variable, and each day at the track is very different. You might plan to start early but get held up by fog, or the car might have issues that require a lengthy stop in the garage.

If your pricing is based specifically on an hourly rate, all the customer is thinking is the price racking up.

Instead, I stick with a day rate which just gives customers certainty of what the price is and gives you a little more flexibility if things don’t run smoothly.

How should you price your day rates?

Your day rate should factor in the time spent at the venue, as well as editing and delivery of images. Travel costs should also be considered since you are working exclusively with one customer.

If you are just starting out and have some basic photography gear, $300 is a reasonable day rate for a local track. This equates to $30 per hour for 10 hours to cover 7-8 hours at the track plus 2-3 hours to edit and deliver images.

Obviously, this is just a very conservative starting point, so as your skill improves and you invest in better, more professional gear, as well as refine your editing process, an increase can be considered.

Pricing yourself for these styles of track events with a day rate will give your customers peace of mind that they have a fixed cost, and it’s much easier for them to include that in their racing budgets for the year.

On another note, if your customer only needs a few hours, then a half-day rate is a perfectly acceptable middle ground.

Pro Tip: My half-day rate is usually 60-70% of my full-day rate because a half-day is never truly a half-day, and it is difficult to get two half-day bookings to line up perfectly on the same day.

At the end of the day, pricing your photography is all about finding your value point in the marketplace you are serving.

I know everyone wants to shoot Formula 1, IndyCar, WEC and those top levels of the sport, but start out with the local club events. Then, as you hone and develop your skills and then as you grow, you can move your way up to high-level events with a refined offering and a proper understanding of the value you are offering.

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.

What Does A Typical Race Weekend Entail For A Motorsport Photographer?

What Does A Typical Race Weekend Entail For A Motorsport Photographer?

What Does A Typical Race Weekend Entail For A Motorsport Photographer?

As a motorsport photographer, a question I frequently field is what does a typical race weekend entail for me?

This is a hard question to answer as no weekend is exactly the same due to a variety of contributing factors, these include: the schedule, the number of clients, the circuit and many others.

On a regular weekend, the planning starts at least a week out by reaching out to customers that will be competing at the event, whilst also checking entry lists to check if other clients have secured another gig I wasn’t aware of.

Two days out from the event is usually a travel day to get to the venue if it’s not local.

Bump-in/set-up day is all about chatting to customers to catch up and ask if there are any special requirements or last-minute changes.

This day is also an opportunity to potentially gain new customers, which for me are mostly referrals. I don’t tend to harass people to buy photos.

Occasionally I’ll also do photoshoots. Things like livery launches, headshots, media calls etc. all usually happen onn that set-up/bump-in day.

On-track days usually have me at the circuit at least an hour before on track action starts (usually a couple of hours). How the day plays out after that really depends on the schedule, but if I’m not trackside I’m usually working on photos back in the media center and that goes on well into each night.

The Monday after is usually when I check everything and ensure customers have got everything they expected and I have met their brief. After that is usually a travel day back home.

How this eventuates depends on where the event is. On the long haul events or somewhere I’ve never been before, I do try to give myself a day off to reset/refresh and explore the places that host the events as a bit of a ‘weekend’.

Once back in the office there are still a number of jobs to do before a motorsport event is complete – invoicing, photo backups, moving old event images to archives (I usually have the past 6-8 events on portable storage with me), website updates and social media.

This makes a typical race weekend is roughly 7 full days of work.

As for accreditation, I typically get that sorted out at the start of the year with season passes, but if I need it for a bespoke event then I usually sort that out about two weeks out from an event. But this is dependent on each race weekend I attend as different promoters require separate accreditation.

What does a typical race weekend entail for a Motorsport Photographer?

How many photos will you take per event and how many make it to the client?

It varies depending on the circuit, event style and the number of categories/customers I have to cover at a particular event.

For example, the biggest event I shoot at is the Bathurst 1000. I usually have many customers across the variety of categories held across the weekend where I will personally shoot from 6000-8000 photos on each of the four days the event is held.

Prior to the on-track action, I will cover Tuesday and Wednesday set-up/bump in, so by the end of the weekend, I will have shot approximately 28,000 images.

At a more relaxed (or less high-profile) event at a smaller venue I will only shoot 3000-4000 photos depending on the number of customers. Approximately, this accounts for 12,000 images across a three-day event.

As for how many images are provided to a customer, a lot depends on factors outside of my control such as track length/lap time, red flags/on-track incidents, mechanical maladies or crashes

For drivers or teams it depends on the amount of laps completed and how many sessions their category is on track during the weekend. I aim to deliver variety as well as quantity, so in some instances I will provide 30-40 images, but in others 80-100.

Magazines and categories have varying specifics to meet in terms of photo amounts or requirements compared to driver/team arrangements.

Check out these deal from our supporters:

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 Get Started In Motorsport Photography?

How To Get Started In Motorsport Photography?

How To Get Started In Motorsport Photography?

So you want to get started in Motorsport Photography? Having worked as a motorsport photographer since 2012, I’ve had many people ask how I manage to get that elusive photographer access to all these racing events and what it takes to become a successful motorsport photographer.

It’s an exciting career: racing events always attract fans lining the fences, and the glitz and glamour on social media add to the exposure and the buzz. You get to be right in the middle of the action, see the races up close and personal, and take stunning images, all while experiencing some of the world’s most breath-taking racing moments.

To help you kickstart your own motorsport photography career, I’ve put this comprehensive guide together. Be warned, however: being a motorsport photographer is a fantastic job, but nothing in this world comes easy, and you need to be prepared for some challenges.

First Things First: The Fun Factor

Before we begin, here’s a disclaimer: taking photos at race tracks gives me a great opportunity to capture images at unique and interesting angles, it’s fun, it’s fast-paced, and it’s often adrenaline-inducing. But it isn’t a walk in the park.

Often, people assume it’s all about the fun, or that it’s an opportunity to take better photos; a lot of folks think there isn’t anything to it – I’ve heard people say, “Oh, I could do that if I really wanted to – after all, you’re just taking photos”.

The reality is, there is a lot of hard work that goes into being a motorsport photographer, both from the technical side of things and in managing to make a name for yourself. If you want to make a career out of it, it’s nowhere near as simple as rocking up and taking some snaps.

A lot of fans out there don’t see the early starts, the late finishes, all the running around, and all the tight deadlines to meet. Yes, it’s a great career that I’m very passionate about, but it’s far from plain sailing – both on the way to becoming a professional and maintaining that status when you’re there.

Ready for the long haul? If I haven’t discouraged you already, here are my tips for getting started in motorsport photography.

Take Photos (Lots of Them)

There is only one way to find your own unique style, whether it’s in motorsport photography or any other type of art or skill, and that is to create.

As a photographer, the first step is to take a lot of photos. Having your own style is the only way to stand out from your competition, and the best way to develop it is by taking as many images as you can, as often as you can.

It’s a way of getting your name out there and being recognised by both racers and potential clients. Take lots of photos, work out what you like about them, what you don’t like about them, and how you can improve. The more images you take, the more you can track your progress and hone your skills.

As you go along, don‘t work in a vacuum. Look at other people’s photos, too, and work out what you like and don’t like in their work; study their angles, their composition, figure out what makes their photos stand out. This will give you a better understanding and perspective, and allow you to be more objective about your own work.

Practice To Get Better

Just like honing any other skill, practice makes perfect, so keep on attending events and snapping away.

Don’t worry if you don’t have access to the big events yet: even if you 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 find new and interesting angles the more you keep shooting.

Another good way to build your skills and your portfolio is trying to find local events that you can shoot regularly. Look for local hillclimbs, motorkhana’s, rallies – there are all sorts of events out there to help you keep shooting and finding new and creative ways to capture them.

When you’re just starting out, the event itself doesn’t matter as much as the opportunity to practice and improve.

Practice To Not Get Worse

As well as teaching you the skills and the knowledge, once you’ve become a proficient photographer, practising helps keep your eye in. You might find it surprising, but even after doing this for years, if I’ve had a few weeks off, it takes me a session or two to get my eye back in, and get back to my usual quality.

After the off-season, it could take as long as a day to get back into the swing of things properly and getting my pans smooth again. I always try to shoot something similar – usually mountain biking – for fun before the first big motorsport event of the season, just so I can get back into the routine.

Having time off is fine, but even the best athletes in the world have to keep practising if they want to stay there. By all means, take a break every once in a while, but if you don’t keep at it, you’ll get rusty faster than you imagine, and it will show in your work.

Share Your Best Work Online

Social media is everything these days, and sharing your work with others is both easier and harder than ever.

On the one hand, it’s easier because all it takes is setting up an account across various platforms and sharing your photos with the entire world. On the other hand, just about everyone is trying to do the same thing and standing out from the crowd can sometimes seem nearly impossible.

However, much like with your work itself, you will succeed if you produce quality.

As a photographer, you simply must take advantage of social media. There are some great photo-specific social media services like Instagram, Flickr, and 500px for sharing your work to showcase what you can do.

As for sites like Facebook and Twitter, you’ll find your photos have a very short life span outside of the few people who see them initially, so you’re better off putting more effort into the photo-specific social media sites (unless you can create interesting and engaging captions for your images, too – but that’s a topic for another day).

In many ways, as a photographer, your Instagram account can look like your CV, and it can be the first thing any potential client sees.

Be sure to make your account look professional (read: no drunken selfies or blurry images of your cousin Ed’s new baby), and have a decent amount of photos to show both the quality and the range that you’re able to produce. You might not gain thousands of followers overnight, but simply having your work out there is essential when it comes to showcasing what you can do.

Many people in the racing world have successfully kickstarted their careers through social media. There is a huge array of possibilities out there on the web, so if you’re not out there, you’re missing out.

Learn To Be Patient

Have you heard the saying that “overnight success is usually ten years in the making”?

It’s certainly true for photographers: no matter how hard you work and how dedicated you are, the success is not going to be instant, and you need to be mentally prepared for that.

Motorsport photography is a highly popular and competitive field, with very few opportunities for the amount of people wanting to take them – particularly here in Australia. If you’re serious about getting into it, it’ll 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. The photographer who turned up to a couple of events is easily forgotten, but the photographer who’s always there will get noticed eventually.

The Most Important Thing…

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 here in Australia, and frankly, not significantly more globally.

If you actually enjoy the process of taking photos, you are going to be willing to put in all the work it’s going to take to get better, and those early starts and long days won’t seem like a chore. When you‘re so passionate about something you seem obsessed with, the hard work feels like a reward in and of itself.

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. And for those who think they need media accreditation to take great photos? All the images featured in this blog post have been captured from general spectator areas.

That’s right – even the photo from the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.

It’s not the media accreditation and that shiny press pass that’s going to make you as a photographer. It’s you and your work.

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!

Check out these deal from our supporters:

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.

Getting It Right: Motorsport Photography Prospective Clients Look For

Getting It Right: Motorsport Photography Prospective Clients Look For

Getting It Right: Motorsport Photography Prospective Clients Look For

So you’ve decided to go pro? Motorsport photography can be an extremely rewarding career path, but making it in this highly competitive, niche world isn’t easy.

If you’re hoping to take your skills to the next level and start making a living photographing racing events, you need to know what prospective clients and magazine editors look for when it comes to great shots.

Should you focus on the action, the emotion, the track, the pits? What’s the best way to tell a story in images?

To help you navigate the chaotic and colourful world of motorsport photography, I put together a quick guide of what you should focus on and how to impress prospective clients, editors, and racing teams alike.

Telling a Story

If you aim to get your images published in magazines or online portals, keep in mind that editors are looking for shots that tell the story.

Obviously, one of those stories will be who won the race, and shots of the battle for the lead are ideal. But this is just one part of the race: there are also other stories unfolding in the course of the race weekend, and they need to be told. That could be good and bad, for example, a crash and a rebuild to make the race.

When you’re telling a story of a particular person, focus on the headshots and try to capture both action and emotion: don’t just focus on the racing and the winners’ podium, but also pay attention to an intense look, a crease of the brow, a hand gesture when the driver is talking to their mechanics or getting out of the car. Often, these nuances can help tell the story because they fill in the gaps regular spectators do not get to see – or do not notice.

If you’re unsure where to begin, have a look at the shots that your favorite motorsport media outlets use to get an idea of what shots match which stories. It also depends on the pieces your favorite magazines publish: is it general race coverage, or perhaps in-depth interviews with the drivers? Do your research and offer work that aligns with the outlet’s content best.

Showcasing Teams and Drivers

If you’re hoping your work will get noticed by racing teams and drivers rather than editors, you’ll need to make sure your work is as diverse as can be.

Teams and racers need a mix of shots from standard action stuff to appease their sponsors, arty stuff to wow their fans on social media, and some shots that tell the story of how they went during the event for both news and PR. When focusing on a particular racing team or driver, shadow them through the entire event from getting ready to stepping off the podium and get as many diverse shots as you can.

When publishing the images on social media, don’t forget to tag the teams and racers – if you don’t already have an in with them, tagging them on social media can get them to notice your work.

Finding the Focus

If there is one magic trick to impress editors and prospective clients, it’s getting the balance of everything. A good story has many parts, and the job of a photographer is to be able to capture the imagery to tell that story.

Sometimes, the focus on something entirely different than the racetrack action can be more powerful than a car coming around the corner at breakneck speed; for example, capturing the dramatic skies above the track can be more impactful than focusing on burning tires to tell a story of a race where someone crashed or had to withdraw early.

The seemingly menacing dark clouds above the track do not directly inform of the crash that happened, but they convey a mood of foreboding, and your image now carries emotional weight.

In addition to your ability to tell a story and pay attention to nuance and detail, keep in mind that quality and consistency always trumps volume and one-hit-wonder shots. For me personally, what has made my work stand out over the years is being able to constantly deliver high quality photos that showcase speed, action, and emotion.

I’m always on the lookout for unique new ways to shoot the action and showcase it in a different way, while still deliver the shots that my customers have come to expect from me.

Check out these deal from our supporters:

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.

Pin It on Pinterest