Why Do Motorsport Photographers Carry Multiple Cameras?

by Dec 23, 2023

One question I often get asked trackside is: “Why do you carry around so many cameras?” It’s a valid query, especially when I’m using a couple with fairly similar lenses, at least to the untrained eye.

And no doubt you’ve seen it for yourself, be it at the track or watching on TV, professional motorsport photographers carry two, three, or even more cameras and lens combinations, plus another bag or utility belt of other “stuff”.

Truth be told, there are actially a few reasons why professional motorsport photographers, like myself, carry multiple cameras around while we are trackside. So let’s take a look and see if adding an extra camera to your setup is a good idea for you.

Avoiding Lens Changes

First and foremost, one of the biggest reasons we carry multiple cameras while trackside is simply to avoid needing to change lenses.

Now there are a few reasons we want to avoid changing lenses. Firstly, if you do need to change lenses to react to something on track, there is absolutely no way you can do it fast enough to get the shot. But we’ll dive into that more shortly.

Secondly, motorsport is a dusty and dirty sport. That’s more than obvious in any of the off-road disciplines like Rally. But even in circuit events, there is always dust and dirt being sprayed into the air. Not to mention the discarded rubber that ends up everywhere.

Worst of all, all of that debris is a real pain if it ends up inside your camera. There is nothing worse than big distracting specks on your sensor, which show up in all of your photos, and exposing the internals of your camera to the elements, especially changing a lens trackside, is a surefire way of allowing this to happen.

So, avoiding changing lenses while trackside is one of the key reasons we carry multiple cameras.

Speed and Versatility

A big part of being a motorsport photographer is capturing the unpredictable. As I mentioned earlier, in motorsport, things happen quickly, often in just a fraction of a second. Being able to react and adapt to anything that happens in front of you is a big part of the job, and one thing that will ensure you miss the shot is having to change lenses.

Carrying multiple cameras, each setup for different types of shots provides the required versatility to capture the action no matter what happens during the race. If you pay close attention to the setup that professional motorsport photographers carry, you’ll notice, almost always, that they’ll have one camera with a long lens (telephoto) and one with a wide lens. Then, depending on their own preferences, they might carry one more camera that covers everything in between.

This versatility also allows you to tell the story of the race by providing a variety of wide and tight photos from the same section of the track within just a couple of laps, allowing you to move around the circuit during each session and get even more variety.

Backup Camera

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: motorsport photography is hard on your camera gear. Moving through crowds, climbing over fences, rain, a broken shutter, and even dropping your gear. There are so many chances of damaging your gear that having multiple cameras with you can get you out of trouble no matter what arises.

Being a professional motorsport photographer, missing a session or even the rest of the day because you broke a camera really isn’t good enough. Having multiple cameras with you gives you a level of redundancy to ensure you get the important photos no what happens during the day.

Do You Need Multiple Cameras As A Motorsport Photographer?

So, do you actually need multiple cameras? Yes, well… At least as soon as you start to take your motorsport photography seriously and pursue customers.

As I just outlined, there are several reasons for having at least two camera bodies, but you definitely need at least two if you are selling your services as a motorsport photographer. Obviously, these days, I run at least two cameras while trackside, but I always have three with me, just in case.

When I was starting out, though, I didn’t have the budget to go out and buy two of the latest and greatest camera bodies. So what I did was progressively upgrade them over time, having one newer, better camera and one older, cheaper one. Then I’d progressively upgrade the oldest one to the newest, best model I could afford at the time.

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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