View Full Version : How to get in motorsport photography?

6th of April 2009 (Mon), 14:27
By that i mean profesionally. Must be very difficult

6th of April 2009 (Mon), 17:59

6th of April 2009 (Mon), 18:00
Have you started by shooting at your local track on track days? You'll need a decent portfolio to try for a media pass or to get in with a team.

DC Fan
6th of April 2009 (Mon), 18:23
Start by going to race tracks, every weekend. Find oval tracks, road courses, day races, night races. Get ready to put plenty of miles on the road and spend some money buying pit passes.

While you're there, meet the experienced working pros. Learn from them. They'll have advice on how to act, on how to keep from making a fool or a pest of yourself.

Learn how to produce material on deadline. Your most likely clients will be newspapers and magazines that expect pictures immediately after an event is over. With the rise of deadline-designed digital cameras, many of these publications expect images before you've left the track. If you can't meet deadlines, you won't get work. If you want to produce the ultimate art, someone will have beaten you to a deadline job.

There are plenty of photographers who have been shooting racing pictures since the days of Tri-X film. They will have experience and connections that you don't have. You're going to have to match their experience and ability if you're going to have a chance of making any money at this. If you've just picked up a digicam and want to play like you're a pro, you're probably not ready yet.

How much experience? In the area where I attend races, there are photographers who have been working at tracks for at least three decades. That's your competition -can you match what they can offer?

If you're inexperienced, don't give up. Keep going to tracks and take pictures. Just expect to wear out some cameras and tires on your car before you're ready to compete with those who were making sales when digital cameras were still science fiction.

6th of April 2009 (Mon), 18:31
Start by going to race tracks, every weekend. Find oval tracks, road courses, day races, night races. Get ready to put plenty of miles on the road and spend some money buying pit passes.

While you're there, meet the experienced working pros. Learn from them. They'll have advice on how to act, on how to keep from making a fool or a pest of yourself.


And (not to put too fine a point on it...) how to, hopefully, keep from getting killed...

Mike Hoyer
7th of April 2009 (Tue), 06:21
It is difficult, and it's not getting any easier these days where everyone has a digital camera, and seems to be getting press passes, or thinks they are entitled to them. Perhaps try and find a local pro with a good reputation that you can work with, start out by doing picture editing and stuff. That's how I've seen some guys start out, and go on to make a career from it.

7th of April 2009 (Tue), 11:29
It is difficult, and it's not getting any easier these days where everyone has a digital camera, and seems to be getting press passes, or thinks they are entitled to them.

I had almost exactly the same post typed out last night but didn't bother hitting submit as there's always someone who takes offence...however, as you've done the deed anyway..

The world and his wife are giving away free shots like there's no tomorrow and to be brutally frank, most of them are rubbish. However free rubbish seems to be more popular than decent paid-for stuff, even at reasonable prices. The there are the people who sell 100+ Hi-res JPEGs on disc for £5, all of which makes it pretty much impossible for anyone to get a foot in the door.

Then there's the "who you know, not what you know" types.

7th of April 2009 (Tue), 12:02
I started getting in with the local track day crowd(there is one in every city) and shooting for them. Did a few events for free... got my name out there, get people interested. Then started selling and charging for my presents at the track days. From there I worked up to get creds and shoot directly for professional organizations like AMA and Rally America. Ken Block of DC Shoes bought one of my shots. :)

Took a few years and lots of hand shakes and a bunch of determination.

Mike Hoyer
7th of April 2009 (Tue), 13:53
"who you know, not what you know" types.

There is that as well. Of course who you know is fine, if it's clients that you're working for. If someone is giving out passes to mates, then that's a different matter.

8th of April 2009 (Wed), 05:33
This is a post I recently posted elsewhere on POTN.
It's a bit long, I know but It covers most things you probably need to know and, dare I say, it tells it like it is.

A quick few words about my background.
I started my motorsport photography over 20 years ago when I stopped competing in rallies.
The biggest problem I and fellow competitors had back then was getting pics of ourselves.
When I finally parked the rally car, I still wanted to be involved. I picked up the camera and started taking pics at club level events to national championship level from spectator areas and selling them to competitors.
After a while I started submitting to a couple of motorsport magazines. It took a while but eventually, after about 3 years, I started getting some images published and then it snowballed from there to the point where I was able to get accreditation.
Today, I cover all types of motorsport and supply several magazines and agencies with images. I have also cover a number of different sports and events for image libraries.

Firstly, what is your reason for wanting media credentials.
Are you a member of the media?
What can you give the organizers by your presence?
Media creds are usually only given to WORKING media. This means people working for and supplying bona fide media outlets ie: Magazines and newspapers and other recognised media outlets such as websites and press agencies.
I’ve been shooting sport, mainly motorsport for over 20 years, and still do club level and grass roots sports.
I supply several magazines and newspapers as well as photo agencies.
I often get asked…
”How do I get a pass to shoot from where you are?”
My reply usually goes something like this…
“How long have you been photographing (insert name of sport) and what outlet do you work for?
To which they reply something like…”Oh I never do. I just want to get in and shoot from where you are. I’m just taking photos for myself”
Ask yourself this…
If you’ve never taken a photograph of an American Football (substitute for any sport) game, would you approach the NFL (again substitute relevant organization) and say to them “Hey Mr NFL Media Man, I’ve never taken a photo of a grid iron game before but I think I’m a pretty good photographer, I’m not shooting for anyone except myself so you won’t get any publicity but can I have a media pass for the Superbowl…"
Seriously, what do you think they would say.
It would probably be cool to be there and you’d get off on it and brag to your friends, but seriously…
Unless you are working media, why should you be there.

Media credential's ARE NOT a free pass to get in to an event.

Admittedly, sometimes I have seen some people with creds who probably shouldn't have them - and people who probably should have them who don't - however it's not for me to make that decision.
I do sympathise with people who wish they could get creds for events and can't.
Event organizers are after publicity. You shooting for yourself does not give them that publicity and they do not have an obligation to give you a media pass just because you think you should have one. It is up to you to justify why you should be accredited.
Remember that the 'togs you see shooting at a track or sporting event etc are being paid by somebody therefore IT IS A JOB. They are not there for the fun of it.
Imagine if somebody came into your work place and thought it looks like cool job, do you think they'd just be able to start doing what you were for the fun of it?
Also, there is a whoooole lot more to it than just standing by the track and taking photo's. There are deadlines (sometimes very short) to meet and as a rule I would suggest that for the same amount of time spent trackside there is at least 1/2 to 3/4 of that time to be spent on editing, sending images etc when the day at the track has finished. If you spend 8 hours at the track, then you will usually spend another four to six hours, at least, once you have left the track on editing etc.
I attend a lot of events where I don't have creds so I do know what it's like from behind the fence or in the bleachers, but I still manage to get good and sometimes great images.
It makes you see things differently and find different angles and ways of shooting.
I'd estimate that about 50% of events I go to, I don't have the magic press pass and pay to get in like everyone else.
Sometimes I'm just there for being there, and sometimes it might be a sport I've never shot before but want to see what it's like. Occasionally I do manage to sell some images.
Also, just because you have good gear doesn't mean you should be there either.
I've seen some 'togs with basic DSLR's and kit lenses take some better stuff than guys with 1D's and white lenses (and Nikon equivalent). I occasionally use a 400D with the 10-22 lens and have those images published - last week was an example.
In closing, I will say this...
If you want to have creds for big events, start shooting the grass roots of that sport (no it's not glamorous like the big events - but you'll probably make more money) and start supplying images to publications etc.
This is a great way to get yourself known to event organisers. They learn to know who you are and that you are committed to photographing their sport and being known is half the battle. This is not going to take 5 minutes and may take several years, yes... I did say years.
To do this you need to have passion for both the sport and your photography.
You must be prepared to put up with the elements, rain, hail, shine, and depending on the hemisphere, maybe snow (not generally an issue in Australia) etc etc.
Just like any job, sometimes it will NOT be fun and just plain hard work.
It just depends on how hard you are prepared to work to get there.

Except when learning to swim, always start at the bottom.
I see too many people trying to start right at the top. it doesn't work that way.

Apologies if this appears blunt and straight to the point, but it is fact.

End of rant.

To see pics go to my website - www.freewebs.com/philwillmedia/apps/photos

9th of April 2009 (Thu), 17:34
Phil has covered it perfectly. I'm currently shooting as many local events as i can just to get known. Travelling up to 4 hours at a time just to get experience in different areas so that one day i'll get that big break.

10th of April 2009 (Fri), 14:03
It is a well know fact and i'm 100 % with you. I know it take much time and i am very well aware of that. Have few events coming very soon so i'll post it here.

30th of April 2009 (Thu), 02:16
The main ingredient for ANY profession is PASSION!. Most people that say you you will NEVER get there, this is hard, this is this, this is that. They lack PASSION!.
With passion comes DETERMINATION. It does not matter how you fail or fall. It does not matter how others get publish. From every step you take LEARN and progress -- don't look back and wimp.

Nothing comes overnight. It takes years (I don't mean 1-3) for a pro to become a rambo like. I started photography four years a go and now I get press credentials to shoot at some CHOOSEN events. These events I PREPARE myself by researching what others have shot. I study the physical venue. I read about the subjects (boxers, surfers, drivers, models, etc). I make sure I carry what I need to produce and not what I need to look COOL.

I also do not take events that I can't handle so know your LIMITATIONS! Learn the whole process aspects:

- The technical (aperture, white balance, etc)
- Basic gear (laptop, software, printer, cell, dSLR, glass)
- The business (insurance, licences)
- The journalist (how to write by-lines, small write ups, bio of subjects)
- The delivery ( meet deadlines, produce PRO-content)
- The money (how to bill, how to collect, know when to take a loss)

And must important...RESPECT. Many do not behave like pros, since they are NOT pros. Photography is not difference than selling oranges in the corner or running a small law practice. It is not a 8-5 ( mostlty 5AM, to 1AM).

This is my third career...:) and I will get there...

22nd of May 2009 (Fri), 04:36
Network. Seriously, that is the key... well, as well as skill! People have to like your stuff. So you need people (networking) and stuff (skill) to give them... lol not sure if thats very clear, was in my head !

22nd of May 2009 (Fri), 10:59
The world and his wife are giving away free shots like there's no tomorrow and to be brutally frank, most of them are rubbish. However free rubbish seems to be more popular than decent paid-for stuff, even at reasonable prices. The there are the people who sell 100+ Hi-res JPEGs on disc for £5, all of which makes it pretty much impossible for anyone to get a foot in the door.

Exactly, and I forsee myself facing this very issue this season with ATV racing, as someone is willing to give away images to people just to push me out. But they lack the magazine connections I have worked to establish, but the average racer will take free or low priced stuff, even if it is crap. Most parents and people in general, would not know the difference between a great photo and a mundane one. To them as long as they are in it. it's cool

DO NOT under any circumstances give stuff away for free, because people seem to think digital is free, due to no film and processing costs, and once you establish that as your biz model, you will forever be expected to give stuff away. And last I checked, nobody gives me gas or food, just because I am shooting digital.

22nd of May 2009 (Fri), 11:22
I photograph short course off-road racing, and there are classes of kids who race in 1/10 scale trophy trucks, called Trophy Karts.

I got an email from a racer's father looking for a couple of images for their website. I emailed back with my price, $75 per image for unlimited commercial use. He emailed back that photographer 'B' is selling his digital images for $10.

Ouch. How do you complete with that? My price isn't outrageous, it's actually lower than some other photographers. And I do get sales at that price, I sold a graphic designer 6 individual images at that price without problem.

I didn't bother emailed the guy back, as I know the other photographer and I didn't want to bash him, but I looked at his site and I wouldn't pay more than $10 for those images. I guess you get what you pay for, I think maybe that's the guy who scans the proofs from his kid's school pictures and sends them back without ordering.

27th of May 2009 (Wed), 18:37
Networking is your best tool possible. Ask people who have done it and call around.

13th of August 2009 (Thu), 06:43
I agree full heartily. My college and I have just started a E- Motorsport magazine (running almost a year now), we do not get paid, we still have 9 to 5 jobs, we do get in to some events free, but on most occasions it is still behind the fence because they have closed off applications to the more better known media outlets (A common reply is ‘We had to close the track but you are still welcome to come if you like’, tough!!!) and only after a year we are just being recognised by the grass root categories which BTW is what we have dedicated our site too, we still have long way to go for the premier categories. But having said that just because you may have a web site still does not mean you are automatically a credentialed photographer (Man, don’t I know).
It is hard work your feet hurt, standing out in the heat without shade most of the day, your wife nags because you are never home on a week end and when you are at home you spend most of your spare time in front of a pc…… Though I would not swap it for the world.
I love every minute of the motor sport event that I attend, shoot and watch on TV.
It can not be a just ‘hobby’ to impress you your friends it has to be your life
If it sounds unromantic that’s because it is. There are many photographers out there who, this is all they do and rely on it to feed their families and pay their bills, so next time one of them gets in the way remember that!! (Unless it’s deliberate which no good for any one).
Any hoo that’s my bit.

22nd of August 2009 (Sat), 09:10
General links in: At a Cross Road (career advice needed) (http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=496491)

7th of September 2009 (Mon), 09:08
This has been a very informative thread for me and thanks to the pro's and experienced people who contributed.

I think I have an almost "I won the Lotto" opportunity in front of me. I was invited to go to a dirt track race yesterday to shoot the nephew of a good friend. Ostensibly because my MkIIN can shoot in "sausage slicing mode" and all of the shots will be in focus. The parents wanted some shots of the kid in a photomerge/pano type of shot that we have all seen. So I got in, was able to go anywhere on the track and had instant access to every part of track, pit area and riders.

At the end of the day, it was offered me to partner up with my buddy for what's left of this season and beyond, to shoot the riders and sell them shots of the races, by printing the shots right there from a lap top and printer in the trailer. We have all the euipment, we have full access to the tri state [unmentioned] races for this league, through family affiliations/friendships. At this time, there is no accredited photographer for this bush league and it looks like we will have it to ourselves.

I guess it doesn't need to be mention, I will now be going to all or most all of the races left this year and from the looks of things, will be fully involved with it next year. I know what this opportunity means, and am full of butterflies at what's coming next and would appreciate any advice you care to throw my way.

Personally, I do not care to be published. It's not what I am out for. I would like to make some money at it though, by selling prints and CD's at the races. Should we build a huge portfolio of prints to show, in what form, book or frames? Or should we concentrate more on laptop or even PC in the trailer and show digital images from a DVD and print them there? Or both? :)

Simon Harrison
7th of September 2009 (Mon), 16:39

You need to figure out how to have the images from a particular race ready to view and purchase a very short time after the race has finished. For this I wouldn't be too bothered about a printed portfolio. You should IMHO be concentrating on setting up a robust workflow so that people can identify all of the images of a particular rider / race quickly select what they want and walk away with a print. The quicker and more efficiently you can do that, the more sales you will make. You will lose sales in my experience if people can't walk away with a print from them racing that day. The tricky part will be getting the images edited and available quickly after each race, while you or someone else for you is shooting the next race.

Rather you than me if I'm honest......

Good luck and I hope it works out for you.


7th of September 2009 (Mon), 16:58
Thanks Simon. We do have the equipment for shooting, editing, viewing, saving to CD and printing. But there is only two of us. I for sure noticed that once the trophies are handed out, people are packing up to leave. However, there is practice in the morning, then a first round of races for all groups. About noon or a little later, the second round starts.

I am thinking, shoot during practice and first rounds, then process as soon as the break happens. :)