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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Motorsports Talk
Thread started 15 Mar 2015 (Sunday) 10:34
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How to become a pro motorsports photographer in 5-6 years?

 
SE ­ Smith ­ Jr
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Mar 15, 2015 10:34 |  #1

I've really been dreading making this post, so I'll just cut to the chase...

In 5-6 years my son will be out of high school and off to college. When that happens, I'd like to be starting a career traveling the country (and/or world) shooting motorsports. I'm mostly interested in Sportscar and IndyCar racing. My question is: What should I be doing between now and then to make that happen? I mean, 5-6 years is enough time to get a master's degree in something. Do I need to go back to school and get a degree? How do you go about finding work in the first place? I just want to know the best way to get from here (amateur hobbyist) to there (professional motorsports photographer) in that amount of time (5-6 years). What do I need to do?

I thank you all in advance for sharing your knowledge, wisdom, and advice!


-Steve

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DC ­ Fan
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Mar 15, 2015 14:10 |  #2

SE Smith Jr wrote in post #17475872 (external link)
I've really been dreading making this post, so I'll just cut to the chase...

In 5-6 years my son will be out of high school and off to college. When that happens, I'd like to be starting a career traveling the country (and/or world) shooting motorsports. I'm mostly interested in Sportscar and IndyCar racing. My question is: What should I be doing between now and then to make that happen? I mean, 5-6 years is enough time to get a master's degree in something. Do I need to go back to school and get a degree? How do you go about finding work in the first place? I just want to know the best way to get from here (amateur hobbyist) to there (professional motorsports photographer) in that amount of time (5-6 years). What do I need to do?

I thank you all in advance for sharing your knowledge, wisdom, and advice!


First, learn how to do this, over and over again,without thinking about what you're doing. Develop techniques to the the point they're beyond instinct and become habit.


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Then spend each weekend day over the next five and six years at a race track with a camera and your fresh portfolio of images. Go to as many tracks as you can reach. If possible, go to a day race and night race on the same day. Your goal will be to become a familiar face and establish yourself at tracks as a person who can reliably generate images when the clients want them. This process will take all of the next six years. Work at building a spotless reputation. You must sell yourself as a product to compete against people with decades of years before you started. You are the product. Unless people automatically think of you as the photographer they will go, you won't make anysales. The key to success is to please customers and not yourself.



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Spats139
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Mar 15, 2015 15:34 |  #3

I have no experience in motorsports photography at all, and there are probably hundreds of things that you would have to consider, but it looks like DC Fan has pretty much laid out the first steps. Aside from the technical aspects you will also need to consider the business stuff. I have no idea of what the best photographers might earn, but I would imagine that travelling across the country, or the world, and competing against hundreds, if not thousands, of other photographers would be quite costly.


Dale

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SE ­ Smith ­ Jr
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Mar 16, 2015 09:11 |  #4

Thanks for the advice so far! However, I do think I need to be a bit more direct with the questions I'm asking.

How do you go about getting a job with a motorsports publication? Does it even work that way or are you some sort of an independent contractor? What kind of schooling/special training do you need, if any, other than honing your skills at the track every weekend?

Thanks again in advance!


-Steve

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DC ­ Fan
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Mar 16, 2015 11:45 |  #5

SE Smith Jr wrote in post #17477269external link
Thanks for the advice so far! However, I do think I need to be a bit more direct with the questions I'm asking.

How do you go about getting a job with a motorsports publication? Does it even work that way or are you some sort of an independent contractor? What kind of schooling/special training do you need, if any, other than honing your skills at the track every weekend?

Thanks again in advance!

The idea of a staff photographer for a motorsports publication is fading fast. Most of that work is freelance and tends to go to experienced photographers already well known to the publication. John Thawley http://www.johnthawley​.com/external link is an example of an exceptionally experienced photographer who has many freelance jobs waiting for him every year.

You may be able to get freelance work with a magazine by contacting the editors, learning if they need an event covered and sending them portfolio images in advance. I don't know if there's such a thing as a school to teach publication-style action photography. Mastering that skill requires years of experience




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Bicknell55
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Mar 16, 2015 19:10 |  #6

Have you been credentialed for any major event? What have you got to show? There's a ton of folks trying to do what you want to do, what do you have that makes you stand out from the crowd? Sportscars are tough given the consolidation of series while IndyCar is pretty wrapped up by agencies, best I understand. From what I've noticed being around the photo room is drivers/teams/sponsors​/mfg are the best area for a sustained income.


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aphphoto
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Mar 17, 2015 01:06 |  #7

Not to be discouraging or a negative nancy but I will tell you this: Even the top professionals are bemoaning the fact that it is a cut-throat business and there is not a lot of money to be made.
There are hundreds of people trying to do this and outside of a handful (literally) none of them are making a living at it.
In professional motorsports you're going to find that these guys are flooded with people giving them pictures for free. Hard to compete with free.


who gives a rat crap how much gear you can list?

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SE ­ Smith ­ Jr
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Mar 18, 2015 09:10 |  #8

Anyone else?


-Steve

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aphphoto
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Mar 18, 2015 10:43 |  #9

SE Smith Jr wrote in post #17480353external link
Anyone else?

What other questions do you have?
You haven't responded to any of the points raised in the last couple of posts.


who gives a rat crap how much gear you can list?

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Tony_Stark
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Mar 24, 2015 12:30 |  #10

I think as with any field in photography, there is no simple 1-2-3 process to make it in a specific genre. Its all about hard work and building your rep and portfolio. Its just about starting off on the ground level, doing local events, and working your way from there. At the end of the day, its all about who you know so building up relationships and contacts is key.


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Arte ­ Automobilistica
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Mar 29, 2015 02:58 |  #11

aphphoto wrote in post #17478454external link
Not to be discouraging or a negative nancy but I will tell you this: Even the top professionals are bemoaning the fact that it is a cut-throat business and there is not a lot of money to be made.
There are hundreds of people trying to do this and outside of a handful (literally) none of them are making a living at it.
In professional motorsports you're going to find that these guys are flooded with people giving them pictures for free. Hard to compete with free.

You aren't being negative at all and have summed up my experience. I run the website for a racing seiries and I thought that I was going to make a killing. Unfortunately that hasn't been the case. The drivers would rather download photos from my website (watermark and all) than actually buy them. Don't get me started on the freebies. As aphphoto said it is hard to compete with free. Instead of a wife my motorsport photography has become an expensive and demanding mistress.


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aphphoto
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Mar 29, 2015 19:06 |  #12

Arte Automobilistica wrote in post #17496347external link
The drivers would rather download photos from my website (watermark and all) than actually buy them.

Here is how it usually goes for those who think the driver will be thrilled to see himself online:
Post heavily watermarked image on social media.
Get message from famous race winner - "how do I get a high-res copy of this?"
Message him back saying you're always happy to discuss the sale or licensing of images.
Listen to sound of crickets chirping.

PS: forgot to mention the joys of the fights you are going to have with people all the way up to major manufacturers who think the product of your hard work is free for the taking. Yup - car companies, motorcycle makers, parts suppliers, racing series and on and on - all think that your work product is theirs to do with as they please for web, print or other use. If caught they'll offer you credit or a payment gesture so insulting even fast food workers would sneer at it.

PPS: be sure to discuss with your mortgage company, your bank manager and any tradesmen you have accounts with how you will be paying for your home and living essentials with bylines and photo credits since that's all that most people will expect you to want in return for your skills, knowledge and investment in equipment.


who gives a rat crap how much gear you can list?

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idkdc
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Mar 30, 2015 01:05 |  #13

So, I take it that basically all the fun "man-stuff" like sports and motorsports and cars and related has pretty low return on investment?


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urbanfreestyle
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Mar 30, 2015 01:30 as a reply to idkdc's post |  #14

I am far from a professional photographer but i have shot with drivers that now run in the BDC (British drift championship). When they were just coming up and learning they were friendly and were always looking for help. However now they have moved on their interest moves away. As others have said for every quality photographer there are 10 people with cameras willing to do it for free just so they can get track access / free entry to the show / bragging rights.

A lot of event organisers have gone from quality for a fee to quantity for free (and that is in my short time in the industry).

I don't want to put a damper on it as i know it CAN be done however make sure you're willing to put the money in, the time in, the arguments in, grow some thick skin and be prepaired for a lot of struggle and the possibility of losing out.


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aphphoto
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Mar 30, 2015 10:34 |  #15

urbanfreestyle wrote in post #17497587external link
I don't want to put a damper on it as i know it CAN be done however make sure you're willing to put the money in, the time in, the arguments in, grow some thick skin and be prepaired for a lot of struggle and the possibility of losing out.

There is an approximately 3 year cycle of photographers coming along, attempting to break into the industry and moving on when they can't make a go of it. Unless you've got something really different AND a personal connection to somebody who actually signs the checks - forget it. Save yourself the financial drain and the hardships and find somewhere else to earn your daily bread.
As I said earlier there are a handful of people making money at this - and they are working their butts off at the track, hustling for work when they aren't at the track and, in a few cases, undercutting and backstabbing their way to the top. You've absolutely got to be a self-promoter and a bit of a prick to make it today.


who gives a rat crap how much gear you can list?

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How to become a pro motorsports photographer in 5-6 years?
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