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Archive 2023 · Motorsports Photography Help

  
 
ribull
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Motorsports Photography Help


I'm looking to get into motorsports photography since I live in Indianapolis and have grown up going to the race all my life. Does anyone have any tips on what kinds of lenses you'd recommend and photographers whose work to look at for inspiration?

I'm also curious if anyone knows what the credential process is like for Indycar events... or if it's even possible to get them as an amateur photographer.



Feb 24, 2023 at 07:02 PM
wgulker
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Motorsports Photography Help


Motorsports lenses depends on the track, type of photography you want take, and your budget. In general, you need nice quality lenses in the 70 to 400 mm range.

Eligibility for media credentials generally requires an affiliation with a publication, social media with large followings, participants, series, or track.

The first thing you need is a strong photo portfolio. Attend a few races and shoot from non-media locations. After this, place you best shots (~40) on a portfolio site.

After you setup your portfolio, send it to the eligible outlets and indicate you will work for free.



Feb 25, 2023 at 09:53 AM
henry albert
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Motorsports Photography Help


wgulker wrote:
After you setup your portfolio, send it to the eligible outlets and indicate you will work for free.


And if you do that, expect to receive zero cooperation/help from photographers trying to make a living.




Feb 25, 2023 at 08:54 PM
ribull
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Motorsports Photography Help


Hmmm yeah I'm not trying to ruffle feathers, just trying to get some cool shots for my own enjoyment. Maybe credentialed is just not the way to go then?


Feb 25, 2023 at 10:19 PM
Dragonfire
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Motorsports Photography Help


I formed a corporation with a robust insurance policy and I was able to gain entry into almost any event by requesting credentials well in advance but I was in my mid 40's and owned the equipment and had experience.

The first rule of auto racing photography is "you are not the story" they don't want you getting killed, so you need to remain in designated areas.

I remember carrying the Canon 400L 2.8 IS(12lbs) in the heat at Lime Rock.

Most sports photographs suck, but it's not brain surgery








Feb 25, 2023 at 10:26 PM
wgulker
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Motorsports Photography Help


I get it. Unfortunately for the professionals, there are a lot of skilled amateur photographers that love to shoot motorsports and are capable of efficiently producing content that meets the needs of some of the outlets that can provide credentials.


Feb 25, 2023 at 10:34 PM
wgulker
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Motorsports Photography Help


There are still a few tracks that provide good shooting locations for ticket buyers. Tracks like Road America and Mid-Ohio provide nice general admission vantage points without interfering fences and signs.


Feb 25, 2023 at 10:40 PM
henry albert
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Motorsports Photography Help


wgulker wrote:
I get it. Unfortunately for the professionals, there are a lot of skilled amateur photographers that love to shoot motorsports and are capable of efficiently producing content that meets the needs of some of the outlets that can provide credentials.


You are correct. That doesn't make the skilled amateur any less of an a***ole for doing it.



Feb 25, 2023 at 10:41 PM
wgulker
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Motorsports Photography Help


henry albert wrote:
You are correct. That doesn't make the skilled amateur any less of an a***ole for doing it.


In my opinion, a reliance on job entitlement is not a good strategy to maintain employment. Using this strategy has not worked well in most industries. People need to keep up with technology trends and develop specialized skills.



Feb 26, 2023 at 07:26 AM
pjbuehner
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Motorsports Photography Help


henry albert wrote:
And if you do that, expect to receive zero cooperation/help from photographers trying to make a living.



Also, realize that you just set your own pricing. Good luck getting paid in the future. You will be seen as the guy that will shoot for free. It is a lose-lose. There are those who are willing to shoot for free forever simply for the sideline pass. They are the most frustrating. Usually, it is simply them stroking their own ego at he expense of someone trying to put food on their plate.

Mostly, I blame the venue (University or whoever is granting credentials) but the shooter should understand what they are doing as well. This is the very thing that drove most sports shooters out of the business and caused a mass layoff of photojournalists.




Feb 26, 2023 at 08:14 AM
wgulker
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Motorsports Photography Help


pjbuehner wrote:
Also, realize that you just set your own pricing. Good luck getting paid in the future. You will be seen as the guy that will shoot for free. It is a lose-lose. There are those who are willing to shoot for free forever simply for the sideline pass. They are the most frustrating. Usually, it is simply them stroking their own ego at he expense of someone trying to put food on their plate.

Mostly, I blame the venue (University or whoever is granting credentials) but the shooter should understand what they are doing as well. This is the very thing
...Show more

Most people shooting motorsports as a hobby are under no illusion they will ever get paid a significant amount of money. I believe some photojournalists can do more to stay relevant and find jobs that is not considered a hobby by many. There are alternatives for photographers to develop their skills and find better paying jobs. Job entitlement is not an effective strategy.



Feb 26, 2023 at 09:20 AM
pjbuehner
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Motorsports Photography Help


wgulker wrote:
Most people shooting motorsports as a hobby are under no illusion they will ever get paid a significant amount of money. I believe some photojournalists can do more to stay relevant and find jobs that is not considered a hobby by many. There are alternatives for photographers to develop their skills and find better paying jobs. Job entitlement is not an effective strategy.


I am not familiar with motorsports so I will defer to you on that. Maybe I was just projecting what I have seen in the sports world onto that. I shot for a D1 team for over a decade and the sidelines were full of people who simply wanted to be on the sideline. They always got in the way and half the time, they weren't even shooting. Instead, they were cheering on the team. That trend grew over the years. Also, local papers started accepting submissions from anyone for publication because it saved them money. They went with a "good enough" mentality meaning a decent free image is good enough when compared to a good paid image.
I think that the advent of digital photography was the death knell of many photography jobs.

All the best to you.
Peter



Feb 26, 2023 at 09:58 AM
rscheffler
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Motorsports Photography Help


ribull wrote:
Hmmm yeah I'm not trying to ruffle feathers, just trying to get some cool shots for my own enjoyment. Maybe credentialed is just not the way to go then?


I suggest you don't contact events and tell them you want a pass so you can make better photos for your own enjoyment.

It might work if you have a couple hundred thousand social media followers. A million or two would probably be better. But if you did, you'd probably be busy spending the boatloads of cash you're raking in doing more fun things, like actually driving sports cars on these tracks (and vlogging it).

As someone suggested, try to find places that still have decent general admission sight lines over fences. Hilly tracks would be best. Try to build up a body of work and find a niche you can exploit for access. Might be a specialized website or working with a smaller team in a smaller race series that otherwise wouldn't have a media budget.

Generally you're going to need media affiliation and the larger the event, the larger the market coverage for that affiliation. Think of it from the event's perspective: they have a limited number of credentials to allocate and want the best coverage possible for their event, so that their sponsors/advertisers get as much screen time as possible and therefore want to come back and do it again the next time. If you want to proceed with credentialed access, it means you're going to have to convince some media outlet to take the chance to use you instead of others with whom they may already have established relationships. The tradeoff for you will be that it will become more and more like real work with potentially demanding obligations and expectations that might not align with your creative goals. A lot of people have gone the work-for-access route and the vast majority eventually quit because the 'reward' no longer aligns with the effort (it's cool at first, but like a lot of work, the realization sets in that it's just another form of production made to fit to a certain template, over and over again).



Mar 06, 2023 at 10:35 PM
wgulker
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Motorsports Photography Help


I am not in the "vast majority." I have "worked" for access for over 10 years and have no intention of stopping any time soon. As the saying goes, if you are doing something you love, you are not working. I don't like to go fishing because it is too much work so I don't do it.


Mar 07, 2023 at 07:37 AM
henry albert
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Motorsports Photography Help


wgulker wrote:
I am not in the "vast majority." I have "worked" for access for over 10 years and have no intention of stopping any time soon. As the saying goes, if you are doing something you love, you are not working. I don't like to go fishing because it is too much work so I don't do it.


At least you own your behavior. Not everyone will admit to being a jerk. Points for you, I guess.



Mar 07, 2023 at 09:21 AM
ribull
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Motorsports Photography Help


rscheffler wrote:
I suggest you don't contact events and tell them you want a pass so you can make better photos for your own enjoyment.

Yeah that's not quite what I meant... I was more thinking I would give them whatever photos I take in exchange for a credential. I figured my "work" is likely worth a credential, but not a credential plus compensation like other photographers that are clearly taking more high quality pictures. I wasn't expecting that I would be taking work away from them because I figured my pictures wouldn't be as high quality, or at least there wouldn't be as many high quality pictures, so I wouldn't really be in competition.

rscheffler wrote:
Think of it from the event's perspective: they have a limited number of credentials to allocate

I think this is what I didn't get. I would understand for a sporting event like a football where there's limited space along the sideline, but especially a track like Indianapolis that's 2 and a half miles long I figured there's effectively (do not read actually) unlimited credentials. They're not costing the track anything, especially if I'm already paying for a month-long garage pass for practice and quali. I just kind of wanted access to photo nests I figured would be largely unoccupied during practice sessions

Anyways, thanks for the advice guys. I'll just stick to finding spots where I can in the stands



Mar 07, 2023 at 10:23 AM
Taperwing
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Motorsports Photography Help


Not going to wade into the ethics of sports photography. However, if interested in something, like motrosports, I can fully understand the desire to grab some captures for personal memories and enjoyment.

Echoing wgulker's comment, you will have more success with tracks having better spectator sight lines. As he noted, Mid-Ohio is a great option, and less than 2 hours from Indy. FWIW, Indy is terrible, unless you have press credentials.

The last racing I shot was on film and at Mid-Ohio, which as you might guess was some time back. For actual races, 1-3 keepers per roll was about as good as it got panning long glass. Digital makes the learning process more democratic.

It used to be that one could purchase a photo pass, which opened up additional options, but not to the level of full press credentials. TBH, at Mid-Ohio there are pleanty of shooting locations as a standard spectator, especially on the decending back straight into the esses called 'madness.'

If you get bitten by the bug, you might consider going over for club type events. Check in with your local Porsche or BMW club, or SCCA chapter for when they run track days or regional races. Not going to step on as many toes learning the ropes shooting these events. Amateur racers don't mind a nice image either.



Mar 07, 2023 at 10:51 AM
rscheffler
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Motorsports Photography Help


rscheffler wrote:
I suggest you don't contact events and tell them you want a pass so you can make better photos for your own enjoyment.


ribull wrote:
Yeah that's not quite what I meant... I was more thinking I would give them whatever photos I take in exchange for a credential. I figured my "work" is likely worth a credential, but not a credential plus compensation like other photographers that are clearly taking more high quality pictures. I wasn't expecting that I would be taking work away from them because I figured my pictures wouldn't be as high quality, or at least there wouldn't be as many high quality pictures, so I wouldn't really be in competition.


Unfortunately it doesn't work that easily. And as you can see from wgulker, there are already others ahead of you doing the same, and producing high quality work. One of the challenges with sports photography is that the best sports events are the most difficult to access and that you basically have to work your way 'up the ladder' 'paying your dues.' It's not like you do a few events and suddenly you're at Indy 500, the sidelines of the Super Bowl, World Cup, etc. Meanwhile there are a ton of others who will do it for free just for access. It seems innocent at first, and somehow those starting out need to gain experience, but it's not a healthy, sustainable system for anyone who wishes to *earn a living* doing it. And indeed if you do, you either find your niche and exploit it, hoping someone else doesn't come along and offer to do it for free, or you move on to something else, like a nice cushy job at a major automaker.

rscheffler wrote:
Think of it from the event's perspective: they have a limited number of credentials to allocate


ribull wrote:
I think this is what I didn't get. I would understand for a sporting event like a football where there's limited space along the sideline, but especially a track like Indianapolis that's 2 and a half miles long I figured there's effectively (do not read actually) unlimited credentials. They're not costing the track anything, especially if I'm already paying for a month-long garage pass for practice and quali. I just kind of wanted access to photo nests I figured would be largely unoccupied during practice sessions

Anyways, thanks for the advice guys. I'll just stick to finding spots where I
...Show more

More people means more management of people trying to get into the wrong places. There could be insurance reasons, among many others.

I'm also one who started shooting motorsports on film, while I was in high school. At the annual Toronto CART/Indycar event you could buy one of a limited number of amateur photo pass that allowed access to some trackside cutouts and limited cold pit access. But you had to cede cutouts to media when they demanded it. After a couple times doing that I made some connections with the Canadian Press staff and was brought on to the event as a stringer, paid for whatever photos went on the wire (practically like working for free). Practice and qualifying times are actually the best times to experiment and get the "pretty" on-track car shots. Drivers are also usually pushing the hardest during qualifying. Not sure if any events now offer something similar?

The suggestion to start at the club level is a great one and is likely the best route to building some relationships that could develop into greater opportunities.

wgulker wrote:
I am not in the "vast majority." I have "worked" for access for over 10 years and have no intention of stopping any time soon. As the saying goes, if you are doing something you love, you are not working. I don't like to go fishing because it is too much work so I don't do it.


Bully for you! Clearly your 'clients' are benefitting from your generosity. The quality of your photography is an immense bargain for the entities you're subsidizing with your donated time and work. I'm curious if your passion for motorsports, and I'm guessing therefore cars in general, meant you waived remuneration when working for General Motors and Ford in your day jobs?

You can say whatever you want, but to me it sounds like entitlement. The benefit of financial means, the time and the inclination to donate work for the sheer self-gratification of being at the track, without apparently respecting that for others it's their livelihood and not just a hobby. It's easy to ignore selfishness and say others should step aside and adapt instead.



Mar 07, 2023 at 02:57 PM
ribull
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Motorsports Photography Help



rscheffler wrote:
At the annual Toronto CART/Indycar event you could buy one of a limited number of amateur photo pass that allowed access to some trackside cutouts and limited cold pit access. But you had to cede cutouts to media when they demanded it.

This is what I was looking for when I originally asked my question, but after doing a fair amount of looking I couldn't really find anything like that, so I figured it would be good to ask those who would likely know. It's unfortunate because otherwise it feels like a very closed system. If you can't gain experience without stepping on other people's toes, you're just locked out completely whether you're an aspiring professional, or like me literally just want to take some cool photos in some cool locations. I didn't mean to start a big conversation but I suppose it's been interesting lol



Mar 07, 2023 at 03:09 PM
TooManyShots
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Motorsports Photography Help


ribull wrote:
This is what I was looking for when I originally asked my question, but after doing a fair amount of looking I couldn't really find anything like that, so I figured it would be good to ask those who would likely know. It's unfortunate because otherwise it feels like a very closed system. If you can't gain experience without stepping on other people's toes, you're just locked out completely whether you're an aspiring professional, or like me literally just want to take some cool photos in some cool locations. I didn't mean to start a big conversation but I suppose
...Show more

Not a close system but you are trying to gain access to events which are privately run, in a privately owned venues. Like seriously? You aren't entitled to anything.




Mar 07, 2023 at 06:36 PM
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