Shooting motorsports photography can be a fun and enriching experience. It does not matter if it’s two wheels or four, harnessing the horsepower and the on the edge driving in one frame can grab the eyes of many. A lot of times though, a photographer can be left guessing on how to get started and how to receive the magical access to get “behind the scenes.” In this article, I provide several tips that will help you get started. The vast majority of my motorsports photography experience has been off road racing, with a dash of local dirt track sprinkled in for variety; but these tips can put you ahead of the power curve if you have a passion to head down to the local track.
Safety for Motorsports Photographers
Motorsports is an inherently dangerous activity, both for participants and spectators. Crew members and spectators have been killed at motor sports events around the world. When it comes down to it, you are ultimately responsible for your own safety. Along those lines, you are also responsible for the safety of those around you.
Here are some things you can do before you even show up to the track:
It goes without saying, be familiar with the particular genre of racing you are going to shoot. More than likely, you already are, hence the reason you are wanting to do this, but you might be like me and there will be several vehicle classes racing. At all the races I have done, the class ranged from slow, stock based class vehicles up to high horsepower unlimited machines. I have never felt unsafe while shooting off road racing, but I cannot say the same thing about the local dirt track. The dirt track experience was fine when it came to the stock and modified vehicles, but when the winged sprint cars took to the track, it was basically too much. There were cars all over the track and they were the fastest cars of the night and although none crashed, when those cars go out of control, they really go out of control. When I decided to shoot racing, I was already familiar with the sport from following it, plus I had been to several races either as a spectator, a crew member or a member of the promotion staff.
If you can, go to the venue and watch a race before even shooting. Watch what other photographers are doing, both right and wrong. Look at where they are shooting from and take notes. If you already have at least a mental image of the venue before you shoot, you will be able to make better decisions about shooting in a safe way.