Why am I blogging about Motorsport photography? 

I have spent years photographing the action at numerous tracks, always for the love of it, and always from the spectator’s enclosures. As soon as I got my first car at 18, I bought a 35mm SLR and a couple of inexpensive lenses and spent weekends photographing rallies all over the country. I read all sorts of photography books and went out at the weekend to try the techniques. It was a good way to learn, and the results got better as I understood the effects of aperture, shutter speed and lighting. Back then, I never quite knew what I’d captured until the prints came back from the photo lab. I’ll include a few rally pictures, though I don’t have records of shutter speeds and aperture settings. After a few years in remote forests, I started to take interest in the more civilised circuit racing scene.

The change from film to digital has revolutionised photography. With the popularity of digital SLR cameras has come a new generation of Motorsport photographers finding their way. Over the last few years, I’ve found people looking over my shoulder at the LCD screen and asking how I get those pictures. I’ve helped them to change a few settings on their own cameras and get better results. This has been the inspiration to write this blog, to guide new enthusiasts through the complexities and achieve even better results. 

I’ll also include notes on where and when to go to get the best chance of taking great photos. If you’re visiting a track for the first time, you’ll have a head start in finding a good spot to shoot from.   

I hope you enjoy the blog and take better pictures as a result of reading it!


Sony  A450, 200 mm, F3.5′ 1/400 s, ISO-200

This shot was taken during practice at the Monaco Grand Prix. We got practice tickets for Tabac and Casino Square. This was FP2, having spend FP1 at Tabac. It was a bit of a dull day, with the odd shower passing through, hence struggling for shutter speed and needing to up the ISO setting on the camera to 200. The lens was an aging Tokina 70-200 mm Pro spec lens that would have been built for a Minolta (Sony bought Minolta and use their mount, good source of lenses). As you would expect, F1 cars are pretty quick through here, so not that many shots were successful, it was tricky getting composition, and you can see even with the fast shutter speed that the scenery is slightly blurred from panning. It was also tricky because I couldn’t move about, you have a seat and are expected to stay sat in it – no standing up to give yourself more freedom to shoot. Anyway, this isn’t a bad shot of Jenson Button in the McLaren. 

From the fans perspective…

My plan for this blog is to show you how to get great photos using your digital SLR and without the need for a press pass. Digital cameras have made photography more accessible. Many more fans have a decent camera than when film and development were involved. There are loads of photography books, but little focus on Motorsport specifically. This is what I would like to focus on here.

Shots like the one below come about from a mixture of timing and technique. Club racing is the ideal place to practice, just as aspiring drivers come here to practice, so can aspiring photographers. Once perfected, the techniques can be used at higher profile events such as Le Mans and Formula 1.

Mazda MX5 Oversteer
Cheap Thrills in MX5 Racing
Canon 60D, 300 mm, F/5, 1/200 s, ISO-100

Cheap is probably somewhat unkind, as all racing is costly, but relatively speaking, club races such as the MX5 championship provide an affordable entry into Motorsport for many drivers. As you,can see, lively rear drive sports cars can be a thrill-a-minute too, as car control is developed!

At this point on the circuit at Cadwell you are close to the actions, so a 300 mm lens is plenty. I was following the cars as they crested the hill, and shooting 3/4 front panned shots across the track. Good panning involves following the car a little before and after, and in this case, he ran a little wide over the brow. Over correcting off the grass brought the tail around – nicely controlled and on his way on this occasion! As I was panning shots, I had the Canon set to Tv mode (shutter priority) with the shutter speed set at 1/200 s to give some blurring, but not wildly so. I just got away with the shutter speed shooting this with the MX5 coming towards me, and a nice effect with the dirt flying.