How to take great F1 photos: Jamey Price answers your questions

Guest articles

Jenson Button, McLaren, Barcelona, 2012

Jenson Button, McLaren, Barcelona, 2012

Jamey Price’s brilliant photographs from Barcelona testing featured on the site last month.

Now Jamey answers your questions on how to take great photographs of F1 cars and offers some tips of the trade.

Snapping F1 cars at 200mph

Q. How do you photograph a Formula One car that’s moving at speed?

A. It’s not easy – but it’s not hard either.

At high shutter speeds it’s as simple as locking onto the driver’s helmet and taking the photo.

Slower shutter speeds is a little more challenging and takes practice. With longer glass, it takes very little movement to get the panning motion into the photo, so being precise is important.

Practice makes perfect. I didn’t just show up at the test having never covered anything moving quickly. I’ve had a lot of experience shooting horse races and other varieties of car racing which prepared me well.

Ultra-wide photography

Q. What kind of pictures could a F1 photographer make with a ultra-wide angle lens such as the Tokina 11-16mm?

A. That’s a very specific question, but I’ll give you a broad answer. Use what you have at your disposal to its full extent.

A 11-16mm lens is very very wide and so you will have a hard time getting detail on the cars unless you’re standing right next to them.

With that lens, your best bet is to really show the atmosphere at the races. Do lots and lots of panning. When you get comfortable at one shutter speed, slow it down even more.

Spicing up your shots

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Barcelona, 2012

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Barcelona, 2012

Q. How do you combat monotony – same cars, same tracks, same angles?

A. That’s a very good question.

At the Barcelona test I went to, I told myself on day one that I wouldn’t take the same picture two days in a row.

It gets challenging not repeating what you’ve done but you would also be surprised how much a photo can change by taking a few steps to the left or right.

Moving around is the best thing to do, and the next best thing is to put the camera down and use your eyes for a bit. You’ll find something you might have missed through the viewfinder.

Manual vs automatic

Q. What camera control settings do you tend to use?

A. It’s all personal preference, but I’m a big believer in shooting in manual.

It’s like the difference between a manual and an automatic gearbox in a performance car. Just as some drivers prefer the complete control over a car that comes from using a manual gearbox, I want complete control over the camera.

They’re not perfect but I’m the artist. Not the camera’s computer chip!

Shooting solo

Q. Do you shoot every car that hits your current spot, and do you have a spotter to alert you?

A. No, it’s just me out there.

If you spend enough time around the cars you can pick up details that help you know which car is coming. After four days I could tell the difference between a Mercedes engine (particularly the McLaren) and the Ferrari.

But generally I shoot whoever comes by. Then, when I have what I need, move on to the next spot.

Editing photos

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Barcelona, 2012

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Barcelona, 2012

Q. Any recommendations for post processing software? You seem to have a very fast turn-around.

A. Thanks! My turn-around could be better, but that’s where constantly innovating will help.

It is astonishing how quickly some photographers and wire services can get photos online – especially at the Olympics. Within ten minutes of an event finishing there are usually photos online.

It’s complicated, but for my needs, I drop photo cards into a program called Photo Mechanic. I can then sort, caption, rename and upload photos. But before I upload photos, I’ll either use Photoshop CS3 or Lightroom.

Lightroom is relatively inexpensive, but provides all the tools I need as I do very little to the original photos.

Favourite photograph

Q. What is your most memorable shot? (I am sure you have taken millions, so may be tricky question).

A. Not millions, but hundreds of thousands.

I am very proud of some of them, but really at the end of the day it isn’t up to me to say which ones are good and which ones aren’t. And I care even less as long as I get paid for them!

‘It’s all in the equipment’

Q. Give me $10,000 worth of camera gear and a pit pass and I could do the same job.

A. Maybe. But does a top of the line oven make for a fantastic cook? Does the hammer make the carpenter? Does the scalpel make the doctor?

No. I’ve seen some absolutely stunning photos (award-winning in fact) taken with my colleague’s phones. Almost everyone has one of those.

It’s how you use the equipment you have that makes the photographer.

Colour

Paul di Resta, Force India, Barcelona, 2012

Paul di Resta, Force India, Barcelona, 2012

Q. The colour in your photos seems different ?ǣ maybe higher saturation? Is this something deliberate or something that came about from the environment where you were shooting?

A. To me, Formula 1 is three things. It’s loud, it’s fast and it’s colourful.

I can’t convey the noise. I can convey the speed (using slower shutter speeds) and I can show you the colour.

To me, it’s a crime to take that element out of the equation. It’s a little deliberate, but it’s also how my eye sees the world. But it’s not wildly overdone either.

The colours in my photos are more or less how it looks. You eye doesn’t see the world desaturated. Quite the opposite actually!

Tools of the trade

Q. What kit did you use?

A. It was a wide assortment but the bodies were a Nikon D3 and a D700, and a variety of lenses from a 50mm up to a 400mm.

It’s a lot to drag around the track, but for this test I had to take full advantage of the opportunity and shoot an assortment of images.

Next projects

Q. Will you be covering the full F1 season this year ?

A. Sadly, no: this was a one-off.

I’ll be shooting a bit of NASCAR and hopefully some IndyCar and ALMS this year though. I’m based in the United States, but my goal is to eventually cover the F1 calendar full-time. When that will happen, I don’t know.

More tips from Jamey

Want to learn how to take pictures like Jamey? Read his previous articles which include lots of great tips on how to take photographs of F1 cars:

This is a guest article by Jamey Price. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.

Guest articles

Images ?? Jamey Price/F1 Fanatic

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22 comments on How to take great F1 photos: Jamey Price answers your questions

  1. OllyF1uk (@ollyf1uk) said on 7th March 2012, 11:57

    Great article and will take the advice for my trip to Silverstone this year

  2. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 7th March 2012, 12:10

    About colour – you’re absolutely right. And furthermore, the cars look so, so much brighter in the real than they do on television. The red on the McLarens you see on TV is more like a bright pink blacklight paint when you see it at the track. That’s what shocks me whenever I go to the Grand Prix in Melbourne – just how much more colourful the cars are. The McLaren and HRT really stood out last year.

    • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 7th March 2012, 13:27

      You are bang on there about the reds on the McLaren and HRT last year. When I saw them live at Abu Dhabi last year it changed my opinion of the HRT’s livery, it looked mega.

  3. dennis (@dennis) said on 7th March 2012, 12:11

    I’m not a photographer, but I did notice that your pics are colourful. And I appreciate that a lot. It not only looks nicer to me, but it also enhances the atmosphere and the feeling how it is to be at the race. I wish more racing photographers would get that.

  4. Eleanore said on 7th March 2012, 12:16

    Thanks very much for answering my question, Jamey (and all the others)! Very insightful, as usual. As someone aspiring to get to where you are someday, every little bit helps.

  5. supernicebob (@supernicebob) said on 7th March 2012, 12:27

    Great article. Couldn’t agree more about getting colour into the shots as well. That’s certainly the approach I go for. I really like the challenge of getting a good shot, though I have to take a ton of photos to get there. Wish it was something I could do for a living!

  6. sato113 (@sato113) said on 7th March 2012, 12:27

    try get in contact with sutton images. He’s the official f1 photographer, maybe you could be part of his team?

  7. I had dinner with Mark actually. We’ll see. I’d love to be out there, but right now isn’t my time.

    Lastly, these answers are NOT F1 specific. You can copy and paste any of these questions and responses into any sport that has any movement in it. True, I’ve never shot F1 prior to this, but I’ve covered PLENTY of car racing, and horse racing is equally as challenging to photograph, if not more so.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 7th March 2012, 20:49

      Thanks for the article, and the absolutely amazing pictures. I really like how they capture the feel of hearing, feeling and smelling these brand new cars getting out on track and find out who is good and who is not.

  8. Being an amature photographer and a motor sport fan, F1 above all :-) Some great tips here! Sadly I won’t be at the British GP this year, but I am off to knockhill for the BTCC… I better start practising my panning :-D

  9. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 7th March 2012, 13:43

    Good stuff @jameyprice I’ll never be a photographer but the effort you’ve gone to here is great to see. I love how you answered this question…

    Q. Give me $10,000 worth of camera gear and a pit pass and I could do the same job.

    :D

  10. I appreciate the response to the give-me-your-camera-I-could-do-that challenge. As a music photographer, I get the “your camera takes nice pictures” version of a compliment on occasion. Frustrating, but that sentiment can be cured by handing them the camera and challenging them to get one clean picture in a dark room with changing light.

    I look forward to trying my hand at race photography when the party comes to town here in Austin, TX while walking the track during practice sessions and would love to meet a few of the F1 photogs that I follow around the internet.

  11. Chris26 said on 7th March 2012, 16:07

    Fantastic tips and great article. How about some tips on a night race? I will be attending singapore gp this year. I have a 24-105 f4 lens, should that be enought? And i think the track is well litted so ithink it can do the job. I hope jamey can help me. Thanks

    • Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 7th March 2012, 23:13

      We were in the pit grandstand at Singapore last year and there was oodles of light, even shooting across the track into the pits. I used a Nikon D40 and a DX lens 55-300 4.5-5.6 and never had a problem with light. My kids were shooting with an Ipod touch and an Ipad and again had no problems. The trackside general admission areas were really close to the cars so again no problem. What it’s like from grandstands further away from the track I don’t know. I’ve been to drag racing and V8s in the daylight and it’s amazing how the colours are so much more vivid under lights. That said, I’d go for a longer lens than 105mm even if you’re in the front row.

  12. Jamey: I enjoyed your comments and of course your photos. And I especially enjoyed your tip about using Photo Mechanic, and I’ll definitely be checking that program out. Anything that saves time in post-production is worthwhile.

    You mentioned your wanting to convey the great colors in racing, and that many shooters (and photo editors) tend to tone-down the colors, and I am in 100% agreement with you there. Part of the problem is that most digital camera sensors miss the mark on the “hot” colors in car liveries today. The same cars, shot with different cameras, end up looking vastly different.

    Another thing I noticed (and applaud) is your use of heavier than usual contrast in your shots when compared to other sports photographers, who often tend to kill contrast and shadows in post-production. To my eye, the contrast in your work adds a much more realistic representation of your subject matter.

    You mentioned that you’re based in the USA, and shoot ALMS and Indy Car. Which area are you in?

    • Im in Charlotte NC.

      Thanks for your comments on my work. A lot of the contrast comes from the Nikon though. Nikon color space is naturally more contrasty than Canon’s. It’s about 60:40 ratio of Canon to Nikon shooters in F1.

  13. Proesterchen (@proesterchen) said on 7th March 2012, 23:39

    Thanks for answering my question, Jamey! :)

  14. zmiles2 (@zmiles2) said on 8th March 2012, 6:12

    I can’t really put my finger on why, but I love the shots where you can see the driver’s eyes. I’ve always thought that looks cool. I also like to see when they’re making either a really slow speed 180 turn or a high speed sweeper. In the photo at the top of the page of Jenson, you can vaguely see his eyes and its a great shot.

  15. ScuderiaVincero (@scuderiavincero) said on 8th March 2012, 7:22

    Indeed, it is all about how you use your equipment. A friend and I made a short film based on my friends’ experience in a foreign country, and all we used, was a simple Nokia N9. It may not be my cup of tea, but I respect photographers for their work :)

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