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. bpacman (@bpacman) said on 9th March 2012, 13:30

    @Jameyprice I was at the final day of testing in Barcelona and took snaps using both my own micro four-thirds camera (a Panasonic Lumix G10) and my friend’s SLR (a Nikon). I haven’t yet seen the results of the photographs that I took on his camera but I did find it much easier to autofocus on the car using his camera. Is this something you’ve had experience of? Is it simply the fact that the viewfinder isn’t digital that makes this seem easier or is there something else unique to SLRs that mean they are better at autofocusing on moving objects?

    • Jamey Price said on 9th March 2012, 17:42

      A digital SLR will blow your autofocus away. No question about it. Theres a reason that the Darren Heaths of the world don’t shoot on point and shoot cameras. Its great for the kids birthday party, but F1 is about as much work as a camera will ever have to do. Pushes it to the very limit in every single way.

      • bpacman (@bpacman) said on 9th March 2012, 23:22

        I wouldn’t count the G10 as a point and shoot camera. I may be wrong but I thought it was the same as an SLR except that the viewfinder was digital rather than a live view? You can still shoot in aperture or shutter priority or do any of the other things you can with an SLR?

        Wikipedia suggests than micro four thirds cameras use a different AF system to DSLRs – I wondered if this was the reason for the difference in performance?

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