A Beginner’s Guide to Photographing Motor Racing

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This is a guest post by Haydar Turkhan. Find some great photography tips on his blog.

It’s fast, moving fast and you have to focus in seconds, push the shutter and get a clear Picture of what’s coming on the track; it is not easy.

Here are some, practical tips for amateur photographers who are fans of fast moving cars:

1) GEAR: As you are not a Professional, an accredited photographer,  you will probably not be so close to the track during the race. So you will need a zoom lens, like 200mm or 300mm. In my opinion, the best one is 70-300mm, so you can use this lens on any occasion, without having to switch to another. Vibration Reduction (VR) is important.

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2) PREPARATION: Go to the site 1 or 2 days before the race day, during the practice or qualifying days and try to figure out the best place to photograph the action. Try to figure out where you can capture real “racing”. Some places can be closer to the track with a good angle to take photographs of the drivers. For example the turns at the end of long straights are good places to capture the emotion of racing.

Also keep in mind that the track is always more crowded on race day so it will be more difficult to get a good shot. Keep in mind that sometimes wide angle can be a better choice than zoom, depending on the situation.

3) TRY TO CAPTURE THE ‘FEELING’: Always look to capture the emotion of competition. After all, that is why the drivers are on the track and your pictures must reflect that. Look for flames, hot breaking clappers or two race cars competing with each other, one trying to pass the other, etc.

4) PANNING: Most of times, panning is the only technique you are going to use. Choose continuous focusing on your camera. Focus on your subject and follow it all the way while you take pictures. If you can follow your subject at the right speed, you will get crystal clear image of your subject, with a “movement blur effect” on the background. This will give your picture a sense of movement. Don’t forget that you need to practice, practice and practice!

5) TRY TO CAPTURE THE ATMOSPHERE: Be aware that what's happening outside of the track is also very interesting and you can often find interesting subjects there.

6) THE PODIUM: The last but most important; don’t forget to take picture of the podium!

Haydar Turkhan is a 30 something, CPA, Husband, Dad (of 2), Amateur Photographer and big big fan of motorsport. You can see more of him on Twitter, Flickr or at his blog.

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I have done some racing photos here in So CA at Fontana Speedway. I like to take photos of the vintage auto racing cars. This is the first time I have seen a post written about racing. It was great seeing it. You can see some of my photos at my website under classic cars.

I have done some racing photos here in So CA at Fontana Speedway. I like to take photos of the vintage auto racing cars. This is the first time I have seen a post written about racing. It was great seeing it. You can see some of my photos at my website under classic cars.

Leave VR or IS turned on if you are panning with a slow shutter speed. If you are shooting the cars head- or tail-on, open you aperture up, go to a fast shutter speed (1/1000 or faster) and turn VR off because it doesn’t do anything at all for you at that kind of shutter speed.

…and don’t worry that 90% of your shots are blurred. You’re looking for the 10% where the car or motorcycle is sharp but the background is nicely blurred.

Personally, I start at 1/250 and get some good shots with a bit of background blur (with a 400mm lens and F1 speed cars!) then reduce the shutter speed to get better blur but a lower rate of good shots.

Also, shoot in continuous high mode and take a burst as you track the car/cycle.

does anybody use a canon 60d as I have one but don’t know how to use it to photograph racing cars, can somebody give me any help.

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