Do you have what it takes to shoot car and motorcycle races like a pro?
If you're as passionate about motor sports as you are about photography, then Jamey Price's career as a professional race photographer probably sounds like a dream job. He's photographed some of the biggest races in the world from spots most fans could only dream of going. But, that means long days lugging huge amounts of gear into dangerous areas. He shares with us what it's like to be a pro, as well as a whole bunch of tips for getting started in motor sports photography.
What kind of racing background did you have before you got into photographing it?
I was like every other kid growing up in America. I had car posters on my walls. I would watch Formula 1 races on the weekends when I could find them on the old satellite. I've always love car racing. It was foreign and new and awesome. As I grew up I started going to them as a fan. Then, I got the opportunity to shoot a few of them and it turned into a really, really awesome profession.
You photograph a wide variety of races, from cars to motorcycles. Is there one kind of racing you particularly enjoy?
I joke about it, but if it pays I'll shoot it. I love anything that goes fast. I love racing of all kinds. If somebody wants to send me to Australia to shoot some off road race, I'd happily go.
How much does your knowledge of racing come into play when you're out shooting? Is it crucial to know a lot about racing to get good photos of it?
I don't consciously think about it, but understanding how a car race develops. A Formula 1 races is much different than the 12 Hours of Sebring, which is much different than a Moto GP bike race, which is different from NASCAR. The more you know about it, the easier it is to work around.
How long is a typical day at the races for you?
The races range from two or three hours up to 12 hours in some cases. Those longer races are so much fun. You get all times of day. A lot of races start at Noon or one in the afternoon and are over by three, which is the worst time of day to be shooting anything. Longer races might start at 9 AM and end at 9 or 10 at night.
Some 24-hour races start at 3 in the afternoon and go until the same time the next day. You get a full cycle of the sun. You get a sunrise, and nice afternoon light, but you also get to work at night, which presents its own opportunities and challenges.
How did you get started? For a lot of folks, just getting access seems to be part of the trouble with getting into racing photography.
The biggest pet peeve I have is hearing people with no experience shooting race cars and they want a press credential to a Formula 1 race. You have to be realistic in your expectations. You have to be patient when following it.
When I started, I was going to lawnmower races in North Carolina and dirt track races in Kentucky. Look for stuff that gets no real press recognition and they will likely open their arms to anyone who wants to give it a serious try. Try a local newspaper, magazine, or blog. Small events like that often don't even require a press credential and you can shoot almost anywhere because there's no one else there doing it. They're often happy to have someone there who knows what they're doing.