FREQUENTLY. ASKED. QUESTIONS.
I get asked a lot of questions on social media and trackside. Here are some of the most common ones.
Q. Where did you learn photography?
A. I have never once taken a photography class or course. I am completely self taught through the school of trail and error and learning from my mistakes. I spent an amazing week at the Rich Clarkson Sports Photography workshop in Colorado Springs, but that is as much as I've ever done with photography education.
Q. How did you become a motorsport photographer?
A. I've ALWAYS loved motorsport. I was flipping channels as a kid on the old satellite tv one morning in 1998 and heard this almighty screaming sound like I had never heard before. It turned out to be the 1998 Monaco Grand Prix. I was instantly in love with this foreign sport with crazy sounds, fast cars and so much color. I became a subscriber of F1 Racing Magazine, but I rarely read the articles. I would instead feverishly flip through the pages looking at the stunning photos from the top motorsport photographers. I was given a camera in 2008 for my 21st birthday, and quickly took to taking photos of my college swimming events, and some of the horse races I was riding in (I was an apprentice steeplechase jockey for 7 years). I soon started getting paid to cover other horse races, and even some bigger events like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup. I enjoyed being a jockey and covering horse racing as a photographer immensely, but it was never going to last very long as a career. I eventually transitioned to covering low level dirt track races in Kentucky & North Carolina, karting, track days at various places, attending lots of races as a fan, I even covered lawn mower racing. All of that eventually turned into covering professional car races for small clients and very little pay, which blossomed into the career I have today. I became a full time photographer (i.e. no other form of income) in July 2014.
Q. When did you cover your first professional car race?
A. My first race was actually a really cool one. It was Kimi Raikkonen's 2011 NASCAR Truck race debut at Charlotte Motorspeedway. I called an agency in England and asked if they wanted someone to cover it, and they said "SURE" I got a few hundred dollars cash and a foot in the door to two world's I had always dreamed of being in: motorsport, and more specifically, Formula 1. I covered my first sportscar race and Indycar race in August 2011.
Q. How are you able to photograph these big races? How can I cover those races too?
A. There is NO quick way to the top of any profession. People in this modern world assume that everything is supposed to happen immediately and without really working for it. Dating, jobs, everything is at your fingertips and immediate in the 21st century....and sometimes that is true, things do happen quickly. BUT not in this kind of work. You can be the most talented photographer in the world, but you might not be able to make one dollar taking and selling your photos. Hard work. Persistence. Business acumen. Creativity. Networking. You need ALL of it and then some. This is a job where you make your own hours and find your own clients. No one will give you your next job on a silver platter and it certainly won't come easily or quickly. There are no days off and never a sense of true accomplishment because you still have to find work for tomorrow or the next race. There is no way to skip steps on the way to the top. Like many others, I started covering racing at lower levels. There is an abundance of paid work in the smaller categories that will allow you to make some money, meet lots of people and make interesting images and with little to no competition from others. If you're good enough, you will eventually find your way to the professional level. But professional photography isn't for everyone.
Q. What's in your camera bag?
A. I carry all my equipment in a TENBA rolling camera bag. It goes around the world with me in airplanes, rental cars, trains, boats....everywhere. Inside of it, I have two Nikon D5's, a 500mm f4 VR, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR, Nikon 24-70 f2.8, Nikon 14-24mm f2.8, Nikon 24mm f1.4, Nikon 85mm f1.8 and a wallet full of LEXAR XQD, SF and SD memory cards.
Q. How do I become a motorsport photographer?
A. As I've mentioned already.......start small. Shoot ANYTHING that moves. It will all help you learn. Building a portfolio doesn't happen at the top by covering WEC or F1. It happens with years of experience covering everything else. Access to these smaller events is much less restricted, versus access to world class events is VERY limited. Press credentials to cover races are given only to working members of the media, and not to fans just looking to be closer to the action. Start with those small races and build a stunning portfolio, but most importantly, build your network of people you know and you'll quickly find that doors open to other events.
Q. Don't I need credentials to make pretty pictures?
A. NO. Most professional racing photographers spend a good part of our day at a race shooting from general admission areas. Most tracks in the United States, and a good bunch in Europe are so fan accessible that you don't need credentials to make the same images I do. Not having the access makes you work harder for nice pictures, so be creative. Tell us a story using your photos! But don't use not having credentials as an excuse for not shooting. Most professional motorsport photographers started simply as fans.
Q. What's your favorite race to cover?
A. Le Mans. The atmosphere. The race. The cars. The track. It is all so challenging and so special. I'm so thankful to have covered Le Mans several times in my short career, and to have been once as a fan in 2012. It will forever hold a special place in my heart. Monaco is a close second. Having F1 cars whizzing by that close is one of the coolest things you can ever experience. The manic atmosphere of the Macau GP is fun too. The track is wild.
Q. How many races have you covered?
A. I have well and truly lost count. Several hundred at this point. Each one is memorable in some way though.
Q. Why are you on social media so much?
A. Professional photography is a business. Don't EVER forget that, and social media, is FREE ADVERTISING! I enjoy following my friends, getting inspiration from them and seeing what they're up to. Social media allows me to build a brand that helps me to make a living. Simple as that. Makes sense to me!
Q. How can I get more social media followers like you have?
A. If you're going to be a motorsport photographer, be a motorsport photographer. If you're going to be a food photographer, be a food photographer. If you're going to be a landscape photographer, be a landscape photographer. Don't share photos of your cat, or third cousin's second birthday, or a boring family trip you took. Set up a personal account for that. Stick to one genre and post interesting, original AND beautiful content. Stick to the basics and you'll watch your followers grow quickly. But diluting your content is not the best way to grow an audience.