10 Top Tips for Motorsport Photography – Guillem Calatrava
by Dave Mobbs – September 23rd, 2015
Guillem Calatrava is an X-Rite Coloratti and photographer. One of his key specialisms is motorsport photography and he includes car giant Audi as one of his clients. As one of Spain’s leading motorsport photographers, we wanted to ask Guillem for his top tips to capturing stunning motorsport images.
Do not use automatic modes. You should use Manual or Speed Priority
Getting into manual mode is vital to take good motorsport photos. Controlling your shutter speed can make a huge difference to the image of a photo, and you may well want to try different effects. Capturing something at 1/1000 of a second can give you something sharp and really in focus, but if you want to demonstrate speed then implementing that blur effect by using a slow shutter speed can be a great change.
Also, adding depth of field using smaller aperture values can again create different effects. By being brave with the changes you make, you can truly get some stunning images. We’ll talk about ISO values in a minute…
Panning shots gives dynamism to the image
Another way of adding dynamism to the image is to use a panning technique. It can add a similar style to a slow shutter speed, but gives a slightly different effect and creates a very high intensity image. Using a tripod or monopod when panning is very helpful.
Below are two images which demonstrate the effects of panning, the first image has no panning, and the second uses panning.
Always use the lowest ISO
Anything captured at high speed, and of course when you’re in changing lighting conditions has the potential to create significant noise in an image. Keep the ISO as low as possible to remove that noise. You want dynamism in your images, which you can create using the techniques detailed, but you don’t want distortion created by noise, which just removes crucial details.
Use continuous focus mode (AF-C / Servo), remember to activate all the focus points
Continuous focus mode for moving subject matter may seem obvious, but it’s a vital step, and then activating all the focus points. By selecting all focus points, the smart chip in the camera decides which point the moving subject is closest to and switches back and forth instantly to keep the subject well in focus. These two things in combination should give good focus to your images.
Use a polarizing filter
Polarizing filters are an indispensible part of my tool kit for shooting motorsport photography. Firstly, a polarizing filter really improves color saturation and secondly it reduces reflection. This is so important when being able to view the driver through car windows.
Perhaps more crucial than with other forms of photography, visiting the event before you shoot ensures you can get the right spot to capture from, gives you the right angles, and crucially, where the light will be at different times of the day.
Control the background; a good photo can be spoiled with a bad background
Having worked very hard to get the focus right, to ensure a dynamic image and to remove reflection, the last thing we want is a messy background. Take control of the background and think about what you want the background to be. This comes from capture and edit and ensures that the background adds to your image, and doesn’t distract.
The first rule of Motorsport photography is safety. There’s a lot that can go wrong when cars are travelling quickly. At the same time though, the best shots come from being as close as you can to the action. Give yourself the best chance to capture a great image, as long as you don’t compromise your safety.
A monopod can help you if you are using big lenses
While some users will like to have the control of being hand held, if you’re using large lenses for different effects and for shooting different distances. If you’re out for a long period, then a Monopod can ensure stability of a shot and not take away from the manual controls.
Leave some space in the frame…
You can recompose when you edit. Below is a before and after example of where I have given myself room at the beginning and then given the image much more ‘punch’ by removing some of the original space in the frame.
Guillem Calatrava is an X-Rite Coloratti. He uses X-Rite ColorChecker Passport to control capture and an i1Display Pro for screen calibration.
We’d like to say a big thank you to Guillem for his participation in this blog. To find out more about Guillem and his business, please visit – www.guillemcalatrava.com