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Photography Question 
J. Mack Photography

member since: 1/7/2007

How to Photograph Racing Cars

I have been asked by a friend of mine to take pictures of him and his race car during one of the races later in the year. What kind of shutter speed and adjustments should I make in order to take good-quality digital photos? What other kinds of techniques can you suggest in order to produce good photos?

1/7/2007 10:18:37 PM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  James, the "thing" about shooting race cars in action is generally their speed, which in turn can cause motion blur if you don't (or can't) use a high enough shutter speed. Depending on the direction of the car relative to your vantage point, this problem can be minor (when the car is approaching you directly) or a bigger issue (when the car is crossing your field of view, left to right or the opposite).
The solution to the problem is to "pan" with the motion, when the car is moving across your field of view. That means to move the camera in the direction of the car's motion - what this does is keeps the car sharp (except for the wheels, which of course are moving) and causes the background to blur into a streaky ground. This takes the proper timing, of course, so you must practice to get the timing right.
If you can use a tripod or monopod to hold the camera steady in the vertical plane, all the better. This way, when you swing the camera sideways, it won't move up or down, giving you better results.
But again, the timing takes lots of practice. Since you have a digital camera, it won't cost you anything (except time) to take a lot of photos at a track, or a highway, or anywhere that you can find cars moving fast.

1/8/2007 7:03:04 AM


member since: 9/25/2006
  Best results with panning are achieved if the lens axis and the car's movement axis are at right angles. I.o.w. pan and shoot while the car is moving from left to right (or v.v.) past you. NOT coming towards you or moving away from you.

1/8/2007 8:26:54 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Hey James, I photograph Nascar, AMA, MotoGP, Drag Racing and Drifting. Lens wise I usually use my 70-200 2.8IS since it's fast and has IS. But I've also used my 100MM 1.4 since I'm trackside; it's close enough and very fast, and I get some great photos. You'll have to pan (following the car) and try playing with your settings. You can really get some cool effects. Just hope the first time you've got plenty of light because West Coast likes to race Nascar and Drifting under the lights which can make it a little difficult at times. Taking photos in the straightaways at full speed is the easiest because you can pan on them but I like the sharp turns and chicanes where the cars are slower and most of the action is.

1/8/2007 8:52:33 AM

William Ponsoldt

member since: 12/27/2006
  Around and Around
Around and Around
© William Ponsoldt
Canon EOS 1D Mark ...
I just started taking photos at a local track. I also use the 70-200F2.8. Mine is not IS but still does the job nicely. You might eve go for more in the way of a zoom because 200 is not always enough. I just bought a monopod to help with the panning. I am going to use it this weekend and might post some of the shots if they turn out. I set the MKII for its highest iso to get the speed I need. Here is one shot.

The most important thing is getting a good location to take the shot. Alot of places have fences that get in the way.

1/11/2007 4:33:01 PM

  if the car is going 100mph then 10x the shutter speed + your focal length. For example 200mm would be 1200shutter.

1/12/2007 8:21:43 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Derek is correct, plus push the button on the camera really fast when the car is going fast.

1/12/2007 9:09:54 AM


BetterPhoto Member
  That was a good one Oliver! ROFLMAO

1/12/2007 9:56:17 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Yep!!! I've been watching season 2 of The Office, think its rubbing off on me.

1/12/2007 10:25:45 AM


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