F1 Photography Tips

The Formula One is one of the world’s greatest sports events that travels around the world, with huge capital investments, costs and potential revenue. Singapore brought the world first night race in 2008 and it was an awesome experience for me, as a fan and a photography fanatic too.

Having been to Singapore F1 GP Friday Practice in 2008 and 2009, Formula One photography never fail to capture my thoughts, imagination, calculation and analysis on how to capture Formula One cars in action. During 2008, my maiden F1 experience, it took me many hours before hitting on the techniques and  tricks to capture a Formula One car in action.

For those 1st timers to a Formula One, I am sharing some of my experiences here and others as well, along with tips from 2 world famous Formula One photographers Darren Heath and Paul Henri Cahier, who were in Singapore recently to give talks on F1 photography, their photography tips were documented by Adventure Travel Asia, who was kind enough to share with his readers, do take a read at Paul Henri’s tips and Darren Heath’s tips !

My F1 photography setup is

– Canon EOS 30D

– Canon EOS 70-200mm F4 L USM

– Canon EOS 17-40mm F4 L USM

– Lots of batteries and CF cards

IMG_0856EXIF – focal length 98mm, 1/1000 at f4.0 ; ISO 1600 ; Location : Singapore Flyer

My Tips from my personal F1 photography experiences + Experts tips

(1) Locations/Angles/Perspectives – walk around the circuit to search for various spots to capture different aspects of the Formula One race in action. Bring your map and check the entire circuit. Like most photography, explore and find your angles e.g. Singapore City landscape view with Formula One cars in action, close up views of the Formula One cars driving past.

(2) Monopod – nice to have, I didn’t bring & shoot handheld all the way, when I finished the shoot, tired arms.

(3) Burst/Multiple shots – my preference is to use the 5 fps continuous drive on my Canon EOS 30D, Paul Henri uses single shot mode. With the continuous drive, out of the 5 frames captured, the middle photographs would capture the entire Formula One car in action while your first and last frames would likely be the front and end of the Formula One car.

(4) Slow Shutter versus Fast Shutter – 2 different contrasting photographs will be captured and Paul Henri’s works are an excellent example of both methods, do drop by Adventure Travel Asia post to look at it ! For me, I am fast shutter photographer !

(5) Freezing motion – Paul Henri recommends a minimum of 1/500 to freeze motion and I was shooting at around 1/640 and even 1/1000 or 1/1250 !

(6) ISO – Night F1 Race, to shoot at such high shutter speed and the lighting is not entirely perfect, with the skies, buildings and surroundings dark too, I had to switch my ISO between 800, 1250 and 1600.

(7) N0t everything is Formula One cars in action – There are lots of other actions such as performances, people, entertainment and the beautiful landscape lit up by the F1 race lights ! Singapore does have its beauty of night landscape photography !

(8) Ear plugs – Buy or borrow, YOU WILL NOT REGRET !

IMG_0734EXIF – focal Length 91mm, 1/1000 f/4.0 ; ISO 1600 ; Location : Singapore Flyer

(9) Batteries – Spare batteries a MUST

(10) CF Cards – Extra CF cards are a MUST too, besides that, I have a preference to use high write speed CF cards for Formula One photography e.g. SanDisk Extreme IV

(11) Anticipation – In all sports photography, understanding the sports and how the sports is being played is crucial for you to anticipate the actions and movements and that applies to Formula One too.

(12) How to FOCUS ? – Shooting the fence in Singapore F1 GP Night Race is very tricky for 1st timers, the key is to USE MANUAL FOCUS ! Switch to manual focus on your lense, the field of view from your lense that you intend to capture the Formula One car driving pass, focus on a point e.g. focus on the white paint lines on the road whereby the Formula One car would drive, manual focus and adjust it till sharp, after that, wait for action to start !

(13) Aperture – Open Wide (f4 for my telephoto lense) to allow the fence to be blurred out.

(14) Shoot and Shoot – There are 20 Formula One cars driving around the circuit, continue shooting, improving and fine tuning the techniques, your Formula One photography would definitely improve and you would get some great shots !

(15) Metering – Spot Metering is recommended by Paul Henri, for myself, I used Spot Metering and Centre-weighted Metering.

(16) Remember to ENJOY yourself ! – Being relaxed and enjoying the whole Formula One experience, would help you take better photos than stressing yourself to get that PERFECT shot ! Have lots of fun !!! One nice photo of your favourite Formula One car / driver in action would make your day too !! 😉

Update 1 : A Big Thanks to Robin who left a comment and a link, sharing with us on the master in F1 photography, Paul Henri’s interview with OMY.sg and a videocast of his interview too ! Priceless !

Enjoy yourself taking photographs at Singapore F1 GP 2009 Night Race !! Do check out my Singapore F1 GP 2008 photos and 2009 photos !!

12 thoughts on “F1 Photography Tips”

  1. Pingback: Twitted by Xshot
  2. Wow..photographing F1 race would indeed be a challenge as the cars would be zooming past real fast.

    Have never been to an F1 event though. Costs an arm and leg over here.

  3. Hi SeenThisSceneThat

    Thanks !! Sharing my Singapore F1 GP experiences with my readers, hope they all benefit from it !

  4. Hi Mei Teng

    F1 cars are driving past very fast, up to speeds of 300km / hr.

    Do attend an F1 event if you have the chance !

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