How to get great racing shots without needing tickets to the F1 in Monaco

motorsport go-kart racing photography
(Image credit: Bertrand Vessier)

My photography has made a major shift in the past 6 years and has gone from glamorous to gritty. For many years I photographed live music, cabaret, burlesque and art nude photography, for which I still have a passion. But my son Sylvain had started kart racing, and I wanted to capture these moments. 

What started out as a few shots for my own pleasure and amusement, soon became the talk of the paddock. Parents and teammates would ask me to capture a few shots for them. This led to me being club photographer for Clay Pigeon Kart Club in Dorset, UK, and Dunkeswell (now Mansell) Kart Racing Club in Devon. 

Still wanting to maintain my style of arty captures, I would often take candid shots in the paddock. This would be the moments people don’t get to see – such as teammate interactions, mechanics talking to racing drivers and family moments. I have been honored not just to shoot karting but motocross, some Formula Renault action at Magny Cours, Mini Racing and more. 

(Image credit: Bertrand Vessier)

Practice, practice and practice has made these shots easier, though I would never say perfect – although this is what we all strive for. I always find little things I can improve on. For me, this is about passion. And I’d love to shoot more, making this a full-time career. For now, though, I’m looking to try different things, different styles, and I'm always learning. 

My tip, if you have a passion for motorsport, is to get out there! Ask your local racetrack if you can come along – you would not be disappointed. And you never know where you could end up! 

Check out more of Bertrand's racing snaps via Instagram.

(Image credit: Bertrand Vessier)

01. Manage your focus

Don’t worry if all parts of your shots aren’t in sharp focus. Remember, if you slow your shutter speed to capture the feeling of speed in your panning shots, some of the body parts of the kart will vibrate and be out of focus.

(Image credit: Bertrand Vessier)

02. Stay dry

Even if your camera is weather sealed, I would recommend that you purchase a good quality rain sleeve for it – as well as some rain gear for yourself. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than spending an entire race meeting soaked to the bone because you came unprepared. Especially at the start or the end of the season (February to November).

(Image credit: Bertrand Vessier)

03. Seek out variety

Don’t be afraid to look for different vantage points. Mix it up – lay on the floor, stand on the second apex of a corner, elevate yourself by getting up the start / finish line gantry (if possible). However, the most important part is to stay safe and be ready for anything – as anything can and will happen. Remember, motorsport is dangerous.

(Image credit: Bertrand Vessier)

04. Go behind the scenes

Don’t be afraid to leave the on track action behind for a bit. Go and shoot on the grid and the paddock. Karting and grass root racing in general has a real family atmosphere. Everybody knows everybody, and the fiercest of rivals on track are often the best of friends once the helmet is off. So go and capture those moments and those memories for the drivers, the parents and the coaches / mechanics.

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