Photographing Formula 1

Unless you happen to be accredited by the Federation Internationale d’Automobile (the FIA), photographing an Formula 1 Grand Prix can be a challenge. If you are accredited then you’ll get close to the action, access to the pit lane, garages and the like. If not then you have a 5 metre high fence to contend with. Stepping down your aperture to f2.8 will help by placing the foreground (and background) out-of-focus and will also drive a faster shutter speed, always helpful when you’re dealing with a car moving at 200 mph ! However, the lower depth of field also requires you to focus precisely on the moving car, which in itself is a challenge. To overcome these difficulties finding an elevated vantage point, settling upon the ‘sweet-spot’ aperture of f8 and setting the ISO to 400, allowed me to shoot sharp images at 1/800 second.

Fill the Frame

The next challenge in photographing racing events is to ensure the frame is filled by the entire car rather than simply the nose cone or tail ! This is easily achieved through a little test and learn. Panning the camera and following the cars as they approached allowed me to figure at approximately what point they nicely filled the frame, with focal length typically set at 400mm. Its then ‘simply’ a case of pressing the shutter release at that right moment. I’d also recommend moving around the track to find a variety of vantage points else you’ll end up with essentially the same image repeated many times. Finding a corner or ‘S’ such as the ‘Brooklands’ at Silverstone also provides more variety and the possibility of ‘stacking’ cars in pursuit. The shots here were taken at the 2011 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, using a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 100-400mm L IS lens.

About Ian

Ian has traveled extensively and enjoys capturing the moods and emotions from the far flung corners of the world through his photography. More about Ian


  1. I’m using the Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 100-400mm L IS lens, it’s the best. I’m an F1 and MotoGP fan and I’m always trying to take good pictures when I’m attending those race events. With the Canon 5D Mark II, I’m able to do that. It’s tough to find a good spot to take pictures, but I always manage. Thanks for the tips, Ian!

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