Hi, My name is Kyle Cross. I am a passionate automotive photographer local to the St. Louis area. I have been published in multiple magazines and shoot professionally in the Formula Drift Series. I am going to talk to you a bit about shooting drift, but these rules also apply to a lot of racing series photography.
Let's just assume you have a DSLR, No phone or a simple point and shoot isn't going to work. Nikon or Canon are fine, they all work about the same, if you want to borrow or steal lenses from your friends you might want to get the same as them. Do the research to figure out what might work best for you, talk to your friends who shoot, they may have insight. Come to CCC and get a feel for the camera.
Now you have a camera and an huge instruction manual, you showed up to a drift event and took some photos but they don’t look anything like what you saw on Instagram or on Facebook. Not To Fear!!! I have some helpful hints.
1. Shoot RAW.
a. Set the camera to shoot photos in RAW format. This is important because when shooting moving objects and action (sports whatever) the exposure meter in the camera can easily get fooled by bright shiny objects and can over or under expose. Shooting RAW means you can change the exposure later more easily and salvage a poorly exposed photo
a. You need to position yourself in such a way that the car is moving past you not towards your or away from you.
b. For panning, the important ones are focal length (you might think of this as your "zoom") and shutter speed. The right shutter speed is determined very roughly by the focal length. When starting out use this general rule of thumb: If shooting at 100mm focal length, shoot with a 1/100 shutter speed.
c. You may also need to adjust Sensitivity (ISO) depending on the light conditions. Low light conditions might require high ISO sensitivity, otherwise keep the ISO as low as possible to reduce sensor noise and get a sharper, better quality image.
3. DON’T USE ACTIVE/SPORT MODE
4. Set your camera up to use back-button focus (Any Sports photographer will probably agree with this one
a. If you want to use auto-focus you can use continuous auto focus. You'll want to know which Auto-focus point is being used and keep that red dot on the car, and fire away. Look at the manual to find the auto focus mode selection buttons and how to set up back-button focus.
5. If the car is still too blurry then you can use a faster shutter speed.
a. If you are adventurous try going slower to blur the background even more. A good photographer can go a lot slower and still get a crisp shot of the car.
6. Try to be smooth and consistent. It takes practice and you should be standing up, feet apart and rotate your upper body.
a. One trick I use is to set my feet pointing at the spot where I want my panning to stop.
7. Use Continuous Shooting mode (again refer to the manual on how to do this)
P.S. On an typical day at the track, shooting with a Nikon d810(using full manual) and a 70-200 2.8 Nikon Lens, I start with the following settings and make adjustments as needed.
Shutter speed: 1/80th
Good luck and Happy shooting!