How to take track pictures

posted on 06/05/2020

For those interested in moto photography, being able to take track shots (motocross, supermoto, road) is a unique experience. But getting the necessary authorizations can be tricky. Here is a brief overview of what you need to know.

Before we begin, it is important to understand that a track is a constantly dangerous environment. That’s why many safety rules are in place, and of course, they apply to photographers as well. Unfortunately, I have witnessed serious accidents, even with experienced pilots and photographers. There are several consequences:

  1. the number of photographers allowed on a track at any one time is limited;
  2. each photographer has to follow safety rules, which depend on the event, the organizer and the discipline (road or off-road, training or race, etc.);
  3. a specific insurance covering this activity is required.

Accreditation

Since the number of photographers is often limited for a given event, it is necessary to apply in advance and provide the necessary paperwork to request an accreditation. If there are more requests than spots available, the organizer will try to prioritize photographers or filmmakers who have the greatest communication impact. It’s up to you to convince them!

Who to ask

In general, it is the organizer or promoter of the event who can issue you with an accreditation. Often the organizer is not the track.

In most cases, the track people will still be able to indicate who is responsible for the accreditation process.  If it is for a race, or for a major event, it is best to apply in advance. Sometimes applications are closed about ten days before the event, or even more.

Insurance

In general, the organizer will require that you have professional liability insurance or a press card. For some events, a personal liability insurance may be sufficient (but in this case, the photos cannot be sold). On international races, you will probably have to sign a release form stating that you are insured and that you waive any liability claims against the event organizer.

For professional or personal liability, a specific wording will be required on the insurance certificate. For example: “the contract covers photography activities for motor sports events”. For this, contact your insurer and obtain a certificate with the correct wording. Don’t wait until the last minute!

Important detail: a professional or personal liability insurance only covers damage you cause to others on a track. It does not cover any injury to yourself or damage to your equipment. If an accident is caused by another party, then their liability will cover the damage caused to you. In any case, check with your insurance company to find out what is covered.

What about a licence?

It’s simple: at least in France, there’s no licence that covers photography. Some licences may give you access to the track, but generally, it’s as a track steward or official. So if you have an accident, the insurance will not be valid. It is therefore useless to request a photo accreditation with a license.

Some safety tips for taking pictures

If you get the accreditation, congratulations! You may be given a formal briefing before entering the track. In any case, in general, pay attention to the following points:

  • the most dangerous places are generally outside corners and the end of the straights. Even if these are places where you can take great shots, they are generally strictly forbidden;
  • before you go to a given place, check the trajectories of the motorcycles, bearing in mind that a rider can always lose control;
  • always watch the motorcycles coming towards you, so that you can get out of the way as quickly as possible if necessary;
  • if it is an official event, it is generally forbidden to sit, lie down or cross the track during riding sessions. If you have any doubts, request permission from the stewards or from the race director.

Have a good photo session!

About the Author

Based in Toulouse (France), Steph Legrand has specialized in supermoto photography since 2010. He offers photography and communication services to companies and individuals.

Do not hesitate to contact him for all your photo needs.

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