This is a short post designed to answer one of the biggest questions about race car photography – how to make the car look like it’s not parked on the race track.
If you use a super fast shutter speed, depending on your distance to the car, and the car’s speed you may make a photograph that makes the race car look like it’s standing still, parked on the track.
You can always pan with the car. This will convey movement and involves experimenting with shutter speeds that find a nice compromise between a static car and a blurred car.
But there’s another way, preferred by the wire services and publications that cover auto racing. It’s known as the “wheel turn” method. Using a high shutter speed, again depending on distance to car and the car’s speed, you can still freeze most of the car and get it sharp while showing motion the turn of the car’s wheels.
Note the picture above. This is a screen grab from a shot I made during last week’s races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Pay careful attention to the white lettering on the car’s wheels. Note that it is blurred and appears to be in motion. This is accomplished most of the time with a shutter speed of between 1/1000 and 1/1250 of a second.
This amount of movement as shown here is generally accepted as the best case scenario. It shows the cars in full detail but also shows the cars to be moving.
You can experiment with this off the race track. Stand by any highway or major street and practice with capturing the cars with white-lettered tires at just the right shutter speed.
This is a very fine point and it drills down much further than I usually do on these sorts of posts, but I’ve been asked this question many times and thought that it would be the best way to answer them.