Following our recent ‘Best Photos from the GP Weekend’ articles for Australia, Malyasia, China and Bahrain, Geoff Collins explains how the world of F1 photography works from the point of view of the teams

I was talking to the chief Badger in the Sett the other night, well, actually it was in a very pleasant pub just down the road, and we were discussing F1 photographers and the fantastic images they produce.

We were also talking about the photos we use for Badger GP, and how the various media websites get their images, so I explained how the process worked when I was at Marussia.

Basically, a team will typically have a contract with a photographic agency like LAT (Haymarket – who run Autosport and F1 Racing) Sutton, Cahier (who Badger GP uses for some archive shots) and of course our friends Octane Photos, or others. The team will pretty much have a full-time photographer allocated to them, particularly for work that happens out of session: merchandise shots, sponsor events etc.

This work will begin before the Friday “start” of a GP weekend, often at a sponsor event on Wednesday or Thursday where a driver is doing a personal appearance, and sometimes will continue into an evening. This happens particularly at Monaco, where events such as the Amber Lounge fashion show need to be covered, so that the drivers get seen in smart suits and casual wear, and not just the team top and jeans that all drivers seem to prefer.

As you can imagine, thousands of shots are generated over the weekend – so how does a team decide which photos to put on their media website?

The first consideration is the contract with the photo supplier. If the contract is for all images of the team that have been shot by specific photographers (so that the photographer essentially works solely for one team) then these will just be made available to the PR department.

But if only a limited number of images are specified in the contract, then the team will have to choose them in the Photographers’ area of the media centre, and only then will the images be made electronically available.

Choosing photos can be a tricky job. For the specific jobs (merchandise, sponsor events) the agency will probably deliver the whole lot – as they are of no particular use to the agency. But where a limited amount of images have been specified in the contract, then copyright becomes an issue. For the photographs that the team choose, then they will probably own the copyright of those images, but for the ones that are not chosen, the agency retains the right to sell them, and these are the images that form the basis of the libraries that each agency adds to for every race.

For a team, there’s usually one or more “stories” that they want to get across, and so images are chosen with that in mind. For example, if a driver has just announced a contract extension, then the team will obviously make sure that there are photos of that driver looking relaxed and smiling available for the press to use.

Images of pit stops are great for emphasizing teamwork.

Photos differ quite a lot from Free Practice sessions to the Race. During practice, incidents are much less likely and the photographers have time to get to their favourite places to capture artistic shots. For the race, it’s all about action. Within an agency, photographers have different preferences. Some prefer blurring motion, others like long-distance shots with a shorter lens while some prefer people shots.

Larger agencies like LAT are able to station their snappers around the circuit, collecting images of all teams throughout each session. These are then pooled with the shots from the photographer allocated to the team and about two hours after action has finished for the day, the basic selection can be made by the team’s PR people.

After that, the requested images are quickly processed (maybe colour balanced in Photoshop) and possibly resized to provide Hi and Lo-res copies of the shots, and then all the team has to do is to download and publish to the media site before the IT guys in the garage have dismantled all their kit. And that dismantling happens very quickly, resulting in the occasional bit of pleading for more time – network connections at circuits can be painfully slow.

Then once that’s done, it’s time to pack up the PR office and head back to the hotel or airport, ready for it all to start again in one or two weeks’ time.