Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach photo options and tips

Toyota Grand Prix photographer
Taken with a Canon G10

As a photographer, I look forward each year to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. There are a variety of options available to photographers at the event. I’ll review them, plus give you a few photo tips that may help you capture that winning shot.

Anyone who attends professional races knows that the prime photo locations are usually reserved for the press or those who are willing to pay a premium price. The Toyota Grand Prix is no exception. Their three day Super Photo Pass Ticket costs $265 and will get you access to turns 1, 6, 8 and 11 as shown in the course circuit map. Plus you get IndyCar Paddock access and limited Pit access during practice & qualifying. Not bad if you consider a regular 3 day reserved seating ticket can cost you $130 without access to the prime photo areas.

However, like most photographers who are not in this specific genre of the business, I skipped the Super Photo Ticket last year and attended as a regular spectator. If you recall last year, the only camera I took that day was my Canon G10 (new model is the Canon G12). I didn’t capture any “winning” images, but I had fun.

This year I’ll also skip the Super Photo Ticket, but I’ll take my Nikon D7000 and at least two lenses, one of which will be the my 80-200mm 2.8 (11 yrs old and still works perfectly). Will I miss the “money shots” by not being in those special photo areas in turns 1, 6, 8 and 11? Or the pit? If I were going to make money from the pictures yes, but since I’m not, no!

As a photographer, unless you’re in that particular field and have an outlet to sell and/or market your photos instantly after the event, the extra money spent may not be recouped. Why? Because there are so many other photographers who are taking the exact images and have a means to release them instantly. However, if you’re using it to build your portfolio or get experience, then it’s a different issue.

If you do choose to go the route of the Super Photo Ticket, keep in mind a few things:

  • You’re only allowed 30 minutes in each of the areas at any one time.
  • Dress appropriately, no shorts or sandals allowed on the pit and special photo areas.
  • No professional video camera’s, yup you heard me, that’s reserved for the press and in house media.
  • Take lots of water, if it’s a sunny day, the course gets very hot and so will you.
  • Take a back-up camera if possible, as far as I know they don’t issue refunds if your equipment fails!
  • Take only the gear you’re able to carry, your car will most likely be parked far away.
  • Take a copy of the schedule and a note pad or a way to record names of the drivers/teams.

For those who want to take photos as a regular spectator (general admission) here are a few tips:

  • Get their early, less crowds means less people getting in the way.
  • Try to have one or two lenses that cover the 24mm to 200mm range.
  • Use the customs settings on your camera to preset for high ISO and Shutter speeds.
  • Dress appropriately, I wear shorts if it’s a hot day, cap and sunblock.
  • Don’t carry a camera bag unless it’s small and made for easy movement.
  • Don’t take a tripod.
  • Do look for photo opportunities in the crowd and expo buildings.
  • Do look for gaps in the fences to shoot through, there are some but you need to look for them.
Toyota Grand Prix Pit
Taken with a Canon G10

Because of the nature of this particular racing event, constant fast and slow speeds throughout the winding turns, it’s not possible for me to give detailed recommendations on shutter speeds. But I can guarantee that if you’re shooting a car going at high speed traveling horizontal to you, at 1/1000th shutter speed the car will only be a blurr!

One last tip for everyone, the course is lined with cement barriers and wired fences, but gaps are always found. Look for them, with a zoom lens you can capture some nice close-up images.

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach takes place every year in April, so whether you choose to buy the Super Photo Pass Ticket or not, photographing the event is a lot of fun! Take a look at a few pictures from the Grand Prix.

2 thoughts on “Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach photo options and tips

  • avatar
    April 12, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    80-200mm 2.8 is a pretty good size lens and D7000 looks like a pro camera so how could you convince the security guy to let you in?

    • avatar
      April 12, 2012 at 8:31 pm

      I’ve never had any problems with security, everyone takes a camera and/or lenses. I take two lenses, one of which is the 80-200mm 2.8, the D7000 and a Canon G12 on my hip. I also haven’t heard of anyone else having problems at this event. I plan on going this year again, which starts tomorrow. If I have any problems with security, I’ll make sure to write a new post here on Outletphotography.

      Here is another tip, if you plan on going via the general admission option, you can get into the Friday event free and/or get 50% off tickets using this option:


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