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F1 photography and new media – Darren Heath explains why he’s joined Instagram
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  21 Jan 2017   |  6:48 pm GMT  |  17 comments

In a new age of media and technology the developments in those fields have changed the way we consume news and view images, and the world of Formula 1 is no different.

Top F1 photographer, Darren Heath, a long-standing friend and collaborator of JA on F1, decided to join the photo-sharing social media platform Instagram last year and has been uploading images from his extensive archive over the off season.

We asked him why he made the decision to sign up to the site and how he views the current landscape of F1 photography.


Q: Why have you recently embraced Instagram? And does that tell us anything about the direction F1 photography is heading?

Simply because I feel it serves me well to engage with an audience who may appreciate my photography and, as hand held devices continue their ever upward trend of being the device of choice for so much web engagement, Instagram struck me as a very effective way of sharing my pictures and making F1 fans aware of the archive of imagery that I’ve shot over almost 30 years of photographing the sport.

Q: Does Instagram help you tell the story behind the picture? For example the story of Schumacher’s scar after his Spa shunt in 1996.

Through studying some of the world’s most successful Instagrammers I quickly realised that there’s a strong appetite for the telling of a picture’s back story and – as I enjoy telling them – I write a small piece that may include some or all of the following; a description of the picture, how it came about, my mindset when approaching and planning the shot, and details of the subject.

I always include the camera, lens and exposure settings too. Michael Schumacher’s 1996 Belgian Grand Prix practice shunt is a perfect example.


Q: When do you get your best shots? Do you spend time setting them up in practice sessions or when things unfold during races?

Prior to a Grand Prix weekend I carefully plan my photographic strategy taking in to account many different variables. These can include the nature of the circuit, the likely weather, the position of the sun during each on track session and of course my clients’ needs.

While always keeping my plan in mind, during a weekend’s work one does of course have to be flexible and retain the ability to react to events as they unfold, especially during the race. Generally the practice sessions are more about considered single car pictures with race coverage often more about the action as it unfolds.

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing photographers in today’s F1?

During just the last five years or so the world of photography in general, let alone within F1, has changed immensely. For better or worse the photographic art has experienced a democratisation that has empowered almost anyone to become a photographer.

This has had a number of effects, chief among them being an appreciation of what is required to take a great picture but also something of a devaluation – in monetary terms – of the value of photography and photographers.

Due to technology affecting so many professions these are challenges faced by many within the media world but, at the end of the day, that simply means we all have to work harder and cleverer to face-up to the challenges as they arrive.


Q: What are you hoping for in terms of the look of the new F1 cars this season?

I firmly believe that whatever the subject it’s up to the creative photographer to bring out the beauty of their chosen subject. Over the past few years it’s generally accepted that we’ve perhaps not enjoyed the most attractive F1 cars that we might have preferred.

So, with a desire to design and race cars that look ‘sexier’ I, like so many fans around the world, am hoping the ‘cleverest men in the room’ will produce some stunning, visually stimulating machines for us to enjoy. Whatever the 2017 cars look like I’ll be doing my utmost to make them look as beautiful as I can!

You can find Darren Heath on Instagram at @darrenheathphotographer

What do you make of Heath’s decision to join Instagram and his comments on F1 photography? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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Might have to give him a follow in Instagram. Used to follow on Twitter, but got fed up of the regular righty/libertarian headbanging.


One risk to profesional photographers earning potential started back in 1990, when journalist thought they could invest in a DSLR with a long lens, put everything on ‘Auto’ and cut out the photographer. Sadly for the journalist they totally ignored the basic and foundation skills of any successful sports photographer. Despite trying, at the end of the day, the experience and skill of the professional came through in capturing the drama and emotion.

Now the camera is changing, everyone and their dog has one, in terms of Smart Phone, even with aperture control for depth of field, to 360 degree Action cameras. Today, for the global masses it is all about convience, the capturing and sharing of experiences. Fortunately, the optics in a Smart Phone device cannot match the reach and quality of Darren’s 600mm. Yet!! 🙂

On reading this piece about Darren, my first thought was why tell, why give up an advantage. Yet 1) Darren won’t tell all. 2) Social media is a powerful window, an indicator, that can freely be turned on and off. 3) Social media does not work if you keep quiet.

As a freelance photographer in my previous life, I never told anyone anything, I arrived at an event and just got on with it, no free lunches, just on my feet all day looking for something different. It was not a concious decision to never go around with other photographers. I planned ahead, walked the tracks on Thursdays for access, listened, learned, and always had the flexibilty to change on an interesting comment. Social media as we know it today, did not exist then. If it did I would have used to great effect. Nothing beats promotion, especially when it is free and global.

Darren is without question an exceptional photographer of our time, who I used to question ‘So when will you have an off day and give the others a chance?’

Long may he reign.


It’s true that good photography still takes skill, imagination and practice, just as it did in the old days. But digital has undoubtedly democratised things because it’s become much cheaper to do the practice and gain the skills. In the past only a professional could justify the cost of shooting and processing a dozen rolls of film in a day. With digital, mistakes are free. Enthusiastic amateurs now have the ability to make all those mistakes, learn from them, and match the results of some of the professionals. Undoubtedly it will be affecting the ability of those pros to make a living from it.


I’m a fan of Darren Heath’s work – there is something about an F1 photographer’s work where you look at the image, and can just about guess the shooter before you read the credit! Not only is Darren very artistic, but he is also quite the bit of a sleuth – especially when you see his 1997 expose on the McLaren rear brake pedal!

Good to see that this medium is entering the digital age: it’s great to be able to see the images and the stories behind them. But, with that being said, I am still a fan of the printed medium with giant photographic tomes like the works of Rainer Schlegelmilch!


His photos are amazing!


I’ve been a keen follower of Darren Heath since I first discovered F1 magazine many moons ago. I loved what he used to do with slow shutters and velvia film. I tried my best to emulate him with manual film and lens early in the 2000’s and really appreciate the time and effort in his pictures.

More than anything, he elevated F1 photography to art, not merely documentation.

Moving to digital has just turned it up a notch too as he is turning out ever better images far quicker than before.

Can’t wait to see more.


I have been a avid follower of Darren since I joined on insta – not so long ago. His pictures are so vivid and extremely fascinating, and hope to see more from him in 2017.


It’s cute how it’s news when someone in F1 joins a social media platform. I think it’s just like fashion…by the time F1 gets to it, it’s time to move on to the next thing 😉


Instagram Facebook Twitter it’s a whole new ball game. Not a fan of Facebook nor Twitter nor Instagram. But if F1 does allow viewing away from Sky online on their website I’d watch it. Anything else is an abomination.
Time spent in jumping from on site to another is just madness. One has a life beyond the Pixel Pines. I’ll stick with a few modes for sports news other than that I’m following no one 😆


“Instagram Facebook Twitter, it’s a whole new ball game.” – I would t exactly call it new lol. Facebook has been around, and popular, for over 10 years, and F1 is just now starting to use “social media”. Twitter is losing users at an unprecedented rate, the stock is falling, and most in the tech business agree it’s going to be a hard sell (primary investors in Twitter have already cut and run from what I understand). IG seems to be doing ok, but it won’t be far behind FB and Twitter.

The problem is that by the time mainstream entities like F1 start accepting social media platforms like Twitter, it means that the platform itself has become mainstream enough that the platform is chalk full of advertising, and worse, sensorship (can’t be hurting people’s feelings now, no no, everyone needs their safe space).

I’ve followed F1 on Twitter now for 2 years. Other than notifications that my favorite journalist has published a new article, I haven’t got one single ounze of useful info about anything in F1 via Twitter. The official F1 twitter account is corperate and sanitized. The official team accounts are the same. The driver accounts aren’t even run by the drivers themselves, it’s a PR manager trying to be cute and clever (cringe worthy).


Lol…Thank you for stating the obvious.
I already know how long all 3 items have been around. You missed the point totally “lol”.
“The whole new ball game ” pertains to the “self” aspect of how information is passed in the 21st Century. The fact that news is now watered down by individuals and the”The Selfie Culture” has become the norm. Narcissism and Vanity seems to be the “in” thing. Nobody views a live show unless it’s through their ‘phones’ , ‘Ipads’ or other electronic devices.
Whatever actually happened to going to a sporting venue and actually watching the event with your own eyes. Instead before go onto a website the first thing the site asks you is “Do you wish to follow” or ” this site…blah blah .”
The point is however we get our kicks on route 66 please let the individual decide whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing .
Constantly counting how many people follow you or how many voted for an item is a way the owner of a site counts how “important they are in the big scheme/picture of things “.
Hence why I think the essence of the sport is being lost by sports selling out to big corporation like Sky who will the stream the sport behind a pay wall on their Channels Websites FacebookTwitter accounts.
People are sucked in and if you can’t afford the whole show you are spat out the other end and forgotten.
Sport is loosing itself in the cyber tech age and the individual is being treated like a junkie willing to anything for a slice/dose of the action. I for one choose to stick two fingers at it if it came down to paying for it on a Sky F1 pay wall.
F1 own website I’d watch it but I won’t pay hundreds of pounds in a year. If you spend hundreds of pounds on a weekend or day pass to a race like Silverstone you have paid enough to given access to the whole year online.


I looked Darren up on Insta after reading this article and it is fair to say he has some amazing images on there. Whilst any Joe with a cameraphone can take pictures, it takes a skill Darren is obviously blessed with to take the shots he does.


I love Heath’s work, I’m looking forward to read the stories behind his photos, to catch a glimpse of how the man behind the camera sees the world of F1.
Thanks for offering us this kind of insight, it’s greatly welcomed.


“Over the past few years it’s generally accepted that we’ve perhaps not enjoyed the most attractive F1 cars that we might have preferred.”

What a mouthful!
Its arguably true that maybe some of the cars were possibly as aesthetically pleasing or otherwise as those of different eras might have been. …laughing…

I do enjoy seeing your work though!


I love F1 photography !
It’s amazing how a static shot can show the car dynamics often more than cinematic/films.
Darren Health, Schlegenliefbraunmilch, AMuS, F1Hystory…. thank you !!!
Nowadays It’s quite a challenge to compete with 4K TV when every frame is an HD pic, but the angles are diferent through.


As ever an interesting & intelligent insight from Darren on current trends going on in pro sports photography business.I photograph pro Golf worldwide – including all the Majors – but currently see a demand for quality & creativity still in certain areas, I agree with ” ….we all have to work harder etc “…. don’t follow the mass’s,think laterally & come up with something different.


For a technological sport its unfortunately they arewell behind the times compared to new media! The blame should shoulder on the Eccelestone and old school management. They have no idea on the movement from establish media to new media and being small minded about this it will hurt them as they lose fans over a period of time!

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