QUESTION & ANSWER
© Dom Romney
Dom Romney quit a short career
as a newspaper photographer two
years ago to follow his passion
for motor sports photography,
which covers “anything with an
engine—bikes, boats, planes—but
mostly cars,” he says. He won the
2009 young photographer of the year award
at the age of 20 from the UK’s Motor Sports
Association. Based in Stansted, England, Romney
also shoots nonmotorized sports.
—interview by David Walker
© Dom Romney
The smoke, flames and roar of drag racing make for “a full sensory onslaught,” says Romney.
PDN: How did you start photographing motor sports?
DOM ROMNEY: My dad has always built hot rods and
gone drag racing. So I’ve always been around cars, and
that’s a great opportunity to capture the essence of
that obsession people have with driving. [Photography]
was a great way for me to be involved [in racing] without having the funds to buy a race car, and it pays for
me to travel around Europe and do what I love doing.
PDN: Drag racing? In Europe?
DR: There is quite a big scene over here. It’s so visceral as a sport. You get big smoky burnouts and the
big head of flames and parachutes and cars on two
wheels. It’s a full sensory onslaught. You can get some
PDN: What are the particular challenges of
photographing motor sports?
DR: Everything around you is vibrating as the car is
hurtling down the racetrack at 320 miles an hour, so
you’re fighting camera shake. At the other end of the
scale, the Jet Ski you’ve probably seen on my Web site
[a photo of a Jet Skier upside down, above the water, with a wash of white water against a black back-ground]—you’ve got a split second to get it. You have
to be able to anticipate what’s going to happen and
have the foresight and knowledge to hit the trigger
at the right moment.
PDN: Isn’t there a lot of gear to help you time it?
DR: With the drag racing you can fire the camera with
remote triggers and set the camera to fire when in focus. But when you start photographing things like the
Jet Ski, you have to watch and work out how you’re going to attack it. I used big Elinchrom [Ranger RX] light
packs, so I got only one shot every four or five seconds.
You can’t sit on the motor drive and hope you get it.
You’ve got to really pick your moment.
PDN: The lighting was elaborate. Is that typical for
the work you do?
PDN: What types of clients do you have, and who are
DR: Now it is 95 percent editorial, 5 percent advertising and commercial. That’s something I’m now working on. Instead of shooting 150 or 200 shots in a day,
I like the idea of producing two or three [commercial
shots] with really high production values and having
the budget to hire the big lights and the team to go
with it. That’s my next step.
PDN: What do clients call on you to photograph most
DR: The last month or so has been motorbikes nonstop. I have a new [bike magazine] client. There’s big
competition for bike magazines—eight or nine specializing in European sports bikes—so this one is keen to
bring in high production values to put it a step ahead
of competition. I also do a lot of muscle car features for
American Car magazine.
PDN: Is there a lot of work available?
DR: There’s a lot of magazines, but also a lot of competition. It’s all about separating yourself and making a
unique brand and keeping that in front of the art directors that you want to work with.
PDN: How do you distinguish your work?
DR: It’s a matter of building that brand and consisten-
cy so people can look at the style, angle, texture, colors
and say, “That’s by Dom Romney.” It’s something you
have to take into consideration whenever you start
shooting: How do you want to use the light, and how
are you going to use it to create something a little bit
different from what everyone else is doing?
PDN: How much does it pay?
DR: It’s pretty competitive with everything else [edito-rial]. I’m never working for one client. This weekend I
was working for three or four different clients [at the
same time], shooting distinctive images for each one.
You’re only out there six or seven months, so you have
to get in as much work as you can to tide yourself over
PDN: How do you juggle shooting for three or four
clients at once?
DR: You get to know a client and you understand what
they use. I take that and any brief I’m given and put the
two together. I go out with a list of things [for each cli-ent] and cover as many bases as I can.
PDN: When does the season start and end?
DR: Mid-May until the end of October.
PDN: What are you doing the rest of the year?
DR: Getting out and shooting personal work, meeting
clients, getting promotional material sorted for the
year ahead and catching up on sleep. It’s so full-on for
that six or seven months, from 6 o’clock in the morning
until 9 or 10 o’clock at night, seven days a week.
PDN: What’s in your kit?
DR: My basic kit is Canon 1D Mark IVs with a 16-35 f/2.8,
which is my prime lens. I also have a 70-200 f/2.8 which
everyone should have because it’s so damn versatile for
portraits, landscapes and everything in between. I have
a 300 mm, and at f/2.8 it has six inches of depth; that’s
great for pictures of people working in the pits. I also
have a 500 mm f/5.6 for when I need long reach to get
great head-on shots [of drag racers]. It’s a bit shorter on
range than a 600, but it’s a trade off. I’m on my feet all
day. The 500 is lighter at the end of the day, which I’m
quite grateful for, to be quite honest.