Automotive has everything from technical positions to non-technical opportunities, including roles you may not have imagined. MotorPro speaks with Jonathan Fleetwood on his journey to becoming an award winning automotive photographer…

What attracted you to automotive photography?

I always thought I was going to be a fashion or still-life photographer, but then I realised I didn’t have any fashion sense and probably wouldn’t survive the fashion industry, nor did I fancy spending all my daylight hours in a darkened studio. Then by chance, while I was at university, I met the photographer Mark Fagelson and on a shoot with him it clicked that this was a job. I loved driving but I’d never really thought of photography and driving as being two things that could combine. And it’s an industry that there is still some budget and there’s travel and new cars and it was super exciting.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Time management is the biggest challenge – not only are you the photographer, but also retoucher, accountant, PR and marketing team all rolled into one. These elements are equally important and even after a decade I’m still refining the juggling act.

All jobs have challenges and I think if you have the right mindset and personality then there is a huge satisfaction in building something for yourself. No two shoots are the same which is great because I don’t think I was suited for a desk job.

What has been the pinch me moment of your career?

Winning my first award was an amazing experience, but the pinch me moment would be looking through my viewfinder and realising the six Bentley Bacalars in front of me cost £10million. It’s easy to get blasé about values but now and again it hits. However, priceless classics and modern supercars are still moved around and lit the same as a family hatchback (perhaps with a touch more reverence).

The travel side of the job reminds me ‘this is why I do it and it’s really cool’ – I’ve shot in North America, India, Africa and South Korea as well as Europe.

Earlier this year I was in South Africa doing a feature with Top Gear on rhino poaching. We went on foot patrol with the anti-poaching team – it was just me, the writer, and these four guys with machine guns walking through the bush. I was within probably ten metres of a fully grown, fully horned rhino and had to sort of slowly move around a truck as it decided it wanted to come and see what we were doing. That was freaky to take my eye away from the camera to realise just how close he was, but pretty cool. And all in the name of automotive photography, loosely speaking, because the VW Amarok is made in Pretoria.

Is there anything that you wish you had known about the job when you started?

It’s quite a small industry and can be difficult to get in – it takes a little bit of luck, and courage to put yourself out there.

I didn’t know beforehand that there’s an awful lot of sacrifices. It’s an amazing job that lets you do things that you would never be able to do otherwise. But the flipside is that there’s quite a big knock-on effect to your family life. I’m away often, I miss events including my wife’s last four birthdays. You’ve got to be really committed to making it work and have supportive friends and family.

How should someone get into automotive photography?

Assisting is a really good way of getting an idea of what the job’s like and what a shoot requires, because every industry works differently. What might seem like a dream job could turn out not be as fun as you thought, but then something you hadn’t considered before might tick all the boxes, for me it was automotive, and I love it.

Obviously, you’ve got to already have passion and technique – a client wants to know that you will come back with the shots. I’ve never been asked to show my degree but what it gave me was time and space to practice and try things. An interest in cars is needed to get the most out of their design with position, lens and light. And above all, the ability to be able to deliver work reliably no matter what.

Take a look at our ‘There’s More to Motor’ website to see the campaign in action. Whether you’re an individual or a business, we’d love for you to support our campaign by promoting it on social media, through emails and on your website. Download our toolkit and help us change the perception of the automotive sector.

Leave a Comment

Start typing and press Enter to search