Nick Busato, this dude right here is killing it. What makes him special is that he does a mix of Motorsport photography and some commercial work as you will see later on in this interview. Most photographers I know stick to doing just one because shooting those are two completely different worlds.
In Motorsport photography you can’t control it too much and you only have a certain amount of time to take the picture. Oh you missed it? Too bad, better be ready for it the next time it comes around.
In commercial photography you control everything. From where the car is located, the framing, the lighting, and literally everything else.
Personally, I think commercial photography is way easier than Motorsport photography but Nick makes both of them look so easy. Anyway, check out what he has to say and I hope you take away some key points from his words.
1. Tell us a little about yourself personally.
I always start off saying I enjoy maple syrup and use the term “eh” and “sorry” far too frequently. To be more exact, I live in a small town that is impossible for any GPS to pronounce just north of Toronto, Canada. I believe the earth has made a total of 27 complete rotations around the sun from the time I was born. Many orbits ago I grew up on a small farm and somehow ended up in university for mechanical engineering. Though some questionable judgement and rather excellent choices I have somehow ended up the photographer behind the keyboard of this interview. I shoot a rather unique blend of Motorsport and commercial work with clients ranging from magazines, race teams to several manufactures.
2. When and why did you start shooting cars?
When I was very young I was simply mesmerized by cars and I use to beg my dad to drag me to all the car shows. At the time I use to take dead on side, front and rear shots of every car to fill the pages of my scrap book. To be honest, at that young age, I believed that I was pretty much a professional photographer since I could fill the frame and keep my static subjects perfectly centered. Sadly this passion faded as I grew older, I was likely too distracted by girls and BMX bikes.
Many years later at the advent of affordable prosumer DSLRs I jumped back into photography. My purchase of the Nikon D70s was not the result of a passion for photography, but was rather a means to document the near daredevil feats I was achieving on my BMX bike. Around the same time my love for The American Le Mans Series was reignited and I had started attending their events each year. Through Flickr I had discovered James Boone’s awesome ALMS photos, and that was really the genesis of my desire to photograph cars. I was strictly a Motorsport photographer for several years but it was the constant push from Brian Makse and Michael Banovsky, both formally of autofocus.ca, that eventually lured me into photographing production cars.
3. Are you more passionate about cars or photography?
Despite the fact that I actively modify and track cars, I will reluctantly side with photography. The craft simply transcends all subject matter for me, unlike the automobile, it can be seen and applied to any situation. A beautiful photo can spontaneously happen anywhere at anytime and as a photographer you can curate your creation from that. Its a limitless canvas to capture and present any object or event.
4. How long after you picked up your camera did you start post processing?
I was still on film when I caught the photography bug and at that time I was simply relying my local drug store to process it. By 2007 I had jumped ship to the digital age and started to tool around with Adobe Camera Raw for basic adjustment. It was not until the tail end of 2013 when I started shooting road cars that I really dove into the deep end of post work. I still to this day try strive for a balance in my production car work. I like to believe its a endless pursuit reality and purity of my Motorsport work with a dash of trickery made available to me in post. To be honest I still feel like I am rather terrible in post, I try and make up for it in my pre-shot planning.
5. If you could choose one automotive photographer to shadow for 1 day, who would it be and why?
If I could pick only one it would have to be Frederic Schlosser. He seems to effortlessly blend natural light with strobes, post work with reality and all of this is tied up in a package of exceptional tone, color language and balance. While a lot of us have perfected some of the ingredients of a great photo, very few have perfected the recipe like Frederic.
6. What is ONE most important thing that can make or break a shot?
For me light is everything, with location a close second. With Motorsports you can’t fake anything in post as you are a news photographer. Learning how to use and control natural light is what really elevates your work to the next level. I carry over a similar style in my production car work, though I have more freedom to embellish the light and background. You can have a Ferrari with an awesome background but will still look dull and uninteresting if not lit, natural or with strobe correctly.
7. Can you share you best and worst shots along with the dates they were shot?
Pinpointing my best and worst is pretty hard as you hope your old work is the worst and your next project will be your best. I do have a great example however that can illustrate how much I was able to develop as a photographer. The first frame was pretty much the first production car I ever shot back in 2008. The second frame was taken roughly 100 feet away, a hour earlier in the day and seven years later. I just find it amazing to see just how differently my planning, framing, use of light and editing had evolved. Hope it inspires others!
8. What is the best tip that you received and why is it so important?
I think the best tip I was ever given was actually based on the worst, but as a result transformed my work. I was often told to always shoot with my back to the light and that’s simply a load of bullocks. I think it was Jamey Price who really stressed using the light in opposite ways that really opened my eyes to what I was missing. Shooting in cross and rear lit situations can be more challenging in terms of exposure and white balance, but it makes for a far more dramatic photo and opens the creative flood gates. Playing with highlights, shadows and the rather limited dynamic range of your camera offers you a totally different set of tools to play with.
9. What is the number one thing you want the LTSC community to take away from this?
One thing I always stress to automotive photographers is being able to remove their love of the subject when creating and assessing their work. Not being able to separate your love for a car from your photography will lead to the issue of thinking a photo is great simply because the car is. In any great photo, you should be able to replace that La Ferrari with a rusted out Honda Civic and it will remain an awesome photo. If your photo fails this simple test then its clearly lacking on composition, location, light, balance or all the former. Your photo should tell a story, if that story is simply, “here is a car” then you have some homework to do. Its not about shooting the best cars or filling the frame with them, its about making a creative and compelling image.
10. Where can we find your portfolio and a way to contact you?
Currently my web page is down, but when its back up it will be found at: www.nickbusato.com. Your best to follow me on twitter (@nickbusato), facebook (@nickbusatophotographer) or even instagram (@nick.busato). Big thank you to all of you for reading this interview. I also have to give a massive thanks to Elvis for not only helping the community with an awesome website, but also having the tenacity to see this through.
THAT’S ALL FOLKS
There you have it guys, that concludes the interview with Nick Busato, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
I hope to connect with this guy again in the future to see how much he has progressed because I can see that he’s definitely going places, eh? I love his style of photography and he’s just such a humble guy. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a sense of humor. Every time I can have a conversation with someone and can joke around with them I immediately feel a connection because I do like to joke around a lot too!
Anyway, you probably don’t wanna hear about me day-dreaming about this guy so I will let you go!
Share this on your social media so that everyone can see how much it means to take your photography skills in to other forms and not just commercial work.