Automotive Photographer Profile: Dave Reid

Dave Reid is more than just an event photographer, he’s one of the most influential content creators in the Australian automotive landscape and he’s been documenting our custom car culture for nearly three decades. For his continued service to motorsport in the region, Ipswich City Council recently recognised Dave as Australian of the Year for Sport and Recreation

Business Name: Drag Photos 

How long have you been shooting for?

I started shooting on film in 1998 covering local events like the Monaro Cruise and Raceline events, Autosalon and Jamboree, then in 2003 the local scene boomed - internet forums and digital cameras arrived at the same time and I started taking photos of all the regulars cruising along The Esplanade.

I’d take photos and post them on the Boost Cruising forums and before long it got so big that people would travel up from Sydney and Newcastle just to get their photo on to Boost Cruising! The local Police - who we had a great relationship with - intervened and asked us to relocate from The Esplanade out to The Spit to ease congestion on Surfers, and that’s how that was born. 

What do you shoot on?

Nowadays I’m with Canon Professional Services (CPS). I always run the best of the best. At the moment I’ve got a Canon R3, their latest mirrorless body and the latest glass as well, and we test out new lenses all the time. I’ve got a great relationship with the Canon Experience Store in Melbourne - Rob there actually sold me my first camera in 1997! 

The new mirrorless system is great but it is a learning curve after 20 years with the original mirrored cameras. Tech drives innovation so quickly in this industry, so it’s great to stay at the cutting edge with things like focus speed, image quality and other camera features. 

I always get asked what is the best camera to buy and in all honesty I absolutely loved my 5D Mk IV. It’s a good 8-10 years old now but it's such a workhorse. It’s awesome for feature photography and general event coverage but the mirrorless bodies have a much better frame rate which is perfect for motorsport, and of course lightning fast focusing and image stablisation.

What’s your favourite car show to photograph?

We’ve got so many great events here in Queensland. As a rotary fan I can’t look past Rotary Revival, and Jamboree has always been a favourite of mine alongside Powercruise. I’ve been shooting Powercruise since their very first event and I’ve watched it evolve from a little project in Gup’s head to what it is now. 

The cars in this space are always impressive, it's almost a hybrid of the elite builds from Summernats and the action from the drags. 

I’ve also enjoyed working closely with Scott Harker and Justin Simpson on their Kenda radial series, watching them create a new and important part of Australian drag racing. 

You rose to prominence in the era before social media, photographing the Gold Coast car scene for internet forums. How have you seen the car scene change over the years?

I think it’s actually gone full circle. Back in the day there was a mutual respect in the scene, regardless of what car you had. Then, internet forums and social media allowed us to build these tiny little communities based on make or model and it got a little political. 

Nowadays though, I feel that cars and coffee style events are celebrating diversity again, and there’s even a few guys who’ve been out of the scene for a few years trying to buy their old cars back and relive their youth! 

You spent years doing feature photography for car magazines. Do you prefer drags/event coverage, or feature shoots?

I miss shooting feature cars, but as the magazine landscape shrank it became increasingly competitive for photographers, so I pivoted and focussed solely on event photography - not just in the automotive space, either! I’ve shot everything from Bliss’n’Eso to the Hilltop Hoods, Crusty Demons to the V8 Supercars and even the Pacific Airshow. 

I like the events and getting crowd atmosphere shots - there’s always something new and exciting, and it helps me better define my style and stay fresh. Many don’t see the light of day as most publications like that stock generic image over the arty shots that we like to capture most. 

How different is it shooting for social media, compared to shooting for magazines like the good old days?

I’ve never been one to photoshop or excessively edit my images - I shoot JPEG not RAW so everything is basically straight off the camera. A lot of photographers do amazing composite images, but the way I shoot and my subject matter means I’ve got one chance to get it right. 

We’ll shoot some events with a router in our camera bag - we’ll dump the files from the camera as we shoot them and send them to the news desk and within minutes they’re live. This process used to take days of developing and processing, and now we can do it in seconds! 

As the social media algorithms change, one style of photography that might have gotten a lot of traction one day just won’t hit the next day, so I try to constantly innovate to stay one step ahead. The one constant is people’s desire for content, so we’ll always push to have our event galleries live on the same day as the event. 

Honing in on your speciality of drag racing photography, what’s your number one tip for someone just starting out taking photos at the track?

For anything motorsport-related, don’t just hop on the bandwagon and go straight for the slow, panning shots. They’re great, but you dash any chance of reacting quickly to get an action shot as you’ve put all your eggs in the basket of slow shutter speed. 

You only do this once and learn your lesson so as a general rule I shoot safe; get the shots to satisfy your brief and then play around getting the arty stuff. 

You’re mucking around with a few project cars, too. What are you driving around in at the moment, and what’s in the build?

Both my cars are driving now! I’ve got matching Mazda 323s - NAN 323 and POP 323. One is naturally aspirated and the other is turbocharged. The turbo one made 430hp on a run in tune. Being such a light car traction is an issue and it’s a real handful - great for the track, but not great for the M1 Motorway! 

Years ago, I traveled to the New Zealand 4 and Rotary Nationals and the New Zealand rotary scene made me fall in love with rotaries. We have a mad contingent in Australia but the Kiwis aren’t afraid to thrash them!

Social handles:



YouTube: Drag Videos Australia 


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