Photoessay: Livery

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Some color and geometry studies in detail from a GT3 race I attended earlier in the year; it’s been a very long time since I went to one of these things without a press pass and a long lens from the end of the field. But I did have pit garage access, which was nice; and compared to higher formulas the whole atmosphere is a bit more relaxed and nobody minds you shooting in the garages too much since the setups are all pretty much identical and there aren’t big dollars spent or at stake (relatively speaking, of course). It’s interesting just how much of the aerodynamic and mechanical details is camouflaged by the team liveries, though – just like all forms of advertising, the endless race to stand out by having ever more striking colours has resulted in a surprisingly homogeneous field where it isn’t easy to distinguish between some teams. It’s even worse when you have to cram a huge number of smaller sponsors on the car instead of one or two large ones. More than once, I had the feeling that I was watching some rather exotic birds of paradise – which I suppose is not a bad analogy for race cars in general… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-120/4 VR and SOOC with my custom Z7 Picture Control profiles. I elected to go with the 24-120 on the FTZ adaptor instead of the 24-70S and 70-200/4 for a more convenient single lens solution.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved


  1. I do miss the old days when you could identify a car’s nationality by it’s color. Silver=Mercedes, Green=English, Red=Italian, French=Blue, Yellow=Belgian, Blue&White=USA, etc. The multiple advertising decals destroy the shapes of modern race cars.
    Too much emphasis on marketing now and the costs are simply too steep.

    • The irony is every time they try to do something where the costs come down – like introducing a new series – eventually they land up ballooning again as teams go down a step and spend more money than they should in order to win…

  2. Michael says:


  3. L. Ron Hubbard says:

    There’s something iconic about liveries from days long ago that I find fascinating.

    Gulf with the Ford GT40.
    Gulf with the Porsche 917.
    Sunoco with the Porsche 917 (Can-Am edition).
    Marlboro with McLaren.
    Marlboro with Team Penske (Indy Cars).
    John Players Special with Lotus.
    Silk Cut with Jaguar (Group C).
    Castrol with Jaguar (IMSA).

    I could go on and on…………..

    • I’d add Marlboro and Ferrari (F1) to that list. But yes, I think I know exactly what you mean – you can visualize all of those cars instantly; they were much simpler and had only one (very) dominant bran or logo. It’s not so easy with the modern stuff. There are too many elements/logos/brands competing for space, and as with any composition – making everything stand out means nothing stands out. Or perhaps all it really says is that modern racing is stupidly expensive or nobody has the same kind of money as the tobacco companies – or both…

      • L. Ron Hubbard says:

        Yes, you nailed it exactly: A dominate logo makes a car and a sponsor more memorable. I would have to disagree with you about Ferrari. For sure Marlboro, after they dropped McLaren, has a long, rich history with Ferrari. Yet somehow, the power of Ferrari’s mystique (and strong color association) really overshadows any who sponsors them. With only one exception, I never see the Ferrari’s sponsor tags, except if they are ugly (hello UPS; really brown? On a Ferrari?) The one sponsor that used to look nice on a Ferrari was Agip. Somehow they added to the design of the car. The others detract or are invisible.

        • It’s the red…the length of consistency of the color scheme means we assume any mostly red car is probably a Ferrari…

  4. Great photos from someone who obviously loves cars and racing, as do I.
    But you’re right, some of them almost hurt your eyes, don’t they? I remember the good old days when I closely followed several forms of American racing. It was largely, (and simply), beer and cigarette logos, all good clean fun……

  5. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    “…just like all forms of advertising, the endless race to stand out by having ever more striking colours has resulted in a surprisingly homogeneous field where it isn’t easy to distinguish between some teams…”
    I often think that’s what’s going to happen when someone writes an article in a photographic magazine, suggesting to readers that – in order to be different – they should all stop doing X and start doing Y, instead. Same herd, same stampede – just veering off in a different direction, but still all doomed to be boringly similar.


  1. […] continuation of an earlier post but with the colour removed to focus solely on the homogeneity of the actions of all team members. […]

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