A career that has led to shooting some of the fastest sports cars in the world began for Regis Lefebure on a quiet, hilly street overlooking the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco.
Lefebure had read in a photography magazine that the design firm doing a campaign for Transamerica was buying stock photos of the company’s distinctive building to use in a series of ads. Excited by this news, Lefebure set out for a spot in San Francisco he knew would be the perfect place for a picture.
Photographed at night, the photo shows the building’s triangular apex piercing the top of a hill with a stately Edwardian home in the foreground and the city backdrop behind.
Ironically, what draws the viewer into the photo is the bright double line of the road leading over the crest of the hill toward the Transamerica Pyramid in the distance. Lefebure went on to shoot many similar lines using similar framing techniques on racetracks worldwide.
“I called the design firm that was doing the ad campaign and told them I had some stock photos of the landmark Pyramid building I wanted to submit. They asked when I could come in. I said I’d be there in an hour,” Lefebure recalls. “I brought in a page of 20 slides, including the newly created photo, and they went right to the image I shot the night before. It became the centerpiece of their campaign that year and was used as a wraparound cover of Transamerica’s annual report.” Although many photographers are fearful of shooting images on speculation—worrying, sometimes with good reason, that they will be exploited—Lefebure was able to parlay that Transamerica image into a seven-year assignment of photographing the same building from thousands of angles around the city.
“You can make things happen by picking up the phone and shooting on spec,” he says. “It’s not necessarily a good business practice all the time, but for someone starting out, it’s a good way to get in.”
Stock, Cars, Racing
The most obvious consideration when shooting on spec is to establish solid rates early on. Lefebure had a big advantage in this area from working as a sales agent at a stock photography firm.
Because of this experience, he knew exactly how much photos were worth, whether it was $300 for use in a textbook or $10,000 for placement in a major ad campaign. Early on in his career, Lefebure had become an active member in ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers), attending meetings and developing good business skills.
His success with Transamerica gave him the confidence to try a similar approach to photographing motorsport. He had been a fan of cars ever since he was a kid when his older brothers would take him along to watch sports car racing. Years later, he would track results and check out photos from the granddaddy of all sport car races: the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.
When Lefebure heard that a “Petit Le Mans” race would be held in Atlanta in 1998, he emailed the editor of a website that covers the sport, dailysportscar.com, offering to send them photos if they could secure him a press pass to the race. The editor agreed—and the race became the last time Lefebure offered his services so cheaply, although he submits images to dailysportscar.com to this day.
The next year, a new sports car racing series sprung up in the U.S. patterned after the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Called the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), it had its own magazine, Le Mans Series & Sports Car Racing, which Lefebure started sending photos to on spec, when he wasn’t on assignment for them.
“Right away, I set up a fee structure of several thousand dollars for usage of those photos per event,” Lefebure recalls. “To be a photographer, it’s all about determining the value and setting the pricing.” The magazine hired Lefebure as a contract photographer to cover the next year of the racing season. The magazine was short-lived, however, folding after just two years.
Working with Audi
Lefebure’s work with Le Mans Series & Sports Car Racing drew the attention of perennial Le Mans champion Audi. In 2002, they asked him to become the ALMS contract photographer for the company. He’s been photographing for Audi ever since. As part of his contract, Lefebure covers the 10 ALMS races in the U.S. and Canada each year, as well as a few races in Europe, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Covering the series is no easy task, as it involves photo documentation of the entire race weekend. In addition to the race itself, Lefebure photographs qualifying, practice, pit stops, candids of drivers, occasional portraits, and any podium work at the end of the race, if the Audi teams finish first, second, or third.