Brenda Priddy is one of the world’s preeminent automotive “spy” photographers, whose work has appeared in many of the top automative publications and websites. Visit her company website and Facebook page.
PetaPixel: Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Brenda Priddy: 18 years ago this month I was a part-time photographer (weddings / small commercial), bookkeeper at a jewelry store and mommy to 2 young toddlers. Then, in July of 1992, I spotted an early (1994) Mustang prototype and the rest is history. I originally took the photo just to show my husband, but it soon it ended up on the cover of Automobile Magazine (November 1992)!
PP: When did you first get into photography?
BP: I think I was born with a camera in my hands! I remember saving pennies to buy a Polaroid camera, and my first SLR was a clunky Vivitar (a package deal from JC Penny’s) around 1974. My favorite is Canon’s old eye-focus 2AE! (Is that the right name?)
PP: What equipment do you use?
BP: Currently I use all Canon – my everyday camera is a 50D with an ancient 35-350mm Canon zoom. Generally I don’t need any lenses stronger than the 350 – as I tend to get close to my subjects.
PP: Why Canon instead of Nikon?
BP: I switched from Nikon to Canon a LONG time ago (when I made the switch to auto-focus).
Canon offered that 35-350mm lens – and Nikon had nothing close. It’s heavy, but well balanced and I could use it as a everyday lens!
PP: What do you like about the 50D and 35-350mm?
BP: The 50D is the perfect size (dimensions / weight) for my small hands, offerers high resolution and good quality. I just wish it had better seals!
PP: What is it that attracts you to automotive spy photography?
BP: I love the adventures (and the adrenalin rush) and I’m so lucky to have a great team of dedicated photographers working with me.
PP: How exactly does automotive spy photography work? Where, when, and how often do you shoot?
BP: It’s a crazy job – often with long and drawn out hours (or days / or weeks!) between photos and involves stakeouts, speculation, lots of fuel for the car, and lots of luck.
We shoot only in public areas – we never tresspass, and we never touch the vehicles.
My heavy shooting time is in the summer months, but I have people out hunting for the next big catch every day – including weekends.
Where? We keep that secret!
PP: How many people are involved in the shoots?
BP: Sometimes/usually just one, but there are times we have 3 or 4 shooters – or more – working together, trying to get photos of the same vehicle.
PP: What has been your biggest success so far?
BP: Hard to say – I get excited about all of the company’s photos!
We recently got some great Mercedes CLS photos, as well as some Chevrolet Sparks from the set of the movie, Transformers 3.
PP: Is there any one car that you wanted very badly to capture but failed to do so?
BP: Well, currently we’re looking for the next-generation New Beetle, as well as the next Corvette.
PP: What exactly is the relationship between spy shooters and auto companies?
BP: Engineers hate us.
The PR guys (sometimes) love us.
And – they DO try to keep these cars away from my lenses!
PP: What’s changed in your business since you started back in 1992?
BP: Everything has changed!
Years ago I would board planes with 150 rolls of film (all to be hand checked, of course), shoot somewhere secret and remote, and then try to find a photo lab with 150-miles. Oh – and attempt to find a fedex drop off location “nearby”, too!
And (old) camera batteries – they never survived the extreme heat. I would be changing batteries often – sometimes I would have to change them 2 or 3 times a day!
Now everything is digital, but that also means if my laptop breaks – I have to buy a new one ASAP – as I can’t wait for repairs.
It also means more frequent technology-based upgrades (making cameras and computers almost disposable!)
PP: How much competition do you have in automotive spy photography?
BP: Too much, especially since nearly everyone has a cell-phone-camera!
PP: How many people make up Brenda Priddy & Company?
BP: We have about a half dozen regulars here in the States, plus people off the street that contact me and offer me photos (at least one or 2 every day!), plus another dozen or so in Europe and elsewhere.
PP: Do you think about your photography as art? Why or why not?
BP: Sometimes, yes, but I usually think of it in terms of photojournalism.
PP: How hot is the environment you work in? Does the heat affect your gear?
I keep “blue ice” in my camera bags, as the equipment isn’t rated over 110-degrees or 115-degrees.
PP: What is the most challenging aspect of what you do?
BP: To get the photos first – as well as the best quality, and the most accurate information on the future products.
PP: Anything else you’d like to say to PetaPixel readers?
BP: I pay freelancers / contract workers VERY well for photos that sell :-)