Brenda Priddy Automotive Spy Photography>

Brenda Priddy has earned a reputation as one of the world’s top automotive “spy” photographers. Her undercover exclusives are a regular feature of MSN Canada, SEMA News and AOL’s Autoblog. Her client list also includes such publications as AutoWeek, Car & Driver, Road and Track, USA Today and the New York Times.

Brenda’s business has been highlighted in Newsweek, Motor Trend, Sports Car International, and various domestic and international newspapers, and her pictures have appeared in various books – from automotive interests to textbooks, and even encyclopedias.

Watch Brenda live on ABC.

As a woman what features are your favorites in a car?
You’re starting off with a tough question!  It depends if we’re talking about a work car – or a personal and fun car.

For work – I need plenty of space for my gear, and because I travel for extended periods of time – I also need room for my two dogs!  I recently bought a Jetta Sport Wagen TDI (diesel)  for business and I was sold on the amazing fuel mileage, as well as the fun-to-drive factor and, of course, the flexibility with the wagon configuration.

I drove it over 10,000 miles in the first 8 weeks and I have no regrets.  I was a little concerned, as it’s the first time in 13 years that I’m not driving an all-wheel drive wagon, but the Jetta Sport Wagen hasn’t let me down.  I splurged and equipped it just the way I wanted, with a huge “panoramic” sunroof (making it easy to take pictures out of, if needed, when I’m parked), a touchscreen navigation system with handsfree cell phone calling and, the feature that I always require – heated seats!

For fun, someday I’d love to get a little sportscar along the lines of a Porsche Boxster or something similar, but that’s going to have to wait a bit longer.

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for females?
On the contrary, there are many, many intelligent and powerful women in this industry – in all areas from engineers to designers, executives and, of course, writers and editors. Although men far outnumber women in the automotive industry, I think there’s a place for the women  – for anyone – who wants to work in the auto industry.

Why did you want to work in the auto industry?
Being an automotive photographer, specifically a “spy,” was not actually a premeditated career move.  I fell into this business accidently, listened carefully to all the legitimate offers that came my way and used both my photography and business skills to develop this company.

First automotive job?
As I mentioned above – this entire business came about by accident! I was driving past a grocery story with my two toddlers in the backseat when I spotted a couple of camouflaged prototypes in the parking lot. I drove home, got my camera and returned to the parking lot to photograph the cars. The next day we called Automobile Magazine and they reluctantly offered to look at the pictures and before I knew it – it was the cover photo on their November 1992 issue! That was 19 years ago and I’m still shooting prototypes!

Proudest professional achievement?
My most rewarding moments have not been directly in the auto industry, but with the skills I’ve developed while in this business.

Over the years I’ve been able to raise awareness about AED’s (Automatic External Defibrillators) – something very close to my heart (no pun intended), and raised funds for various charities though social networking and events my company has put on.

Current challenge at work?
The business has changed greatly over the past 19 years:  Magazines have been using fewer and fewer photos, thinking that because of the Internet – it’s “old news” before they reach their readers in print.

The Internet has actually been a great addition to our business, but unfortunately with every image sold to a website, we have many problems with copyright infringements and unauthorized use elsewhere.  It seems to be a never-ending battle to both educate the public about copyrights, and to protect our intellectual property.

What you do to relax?
Running a business in this day-and-age, a time when magazines and newspapers are going through transitions themselves, is much more than a full-time job.  I’ll just be returning home when this article “goes to press” – after being on the road for over three straight months.  And no glamor here – many nights I’ve worked till 2 or 3AM, working on photos and researching cars, and up and on the road again by 8 or 9 in the morning.  And, like many of the engineers when they’re on testing trips – there are no days off. They work on weekends and holidays – and so do I. And many of my days turn into 20-hour work days.

While traveling for an extending time – with two dogs in tow – we find ourselves in very remote areas with very few options for accommodations.  Our choices usually include 60 or 70 year old motel rooms, an old mobile home which has a rental sign taped to a fence, or a little apartment which hasn’t been renovated in several decades.

Needless to say, a vacation is always desired after such a trip, but sometimes it’s nearly impossible to squeeze it in before the Auto Show season starts. Being a single woman, a freelancer and having people on the payroll – sometimes it’s easy to forget to make time to relax, or even how to. Perhaps THAT’s my biggest challenge!