When I first started racing, my photos were horrid. I was such a novice at getting race photos that I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemies, let alone buy them for myself. I bought them at my first Half Marathon, The Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon in 2010, which detailed a difficult end to a fantastic first half marathon. I vowed to myself to that elusive ‘great race photo’ at a follow up race two months later at the Foot Traffic Holiday Half. However, it was not to be. As I neared the finish line I saw the clock (forgetting that it was chip timed) and dug deep to push through the finish line to beat two hours. What resulted was a photo of part beast – part crazy mad women. I never bought that photo.
My friend Matt lamented that it never worked out well for him when it came to his race photos. “I always look ridiculous in running photos. It’s embarrassing. I always look like I’m about ready to keep over keel” he said. I told him ‘you look dedicated and look at that stride!” to which he replied “Sheesh. You are way too kind. My face is EXACTLY the same in every picture. Pained, scrunched up ridiculousness.”
I could not help but laugh, but many feel this way, and I used to be one of them. Luckily I am getting better and tend to get more great photos than bad (aka not so flattering) ones now. Why? Because over the last few years I’ve worked to be photogenic and be dubbed ‘ridiculously photogenic girl'(still waiting for that title though). In some ways the effort has paid off! In the case of my Vancouver USA Marathon – my efforts were rewarded with a lifetime of memories for my first marathon; great photos, great big smiles, and I think it might be in my own mind, but I felt they turned out great! I am almost to the point of preparing my own power-point presentations to rehearse, plan, and place friends along the course for any big race I have planned now.
Seriously though, if you want great photos, you have to strategically plan for them. So many of my friends tell me that I am photogenic, so I thought I would share tips* that will help you get great race photos**.
*Some tips taken from the article linked previously and some are with the help of my virtual friends from theTinkerbell Half Marathon Facebook Group
**not 100% guaranteed for you 😛
1. Photographer Placement – Find out where the photographers will be. For larger races, there is usually a booth where you can see a map of placement of the photographers along the course or will tell you to look for the gentlemen in the Bright jackets. If you don’t know, look for the signs (some ‘warn you to smile because the camera is ahead’). Knowing where they are located allows you time to prep and be ready (slow down (or speed up if you want to look faster) and adjust (wipe sweat, smile, thumbs up, pull down that shirt that keeps bunching up, or spread out the tutu and do whatever is needed).
2. Runner Placement – My friend Sandra Solfalvi reminded me to get to the sides. Photographers are usually on both sides of the road, or placed to catch you coming at them. Depends on the size of the race. For larger races- get to the sides! It is hard for them to take photos of those in the center, much less get a decent shot. Also- be aware of your surroundings. My virtual friend Melanie Wolff Miller told me “and if you are short like myself, make sure you leave a LOT of room in front of you…otherwise, the people in front of you hide you!”
3. Think happy thoughts- No really! I know it is hard to smile when you’re in pain, hot, tired (add your own angst here), but start thinking positive thoughts and working on that smile. Do something wacky like throw your hands in the air and open mouth wide if you think a smile is not happening. Sometimes that helps! Tell yourself a joke, or imagine your brother in a tutu, a man in a sparkle skirt, or think of a costume you saw earlier that made you laugh. Whatever works to lift your spirits, shoulders, and the edges of your mouth. Trust me it works.
4. Once you see them – prepare yourself – Pick up your step/focus on form/or slow down – “Photographers hired to shoot individual runners aim to capture them in the air on the way down.” So maybe a couple of skips and jumps pretend you can fly and spread your arms out. Or as my friend Diane Gustafson said ‘we make sure to slow down and give a good “running” pose with a smile for the photo opp!’ and Donna Arhrendt echoed slowing down for photographers “What I do is slow the heck DOWN and try not to bounce or overdo the movement. I will sometimes almost slow down to a walk unless I’m stuck on a real strong pace. ” Whatever it takes to prepare yourself – do that. If you can, allow space for yourself from runners around you. This helps get more you in the picture and/or avoid the dreaded Photo bomb.
5. Create a spectacle – Photographers look for things and people that stand out. Our eyes and brains react to activity, so if you start jumping or whooping and hollering, they are naturally going to look for you. Raise those hands in the air and wave them wildly or put them up in a thumbs up sign.
6. Stand out in style (aka costume) – A costume or glitzy outfit that stands out let’s photographers know you mean business to get noticed. Special outfits almost always assure you that you will walk away with a few pics. No costume? No problem- do up your hair with garland or sparkly bows, or maybe a sparkly hat, tutu, or skirt.
7. Carry a sign or a prop – Not everyone can carry one- but sometimes that gets you noticed as you come around corners. Often that is why many people get photos when they are with a pacer.
8. Look your best! Not everyone will agree with this, especially hardcore runners, but I have found this works for me. I have found excellent race proof makeup over the last couple of years! I run with waterproof mascara (I like L’Oreal and Maybelline’s and all have worked to be sweat proof), infallible lipstick (or get another 12-18 hour lipstick, and it will usually last the 4 hours of the race) and sometimes tinted sunscreen. Bright eyes and lipsticks look great in photos! Read Maryalicia’s Tips for Running in Makeup Blog Here
9. Be tidy– This was also mentioned in that article, but it’s true. For women, and this works for men with long hair – tight Braids, up-do buns, or German braids. The tighter the better, because that braid will start looking messy. I don’t know about you, but with my long hair- I have had my pony tail in my face and just look matted and yucky after just a few miles, especially in humid areas.
10. Tell them to look for you – It may or may not work, but if the race is small enough tell the photographer to look for you. They will usually remember you, especially if you are dressed up in costume.
11. Head up, Shoulders back and relaxed – especially in larger races. Also in larger races there are photographers that are placed 180 to get several photos to catch everyone (like at the finish or start line) so be sure to look up and around.
12. Have a race supporter to take pics – ”If you’re truly serious about getting a good race photo, scout the course and set up a shot with an iconic background and great light. Then, for the race, plant a friend or loved one in that spot, preferably with a camera that shoots a huge number of frames per second.” Mine were taken by Michael James Photography. A friend and great photographer, at the 2012 VUM.
13. Grab a photographer before the race to take your photo -Many stand out in a bright jacket/vest or work smock to identify themselves. Ask them for a photo, I ask them a few and usually a couple of different ones. This helps get at least one photo (or more) of you at the race, even if it is not while you are running. This also works after the race as well.
14. Bib placement – Place a bib on the front of you where it can be seen. Whether it in on the leg, or high on your chest, make sure it is visible. Bib placement on the leg, skirt, or on a fuel belt with bib holders is best for races where you are layering clothes. Placing bibs on the back is a no-no! Placement of the bib is the number one reason I see ‘lost’ photos and takes forever for many large races to identify photos. The computer system has a system that looks for numbers and facial recognition hard to find bibs and easy to see bibs make for photos that pop up sooner on the race sites without you have to scrounge 1000s (and I do mean 1000s) of race photos for one of you.
15. Wait on that Garmin! Brenda Travers mentioned a great point! “Try not to be playing with your Garmin/sport watch at the start and finish. So many photos of runners with their heads down and their hands on their watches. A few seconds on either end of the race won’t really matter.” She’s right! Most races are chip timed!
16. Finally– Relax! Smile, or look ahead with lips slightly parted as the article suggests.
I can’t promise that all these tips will work for you. Nor can I guarantee that you will remember everything on this list when that photographer suddenly appears in front of you at the race. Hopefully though, you will have taken away a few tips that will secure at least one great race day photo! Good Luck!
and get photos like these below!
Have any great race day photos tips I missed and you would like to share?