{how-to: the perfect race photo}

It’s that time of year – you’re planning out all of the races you’re going to do in 2017, and you’re already imagining how great it’s going to feel crossing the finish  line. Of course, collecting photos of those finishes is super fun – who doesn’t get excited about race photos? I always look forward to getting that magical email saying my photos are ready. When I click the link to see my photos and am sorely disappointed by them… ugh. Heartbreaking! There is only one thing more frustrating than when the race photographer doesn’t capture your fantastic, victorious race finish…

That one thing is when they DO capture it, but you hate the way you look.

Bad photos that end up on the internet never go away. They never die. They’re like cockroaches surviving an atomic blast. They’re THE WORST.

I’ve had some finish line photos that I’m STILL not happy with. Part of that is because I’m judging myself too harshly for things I see about my body that I don’t like (I constantly have to remind myself to be NICER to myself), but part of it is because I just didn’t even bother looking for the camera and flashing a smile. Such an easy thing, right?

Apparently not. Case in point:


This one was a double-whammy, and I’m not sure why I continue to torture myself by bringing it up again (and again… and again). Ignoring the fact that I (still) see so many things about this photo that I hate (I originally shared my initial thoughts in this blog post), the one thing I easily could’ve fixed was smiling for the camera.

Race photographers don’t have it easy. They’re trying to catch pictures of each runner, whether alone or in clusters, so that their bib numbers can be identified and searched for in the results. I’m not a photographer, but I can’t imagine it’s easy to keep up when all of these runners are moving. I get that it’s their job, but if it were easy, everyone would do it.

Another tough thing for photographers is NOT capturing you at the weakest point in your stride (when one foot is fully on the ground and your body is in a compressed position) and gravity has pulled everything down towards the ground. Gross. We all prefer pictures where we’re “flying” (or “levitating” as I like to call it – reference above photo), but there’s just no guarantee that they’ll be able to catch you mid-stride.

So… while you can’t guarantee that the photographer will catch you, or that they’ll catch you flying, these are some things I’d suggest trying in an attempt to get a better finish line photo:

  1. Wear an outfit you feel special in. This could mean new running tights that you’re excited to wear, a shirt you had screen printed for the event, or a skirt that you made. Whatever this means for you, go for it. Maybe a really unique outfit will help you gain visibility, so go nuts and get a little fancy to stand out in a sea of spandex and singlets, so long as you won’t be uncomfortable during the race.
    139964-069-018hI made this skirt specifically for this event, and felt like a million bucks. I PRed at this race and managed to look as thrilled as I felt in all three pictures the photographer snapped of me. WINNING.
  2. Start smiling in the last quarter mile. Not only will you be smiling for any spectators near the finish line (including your own fan club!), you’ll already be smiling for the race photographer. Also, give your shoulders a little roll up towards your ears and then drop them to loosen your upper body so you don’t look tense.
    finishlineFriends of mine happened to catch these photos of me as I entered the finish line zone at my first half marathon – I was in pain; SO much pain. But I had such a great time at this race and was thrilled to get to the finish, so I couldn’t help but smile. (Plus, I was Facebook Live broadcasting my finish, and I wanted to look happy for that.)
  3. Move away from the herd. If you’re finishing near a crowd of other runners, try sprinting ahead of them to move away from the herd. This may result in a clearer photo of YOU during your epic finish.
    13528575_10206943556890215_1480271485251914000_oAlternatively, if you’re not racing for time and aren’t worried about losing a couple seconds, consider slowing down just enough to fall behind the herd.
  4. Seek out and make eye contact with the photographer. As you enter the finish zone, keep your eyes open for the photographer. It will help to run near the center of the road so that once you see them, you can move to the right or left of the course to position yourself directly in their line of sight.
    137958-053-003hYou must make eye contact with them so they know that YOU know they’re there. Really, get right in front of their field of view and stay there as long as possible. Just try not to be rude and cut another runner off in the process.
  5. Don’t be shy about “posing” for the camera. Making gestures with your arms – whether that’s up in the air, pointing at the camera, waving at the camera, flashing a peace sign – gives you an extra range of motion for the photographer to notice and thus zone in on you for a special picture.
    poseforthecameraIf you have it in you to jump or click your heels, or some other crazy thing, do it! That gets their attention, too.
  6. Try bounding toward the finish line. If you’re familiar with running drills, you’ll know what bounders are (if you’re unsure, read up on bounders in this Women’s Running post about drills by Kelly Roberts of Run Selfie Repeat). If you can squeeze out the energy for this at the end of your race, do it! It will help you look lighter on your feet, and will get you that picture-perfect form that everyone drools over.
    135567-022-021hYou’ll always run the risk of the photographer hitting you at the weakest point in your stride (see above – I didn’t know what bounding was back then), but with any luck, the spring-action of bounding from the balls of your feet will give you more air-time, and your form will look better than it would if you coasted into the finish looking at tired as you might feel.
  7. Make sure your race bib is visible. If you want photos, this is a given. There’s a chance the photographer will catch a picture of you without your bib visible, but this just means you have to have the patience to scroll through the lost and found to find your pictures. If it’s a big race, good luck with that…

These are my tips for increasing your chances of getting the elusive perfect race photo. Now get out there, slap a smile on your face, find that photographer, and flirt with that camera!


One thought on “{how-to: the perfect race photo}

  1. Pingback: {stuff no one tells you about photography on a runDisney trip}

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