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How to Take Great Race Photos

We all know that when we sign up for a race, we’re also basically signing up for a professional photography session. And as a blogger or reader of blogs, I’m sure you’ve read guides filled with tips and tricks on how to improve your race photos – wear makeup, smile, pose next to landmarks, etc etc etc. You may have even implemented some of these tricks at your races. Because like I always say, a shiny new PR is only as good as the race photos you have to remember it by.

Okay, so I never say that. But I also can’t pretend that I’ve never stood up straighter as I passed a race photographer, or flashed him or her a smile as I ran by. And yes, I will admit that I like finding pictures where I look as strong as I actually feel inside.

But most of the time that doesn’t happen. Because most of the time, my focus is on something else altogether. A posed race photo might look good aesthetically. But do you know what makes race photos great? Actually running.

So without further ado, I present to you the very official {ontherun} Guide to Great Race Photos. Complete with examples of some of my very best race photos of all time (you’re welcome).

The {ontherun} Guide to GREAT Race Photos

Step 1: Sign up for the race of your choosing.

Step 1b: Spend some time training for that race. Chances are, it’s really gonna suck if you don’t.

Step 2: Pick out the outfit that you look cutest in is most comfortable and helps you run your fastest.

Step 3: When the gun goes off, start running. Worry about one thing and one thing only – the clock.

How to take good race photos.jpg

Seriously. Don’t stop – not even to take pictures of mile signs and scenery. Don’t pose for spectators or fellow runners to take your photograph. In fact, why do you even have your camera on you? This is a race.

Look at this face. And that form! Every photographer’s dream.

finish_close up.jpg

Step 4: When the finish line comes into view, dig down deep with everything you’ve got and sprint, crawl, or shuffle your way across that thing as fast as you possibly can.

How to take good race photos1.jpg

Step 4b: Don’t forget – there will be a money shot of you actually crossing the line. And contrary to what you may have been told, you only get one chance to run across that finish. So make it count.

Bonus points if you lose your breakfast as you cross.

Lizzy_mini10kPhoto of the beautiful Lizzy of Food to Run For

Now go out there and put these steps to good use!

Have any particularly GREAT race photographs that you want to share? Let’s see ’em!

38 Responses to How to Take Great Race Photos

  1. I am dying. This is amazing.
    Ali´s last post ..Spring Marathon?

  2. This is hilarious! I’ve always heard not to look down at your watch at the finish because of the photos.

    I will admit that I lay on the charm when I see the race photographers. During the NYC half, one said “Looking gooood, come back and see me later.” That cracked me up.
    Kate (Embarrassment of Riches)´s last post ..Forcella on the Bowery

    • I have some photos of me stopping my watch as I cross the finish and I always kick myself when I see that. It’s just a stupid instinct to push stop as soon as I finish. But then it always looks like I care more about the time on my watch than the actual finish line.

  3. I knew this post was coming and I still love every second of this glamorous post. In all the races I’ve done, including track in HS and College, I think I’ve gotten 1 good in-the-race photo. And that’s okay with me. I’d rather give the race everything I got then get the golden race photo. Plus that’s what after race photos are all about! Thanks for posting that gem of a photo of me. We are one hot pair is this post- you look, well….you know… and I’m a pukey face. Shocking. LOVE IT!
    LIZZY´s last post ..Butternut Squash Enchiladas

  4. Love it Lauren – so funny!
    Brett´s last post ..Costa Family Portraits – Bal Harbour Beach, Miami, FL

  5. Well said!

    There USED to be a facebook group called “I have awful running pictures of myself.” My father kindly tagged the worst pictures of me he could find. Mercifully, it seems to have been archived but if you can find it? I’ve got soooo many money shots in there there.

  6. That’s great. I actually have horrible race photos at the finish, because I’m usually sprinting to get there even a few seconds faster.
    Rena @ milehogger.blogspot.com´s last post ..Training Plan

  7. Oh, thumbs UP.

  8. Haha! Very funny post. I’ve had times where I even think I’m smiling only to get the weirdest proofs ever back…oh well, they make for good laughs!
    abbi´s last post ..Fire on the Mountain 50K

  9. Awesome post. I love that little tip of actually training for a race. Is that more important than posing for the camera? Probably, but just a little bit :p I don’t think I’ve EVER had a good race photo!
    Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic´s last post ..Pumpkin Quinoa Yogurt Parfait

  10. This had me laughing out loud! I think there is definitely an art to taking amazing (read: horrible) race photos, just like getting your driver’s license photo at the dmv (those photos always bring out the “mug shot” in me).
    Kristin @ Everyday Is Run Day´s last post ..The Kinda Sort Of Not Really But Technically I Am Tapering Period

  11. Haha! Those pictures are great! It’s so hard to look cute while running! And why is it that it looks like I’m walking when I’m running? They get shots where my feet aren’t leaving the ground.

    • Yes! I have so many photos that make it look like I’m power-walking the race. It’s a skill I’ve worked hard to master 😉

  12. Great post! Hysterical.

    Check out these (http://runthelongroad.com/2011/10/05/i-need-to-work-on-my-race-face/). The funny thing is I BQ’d and should look estastic. But, I look like someone just told me the worst news ever.

    Does anyone ever have great race photos???!!!

  13. Hahaha – love this post!!! Yeah, good race photos don’t always seem to go hand in hand with good race times… oh well!

    And I love your take on the watermelon-themed race outfit, super cute!
    Audrey´s last post .."THIS AIN’T A MARATHON, IT’S A BIG PARTY!"

  14. this isn’t my race photo (hope this girl isn’t internet shy…), but i ran a cross-country race in college in the middle of a hurricane. winds, rain, thigh deep puddles and mud…and the best part is that we all got this crazy rash afterward from parasites that were in the water. awesome.

    enjoy! http://a5.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-ash1/v49/127/54/1705617/n1705617_30739640_8058.jpg
    Megan (The Runner’s Kitchen)´s last post ..My rest day m.o.

  15. Love every single thing about this post! So, so true :)
    Jen´s last post ..Week 35 pregnancy update

  16. oh my gosh, i love this! those photos of you are AWESOME. my finish line photos from that race are just ok but i have to figure out a way to show you my sister’s pictures. they are SO funny when i even just think about them i laugh out loud. she is making the craziest face i have ever seen. that hill was so brutal.
    so….this is probably not something we should talk about in “public” but what are your tips for snagging the proofs without buying the pics? do i need to have photoshop to do it? i am not so tech savvy!

  17. So Lauren, I had to do a brief response to your post by going through the marathon photos I have taken over the past 3 years…
    Brett´s last post ..RE: How to Take Great Race Photos @Healthontherun.net

  18. This post is hilarious! That last photo..priceless! That poor girl!

  19. Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaahaaaaa!!! This post is money!!! (Did I just say that?)
    Alyssa´s last post ..Happy, Happy Friday!

  20. HAHAHA I’m glad my photos from MCM aren’t the only ones that look like someone is trying to kill me! Too funny!
    Amanda @ Running On Waffles´s last post ..I’ll Buy Anything

  21. oh man I have soem particularly good ones – I’ll have to see if I can fine one. I say if you look like you’re being tortured, its a good race photo. :)
    Meggie´s last post ..What’s Up Wednesday

  22. A thumbs up is a photographers dream!!!! Also, they take your picture rather far away, so be on the look our if a great race pic is your desire!

  23. Love, love, love this post!! The title definitely caught my eye and I HAD to read it!! Thanks for sharing your tips and race pics with us all! I;m sure this post will flash through my mind the next time I am coherent enough to see a race photographer…
    Tia´s last post ..Midsouth Championship Half Marathon: Race Report

  24. hahaha. I love this post. I don’t know why, but sometimes the photogs miss me completely at races. Maybe it is a blessing, since I am consistently a hot mess. A few NYCM ones just posted have me grimacing in pain and obviously walking – probably my most hated photos to date. Grrrr.
    Kelly´s last post ..Post-Marathon Highs and Lows

  25. i have never seen you look as beautiful as you do in the above photos. nicely done dear sister. 😛
    but actually, you really did get some good photos of you running the national marathon. i’ve never seen a happier runner.

    loved this post. very funny!
    i relate because lacrosse pictures are usually pretty bad as well. mainly they consist of your mouth hanging open with a mouth guard hanging out..and if you’re lucky..some spit flying.

  26. Hahahhaha Lauren this is a fabulous post! Why brightroom would EVER put photographers at mile 23 is totally beyond me. Or at the top of a hill. Or right after a water stop when you are most assuredly spilling Gatorade down your pants…or better yet, reaching down your shorts for a Gu.

    I always wonder if I look as nasty in real life as I do in those running pictures…no wonder I don’t make friends while on the run! The pictures my friends/family took always turn out a little better…
    Susan´s last post ..life is exciting even when you don’t run

  27. actually yeah beyond the “freaking awesome post” comment, I second the thought about you being a happy runner! In recaps and at HTC I really get the feeling from you that you love it, sweat and grimaces aside :).
    Margot @ FasterBunny´s last post ..Speedwork I luv (workouts to get faster)

  28. I love how race photos really tell the story of how you were feeling during a race — you were clearly giving everything you had at the finish! I don’t understand how some people look so good in their photos when they were supposedly “racing”.
    I think you should start a “{on the run} guide to” series and put them all in a book :)
    Corey´s last post ..On Non-Achieving

  29. LOLz to this. I am convinced Brightroom is always strategically located at the worst points of a race, just waiting for me to run by at the worst moments of the race. Why can’t they be in the first mile when I’m still feeling good? That said, I am proud of all my race photos because as awful as I look, they (usually) are indicators of a fast time!

    I could probably dig up a thousand unflattering photos, but this funny picture sums it up pretty nicely :)
    Lindsay´s last post ..Post-Marathon Recovery

  30. Oh my gosh, my MCM pics were HORRIBLE. Pretty sure I looked like I was having a bathroom emergency. Here are some… in all their glory… http://wp.me/p1B9eQ-nd

  31. Hilarious! That’s for the laughs!
    Jen Correa @ Mom’s Gotta Run´s last post ..On your mark, get ready….

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