Race Photo Robbery

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Many people pick up running to slim down, but let me tell you – once you get into racing, the thing that slims down the fastest is your wallet. When you do 10+ races a year, some as expensive as $100 and most at least $65, the dollars add up quickly.

But while I’ve come to justify race fees as the price to pay for a fun, endorphin-rich experience and year-round motivation to stay healthy and active, one thing I cannot come to terms with is the cost of race photos.

Now, to be brutally honest, typically I have next to no desire to purchase my race photos anyway, seeing how ridiculous I look in most. I’m too sweaty. I look fat. Weird shadows make my legs look hairy. Or fat. (Or both!) I’m making a sour face. I’m making an Edward-wants-to-eat-Bella face. I’m grinning like a maniac and look like Ziggy Marley’s illegitimate daughter (seriously, I have proof). My nose is too big… well, not that I can blame the photographers for that, could I?

In fact, the one and only person I know who manages to look amazing in all her race photos, without fail, is my friend, runner and curry lover Colleen DeBaise. She looks so fabulous, always, that New York Road Runners once used her photo as the cover for one of the races we ran together. True story. I’ve been lobbying her to spill all her fabulous race photo secrets here, as guest blogger. Fingers crossed!

That said, every now and then, I do get a race photo that is tolerable to an extent that I want to have it. Or I want it as a keepsake. I did buy, for example, photos from two races I ran while pregnant: one at six months and one at nearly eight, quite fittingly at a NYRR Mother’s Day race in Central Park. I love that those are the first photos in our baby album and most certainly don’t mind looking, er… well-rounded. (Also, notice the pacing police walking with me, making sure I don’t “run” a smidge faster than a 16-minute mile. Sigh.)

But to get to the point: earlier today I received the link with my San Jose Rock’n’Roll Half photos and a few of them are only half bad. I particularly like the awkward pose-in-front-of-finishers-wall one, where I specifically remember being told: Come over here to take a race photo for free. Free, huh? Well, I guess the “taking” was free. The having, $64.95 (before tax). That, for the pleasure of downloading all my photos as digital images. Want to download one image only? That’d be $34.95.

Now, at this point most people just take a screenshot of the photos they like, but because race photography outlets are no fools these days, they have copyright watermarks plastered all over the place. So, you get something like the image to your left. Way to make me feel guilty, big orange diagonal letters!

Of course, you could also always screengrab the thumbnail previews, as long as you don’t mind ending up with something like this. Oh, hello there, tiny one.

Do I feel bad about sharing these photos like that instead of buying them? Yes, a little bit. If the race photo company (MarathonFoto.com) contacted me and told me to remove them, I would — though not before denouncing such douchebaggery publicly. (Not like I’m profiteering in any way, here.)

Yet, they did send a bunch of photographers to the event, who spent many hours sitting in what I can only imagine are not very comfortable positions so they can take pictures of all participants. Then someone had to spend who knows how many hours going through every single photo and tagging it with the runner’s race number, so that each of us could find their photos in their database easily. That is no small effort and is truly appreciated.

But come on. The emailing of digital photos costs you nothing. Why must you charge me $65, which coincidentally is also how much I paid to run the race itself?

I am willing to bet that not many people will pay the steep price as is now, but if they lowered it to, say, $15 for the set, they’d get hundreds, if not thousands of orders.

Not least, it must be noted that the official race photos are by no means a runner’s only option when it comes to memorializing those events. Friends, family and fans can be asked to snap pictures as they cheer you along the course.

And many smaller races have volunteers snap photos, which they share with runners for free. Brazen Racing, which organizes trail races throughout the East and South Bay Areas here, posts all race photos, high resolution, on Picasa. Sure, you have to click through hundreds of photos to find yourself (they are not tagged), but you can’t beat free now, can you?


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6 thoughts on “Race Photo Robbery

  • May 4, 2019 at 5:03 am

    I’m running 15 or 16 races a year now, and feel the same way. It’s nuts the way one or two pictures can cost as much as the race itself.

    I’d like to see races team up with photographers who are willing to work the event for a flat rate. If a race had, say, 300 runners, you could skim $2 off the race fee and pay the photographer $600 to take the pics and post them. An event with 1000 runners could pay a photographer $750 just by taking 75 cents from each runner’s entry fee. (I don’t know if those numbers are reasonable, but I think something like that could be arranged.)

    I’d rather have no photographer at all than one who plans to send me a link to a watermarked thumbnail and charge half my race fee to buy a digital image. No thanks โ€“ I’d rather use that money for my next race.

  • October 12, 2012 at 1:26 am

    Hah, thank you, but no ๐Ÿ™‚ Don’t you see how my right leg looks hairy?? Not to mention random dude’s ACTUAL hairy leg right in between mine? Anyhoo… If they offer ’em up for $15, I’ll bite ๐Ÿ™‚

  • October 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    I’ve just found your blog, I really like it and I’m a little hesitant to say this so soon in our ‘blog friendship’ but I think you’re wrong.
    I agree with everything you say. Race photos are obscenely expensive and I think the photographers are greedy, if they made them cheaper they would surely sell SO many more. But I still think it’s wrong to post their pics on your website. It’s like saying Prada handbags are ridiculously expensive so you’re going to take one anyway. I think there’s a grey area – you could post their pics by linking to the site or quoting them as a source. But we can’t just take things we think are too expensive, be they race photos or Prada handbags.
    Sadly these days, I would prefer a good race photo of me than a swanky bag ๐Ÿ™‚

    • October 11, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      Yup, agreed. I do feel slightly guilty using the screen grabs. But: note that I’m taking them “as is” — with big orange letters all across the image. It’s not like I hacked my way into downloading the high-res photos without paying. To use your Prada example, I think it’s more like “Prada handbags are ridiculously expensive, so I’ll go down to Canal St in Manhattan and buy myself a fake for $20.”

      And I use the photos here, in a completely not-for-profit initiative. It would have been different if I were blogging for money. Purchasing them… I cannot justify. I’d rather spend the cash on more race entry fees ๐Ÿ™‚ (I wish Prada handbags could be had by foregoing a few race photos… :))

      • October 12, 2012 at 12:41 am

        Totally agree about not justifying the price, it IS ridiculous.

      • October 12, 2012 at 12:49 am

        BTW those photos of you are brilliant, I would have bought one!!


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