After months of training, a beautiful race day, and maybe a personal best many of us are usually very keen to see the professional event photos and share them with friends and family. And many of us might know the feeling of disappointment if one was captured only a few times and some friends flash around 20 or more unique photos.
We talked to many professional sports photographers how they perceive the field of athletes and make decision about whom to photograph in fractions of a second. Firstly, be assured, they are trying hard to capture every single passing athlete in the best possible setting. And yet there was a general agreement about what ensures a high number of beautiful photos.
1 Wear your bib.
While there are many ways to identify athletes in a photo the bib is usually the most straightforward way and photographers will always focus on the athletes with clearly visible bibs and only capture photos of athletes with blocked or no bibs if no other target is in sight.
2 Run on the sides.
Most photographers are placed on the sidelines of the event course and say it is far easier to capture athletes at the margins of the pack than more centered athletes. The camera’s line of sight towards the center gets easily blocked by other athletes.
3 Keep your pace.
Photographers are constantly watching all approaching athletes and quickly assess individual speeds and angles. Based upon this information they capture athletes in a certain order and sudden changes in pace can lead to missed photos cause the athletes was in a different spot than originally anticipated.
4 Sport flashy apparel.
Our brains are wired in a way to easily recognize not matching patterns. We're not saying a pink gorilla costume is necessary, but something a little different helps. If everyone is wearing the official race shirt and you have a large red hat, it is very likely that photographers spot you from afar and adjust their workflow to ensure you will get some create shots.
5 Know the course.
Most events release pre-event information packages, that include course maps and planned photographer locations. At large cities events many locations are around the major sights and at hard turns on the course. The outer lanes of 90º course angles stretch the athletes field and allows photographer to capture more runners. This usually means you get better photos the farther away you are from the racing line.
6 Enjoy the event.
If you are having fun and a relaxed approach to the event you will most likely be smiling and engaging with cheering spectators and other participants. All photographers confirm that they subconsciously gear towards athletes who are clearly enjoying the event and have a smile on their faces.