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Sarah Bowen Shea: The Art of a Great Race Photo

Nabbing a PR or completing a bucket-list race are worthy goals, but let’s admit it: Sometimes our number one aim on race day is to get a great photo snapped of us. A photograph that can live on forever on Facebook and in blog posts, reminding us of our glory day(s).

Yet all too often, when the link to official race photos lands in my inbox, I click to see myself gazing down, grimacing, baring my muffin top, or—the worst—looking like I’m walking. (Not criticizing run/walkers or walkers: But if I ran every step except through the water stations, dang it, I want my race photo to showcase that fact!)

This list of tips for getting a Facebook-profile-worthy-pic were garnered during a chat with the experts at Brightroom, the photographers in those ubiquitous blue vests that shoot races nationwide, as well as personal experience from the dozen marathons I’ve run.


—Although race photogs try to shoot every runner, people who stand out tend to catch their eyes as they shoot a sea of runners. Easy ways to be noticed: Wear a bright top; make eye contact with the photographer; smile, and if you’re up for it, give a thumb’s up or wave (no middle fingers, please). If you’re running with a pal, put your arm around her or grab her hand as you go by.

—Run on the side of the road on which the photographer is located. Don’t go down the middle, unless photographer is on a lift in the middle of the street.

—Pin your number in a clear spot in the center of the top you’ll be wearing for most of the race, not on a layer you’ll shed or on your backside.

—To look your speediest, think about running like a Kenyan for 20 yards. Imagine you’re floating, so your feet spend as little time on the ground as possible.

—Don’t wear the race T-shirt. The more fitted your outfit, the sleeker you’ll look. A parachute of a baggy tee billowing in the wind never makes anybody look good. Plus, you won’t stand out from the crowd. (See first tip.)

—Wear a skirt or pair of capris or tights, which eradicate that unsightly crotch bulge that shorts create after, oh, about 10 steps. Also, sport only black or patterned tights or capris, as the crotchal sweat stain on lighter bottoms makes for a mortifying photo.

—Don’t tailgate. For a clean, solo shot, give yourself some space between you and the runners around you.

—Brimmed hats cast shadows over your face, especially at the finish line, where photogs tend to shoot from above. To mitigate the darkness, take it off and raise it in the air, turn it around, or, at the very least, tilt it up.

—Speaking of finish lines, do not look down at your GPS or watch to hit the stop button as you cross it. The race is chip timed, so hold your head high and raise your arms in triumph!