6 Tips To Get Better Running Photos of Yourself

When I shoot running events I always strive to create unique high quality images.  Runners spend hours conditioning and researching tips, techniques and products to help them perform their best.  Who would want to show off that hard work with photos that were taken with any less effort? I’ve decided to provide six tips I think will help you get better running photos of yourself.

First off let me explain to you what I think is a good running photo in a way that a runner can impact. A photo should show action, I should be able to see your face and your eyes and often emotion(are you having fun? Pushing yourself and have that determined face?)


Climbing up on a conex box at the 2013 Dirty Dozen race in Albany, Oregon
Climbing up on a conex box at the 2013 Dirty Dozen race in Albany, Oregon

1. Obstacles and Course Unique Features

One of the things I always look for when shooting photos is to have something unique to that race in the photo. Example would be at Silver Falls would be to get one of the falls in the photo, or perhaps its a creek crossing at Monument Peak, or just a really awesome spot on the trail. Being that most the runs I shoot are in Oregon, its pretty hard not to find a great scene.

If there is an obstacle, like a creek crossing, cross it with enthusiasm, just run behind/past a waterfall? Be ready for a photos, there may just be a photographer there to capture the moment.

2. Finish Line

Finish line photos are tough, they all look very similar. A runner with “Finish” banner over the top and a clock above or next to the finish line.  I will often use a tripod at the finish as this allows me to have consistent framing on images and allows me to process the photos much quicker and in turn around get them online and available to purchase sooner.

In addition to the tripod sometimes I use lights to add a unique characteristic to these photos. When setting up the lights I set them up to try to take photos of all the runners.  To be consistent as possible I set up the lighting as if the runner crosses in the center. Some runners will run across the finish line off to the side. This will make them appear really bright on one side and even possibly blown out. This is where the light is so powerful the runner will lose details and appear as a white form, often losing details in the face. If using lights and it also makes the  person appear at the edge of the photo rather than in the middle creating an unbalanced photo as one side of the runner will be lit much stronger than the other.

The finish line is also a great time to celebrate your accomplishment, as tired as you are, jumping, cartwheels may seem like a lot of effort, something as simple as just a big smile will improve the look of your photo.

A runner crosses the finish line at a race thats runs in a drained lake bed and finishes downtown Detroit, Oregon
A runner crosses the finish line at a race that runs in a drained lake bed and finishes downtown Detroit, Oregon

3. Look up

Running is tough, trail running is even tougher as there are rocks, roots and other obstacles on the trail that any time that can cause an injury.  As a photographer shooting from a lower angle can help this, however as you look down, often it appears as if your eyes are closed. Try to keep that head up and look down the trail if you see the photographer.

4. Bib placement

This one is not so much to make a better photo, but helps in “getting” the better photo. Photos are uploaded to my website and searched  based off your bib number provided by the race directors.  This is also how I attach your names to the images as well. That allows you to search for photos of you across multiple races where your bib number may change. Recommended placing is front and center of your torso.

5. Clothing

The color of clothing is one thing many people do not think about when taking photos. Choosing the right color helps you stand out from what is behind you and running in the North West means lots of greens and maybe occasional white backgrounds, and if the race is on the other side of the Cascades browns are colors to avoid. I must admit not many runners wear browns unless they are covered in mud. Colors that contrast will allow you to stand out for a better photograph.

A runner crosses a small creek at Run Wild Adventure's Monument Peak race outside Gates, Oregon
A runner crosses a small creek at Run Wild Adventure’s Monument Peak race outside Gates, Oregon

6. Repeat

I attempt to get at least two photos of everyone (finish and trail), often there is just one frame of each location. That means, if you blink, have one leg bent as so it appears missing, the only way to get another shot is to run another event. Another option is if there is a break in the runners, you may ask us to do over if you really want to make sure we get that great shot. Speaking of breaks in runners, if you are traveling in a pack chances are that the runners in front will get photos, and those closely behind will not.  So have some distance between you and the next runner.


Remember, as a photographer we want to get a good picture of you, we aren’t trying to embarrass you. It’s okay to fake it to get a good photo, we won’t tell anyone! I hope these tips help you get a photo that shows off all your hard work.

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