The Price of Race Photos

I remember about 10 years ago when race photos where a luxury. You ran in an event, probably the one event you were doing that year, a race where you were ridiculously proud of yourself for finishing or getting a good time. About a week later you get an email saying the photos are available. You flick through them, hoping there’s one that looks remotely nice. YES! There’s one. Suddenly you want it. A wonderful memento of your amazing day.

You click on the basket and find that you have to buy all the photos for £26 or an individual one for £10 (or some other weird option where you can be sent a print for £5). “I’m not paying that!”, you shout at the screen. “I paid £40 to do the damn race, and £15 on the train fare”.

And thus what happened was a slew of watermark-covered pictures posted across social media because very few people would actually pay for the real version.

Now in 2018, race organisers are getting smarter when it comes to race pictures. People like our friends over at RunThrough worked out a long time ago that if you give your audience free pictures that look nice, all of your social media work becomes a lot easier. Include some pictures along with the price of the entry and you’re covering a big chunk of the overall package. No company wants a load of stolen watermark pictures blown up 10 times associated with their brand.

More companies are following suit. The crew over at adidas City Runs and Virgin Sport also let you download your pics for free now. A smart move for the larger companies that are constantly driving toward reach and brand awareness. I’d love to see the cost sheets associated with social media mentions based on free photos against anything involving actual paid for spend across the various channels. Sure, you’re losing the money associated with the photography companies, but they’re usually separate companies working on a different revenue stream anyway.

Supplying free photos isn’t an easy option for everyone. For the smaller organisers there are costs associated with it, and they’re not quite so bothered about brand and social reach. For many of the smaller companies, success is fundamentally based on race entries. Paying a photographer to work for a few hours, uploading the photos to a server, managing the website and implementing some sort of search function is a bug chunk of effort. RunThrough get around it by uploading all of the photos to Facebook and leaving the runners to click through them in order to locate their pictures. I doubt anyone actually minds doing that, especially considering the alternative costs. It’s actually quite fun if I’m being honest. Like a personalised Where’s Wally.

Another of our favourite running event companies is the Race Organiser, their strategy is the paid for model but at a much lower cost. Individual photos (which are of a ridiculously high quality) cost around £3.50. Would anyone opt for the watermark choice over £3.50? Unlikely. Especially when the race costs between £16-£18.

At the other side of the scale is those companies that are still sticking with the old system. Events companies using big third-party photography companies like Marathon Photos that are charging a hell of a lot of money for pictures. I see them quite frequently (I do on average two races a week) and every time I realise I need to pay at least £10 for a picture I groan. Yes, I know they’re a business trying to make money, and I’m sure they’ve worked out how much people will pay for pictures. But really. Especially considering pretty much everyone buying those pictures is essentially helping market the brand itself, it seems a bit expensive.

As far as I’m concerned the cost of race photos is something that’s changing in a lot of places, and the fact that the big event organises are taking note can only be a good thing.

What do you think? Would you pay £10 – £30 for race photos? Am I being shortsighted in my view of how race photography works? Let me know in the comments below.

Picture Credit: Basil Thornton, RunThrough