Why You Should Pay For Your Race Photos

In this day of Facebook, Instagram and, of course, blogging, it didn’t really happen unless you can share a picture on all of your social media outlets. Racing is no exception. Even if you have a race t-shirt to wear around town and a medal to hang on your wall, you want race photos to remember the pride (or relief) you felt as you crossed the finish line.

Pay For Race Photos
Some races offer free race photos, but for those that don’t I think you should pay for race photos instead of clipping the proofs from the photographer’s website. Here’s why. 

  1. Race photographers provide an important service that requires a significant investment in equipment and technology to execute well. There were over 30,000 runners in the Army Ten Miler. Marathon Photos had identified and collated about 10 photos of me within 48 hours. They must have used some sort of “bib recognition” technology to sift through all the photos that were taken, collect them under each bib number, and then send out emails to each runner with a link to “their” photos. It cost real money to get “my” pictures to my email in-box–why shouldn’t I have to pay for that service?  
  2. Race photographers have to get up just as early as the runners, get on site early, and stay to the end. I don’t know how much companies like Marathon Photos pay their photographers, but I hope they are fairly compensated for the full day of work they put in. When you don’t pay for your photos, that cuts into the company’s profits, and may impact how much they can pay their photographers.
  3. Races are expensive enough as it is. Instead of giving runners the option of paying for race pictures, race organizers could build the cost of race photos into the entry fee. But races are expensive enough, and not every runner wants a race photo, so I think having race photos as an optional add-on is a fairer alternative. 
  4. You agreed to the photographer’s terms and conditions. The “terms and conditions” notice on the Marathon Photos website includes a term that says “You may not reproduce, display, transmit, distribute or otherwise exploit any of the prints, clips, images, DVD’s or CD’s, or any portion thereof, in any manner, including, without limitation, print or electronic reproduction, publication or any display of photographs, without the prior written consent of Marathon-Photos.Com Ltd.” If you obtained your picture from their website, you technically may have agreed to abide by that term. You could try to plead ignorance, but the big “PROOF” that is plastered across the thumbnails they provide to let you decide which race photos you want to buy (if any) should clue you in that they don’t want you using those images. Marathon Photos has made that even more obvious by slapping “Image for use on Marathon-Photo.com only” across the top and bottom of each preview image. 
  5. The photographer owns the copyright. Under U.S. copyright law (in which I am not an expert), photographers owns the copyright in the pictures they take. While there is a “fair use” exception to copyright infringement, I wouldn’t count on it covering your use of their photos on your blog–although I do hope it covers the one I posted a few years ago to complain about how bad it was. (This Runner’s World column explains why it’s probably illegal to use “your” race photos without paying for them.)

Here’s the Army Ten Miler race photo I paid $26.95 for:

2015 Army Ten Miler

I decided to pay for this race photo because it captures me smiling as I’m running across the 14th Street Bridge, and reflects how hard I worked to pace myself to that point. Do I wish it cost $14.95 instead? Heck, yeah! But I bet one reason race photos are so expensive is because so few people pay for them. Maybe that’s mostly due to the law of “supply and demand” and a sign that Marathon Photos should lower their prices, but maybe it’s also because so many people try to get around paying for race photos they do want by using the proofs.

I don’t want to call anyone out on this, but if you think it’s OK to use race photos without paying for them, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 

Do you think “free” race photos should be included in race entry fees?

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27 Responses to Why You Should Pay For Your Race Photos

  1. Marcia says:

    If the race is special enough and the shot is good enough, I don’t have a problem shelling out the $$$. Yeah they charge a lot. It doesn’t give me the right to rip them off though.
    Marcia recently posted…The Kindness ProjectMy Profile

  2. Jennifer says:

    All good points – great bridge pic!
    Jennifer recently posted…Chicago Marathon Training Week 19 – 10/5-10/11My Profile

  3. Obviously I am guilty of this. And as a former graphic designer & married to a talented photographer, yeah, I should know better.

    I have paid for quite a few race photographs, but you definitely have me putting my thinking cap on! Thank you!
    Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy recently posted…Pumpkin, apples, hot chocolate, oh my!My Profile

  4. Oh yeah, btw, a few years back I read some posts somewhere that marathonphoto does not pay its photographers well. No idea if it’s still true.
    Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy recently posted…Pumpkin, apples, hot chocolate, oh my!My Profile

  5. When I ran Zooma Annapolis this year, I was happy to have free photos included. I do like having the option to buy photos at races if they are good, but they are just so darn expensive. I would never “steal” an image to put online, especially on my blog.
    Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted…Running Club Roundup: Philly RunnersMy Profile

  6. I like the free photos that come with some events, but I will pay for a rare smiling or significant picture. Last year, I bought my digital pics from the NYC marathon instead of swag at the race. I do think that if they lowered the cost for a single digital download, they would get more people to buy.

    I definitely don’t want the cost in the race fees which are sky high as it is (and the chances of a “good” photo are slim.
    Erica @ Erica Finds recently posted…Wednesday Giveaway Round Up #40My Profile

  7. Great points!!

    I actually was considering buying a picture from the Brooklyn half-I really like it. They are really expensive and I can’t figure out why especially since they are digital photos.

    I am not about ‘free’ race photos either-it may be that you don’t get any or that they don’t come out good.

    I don’t know-I am still on the fence about paying almost $30 for 1 picture #decisions

  8. HoHo Runs says:

    If it’s good, I don’t mind buying the photo. I don’t like being required to buy a package, though. I usually only want one shot. At our local races, one of our running club members takes professional photos and emails them to members. I have many photos from local races and I very much appreciate he takes the time and expense to do that! Great shot of you!
    HoHo Runs recently posted…Sanity and InjuryMy Profile

  9. I agree that we should not post them illegally. They are mighty expensive sometimes I think they would sell more of them if they were less $. When I don’t look like I am dying, I purchase mine. That is a great pic of you and you are always smiling in yours 🙂
    Deborah Brooks @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Run 10 Feed 10-Washington, DC Fun RunMy Profile

  10. Chaitali says:

    Yeah, if the race doesn’t have free photos I definitely don’t use the “proof” shot. If there’s a photo I like well enough to want to use, I go ahead and buy it. I bought several from the Richmond Half since it was my first half and I bought a couple from my first Disney race too.
    Chaitali recently posted…Friday 5 – things I’m looking forward to at WDWMy Profile

  11. great pic of you! somehow i got terrible pictures from the race – i can barely even identify myself. oh well. i think that paying 20 for one picture is crazy – that’s why i very rarely buy them. we bought a picture of my husband and i crossing the finish line in richmond together because that was very special but i think that’s it.
    courtney @ eat pray run dc recently posted…Favorite Fall RecipesMy Profile

  12. I love free race photos. They’re a great perk. But at the same time, I don’t think that gives you the right to rip them off. My biggest problem is if there isn’t many of me or they’re not any good, it’s so much for just one single photo. I paid for my first half at Disney, but I was justifying getting a lot of pictures all together digital for a price. Getting a single digital only photo for $30 is jut so high in my book. I can understand their costs, but that generally doesn’t fit in my budget.
    John @ run. geek. run(disney) recently posted…Foods of the Fall | #FridayFiveMy Profile

  13. Amanda says:

    Good points! I’ve never taken any of the proofs from a website. It seems silly to me actually. You want to share a nice looking photo– and it doesn’t look nice with a huge copy right water mark!

    Every once in awhile I’ll purchase race photos, but I’ve been lucky the past few big races I’ve done that I’ve had family watching and who took some photos.

    I’ve also seen a few races poll their runners from previous years, and have switched to offering photos with registration instead of the race shirt.
    Amanda recently posted…A Top Finisher Perspective {Guest Post}My Profile

  14. steena says:

    I’m for the most part a true, honest race photo purchaser. I find it ironic that I just got into an email debate with a race photographer from the triathlon I did in OK. I purchased 2 or 3 photos last month after the race, and today he sends out an email “Purchase one photo and you get one free” I respond with “What if I already purchased photos?” That deal isn’t good for me. That’s crap in my opinion. I’m money conscious, and $15 per photo is a lot to me!
    steena recently posted…Peak Long RunMy Profile

  15. I would rather pay just a little bit more on the entry knowing I can pick a new “free” race pick later. I race last Sunday so I am still waiting to see my picture 🙂 Great post by the way- they should get paid for their pics! It is hard work, I agree!
    Mary Beth Jackson recently posted…Are you crazy about plaid?My Profile

  16. True, races are expensive to begin w so I don’t feel like I want to spend the additional money for a photo Bc they are pricey. But the quality is much better and sometimes they can get some great shots. I guess it depends on what race it is. I definitely bought my Boston ones.
    lacey@fairytalesandfitness.com recently posted…Things that legitimately scare me about runningMy Profile

  17. LOVE free race photos and a lot of organizations are moving towards that. I’d pay a little more in my race fee for that. I’d buy pics if it’s a significant (to me) race and I look ok. I bought my entire marathon photos package b/c it was my first.
    Mar @ Mar on the Run recently posted…Friday Five: Favorite Fall Comfort FoodsMy Profile

  18. These photos are so pricey and I very rarely buy them. I like that a lot of races are giving free photos! If it’s a big race and the pics are good, I don’t mind shelling out the money for them!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…Fit & Fashionable Friday: My last RocksboxMy Profile

  19. Race photos are not (yet) that expensive here… I recently paid 10 dollars for one and it was so worth it.
    I would never steal the picture and use it without paying. I feel I am hurting the livelihood of the photographer.
    I wouldn’t want to have it automatically included in the race entry fee… I prefer having the choice.

    Great post !
    Karen – Fit in France recently posted…Friday randomnessMy Profile

  20. I love the idea of race photos being included with my race fee but in my experience, the quality and number of photos I’ve gotten in those races has been pretty poor. I see it as a no win situation–either you run a race and pay for some decent photos or you take what you get. This year at Chicago was the first time they actually got a lot of decent pix, so I sucked it up and bought the whole package.
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…The Hangover: marathon recoveryMy Profile

  21. Like another commentor said, I’ve heard that some of the big photo companies do not pay their photographers well. But, I don’t remember were I read that.

    I think I only bought photos at my first half marathon. I wish they weren’t so expensive, so there’s the dilemna.
    carrie@familyfitnessfood.com recently posted…BOSUStrong Fit FamilyMy Profile

  22. I gotta say, I do like the idea of race photos being built into an entry fee. I feel like across ALL the runners, the slight increase in fee for free race photos would a) make many people happy because they get “free” photos, and b) I’d think the photographer would make out better with a large flat fee compared to having to keep marketing to people after the event to purchase their pictures. Just my personal opinion though; I completely get what you’re saying about not everyone wanting it and races being expensive already 🙂
    Chrissy @ Snacking in Sneakers recently posted…Hearty & Comforting Beef StewMy Profile

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