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#AskYourRaceDirector – About Photos and Running

I was in conversation with Savio D’Souza, ( one of India’s most leading National level Olympian of yesteryears and trainer, for those who came in late ) and asked him for a photo from his winning days. He confessed that he had probably none.
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Compared to this, most new 10K runners demand a photo of their run, whether the organiser has promised one or not.
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I have been running the Mumbai Marathon from its inception, and am also willing to pay for a good photo…but often find none, inspite of the practically saturation coverage the event gets. I have run several events all over the country and almost the same is the case. In the international events, that I have run also there are no good photos that I have got, I have searched, at the request of some runners, for photos of Comrades and have not been very successful. Imagine, 89 kms of run over 12 hours and some runners do not have a single photo to show for their efforts.
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Why does this happen? Here are some reasons for it.
1. Did the event design include an opportunity to give each runner a photo? Was it promised as part of the event deliverables? Many events do not consider a photo as a deliverable for their event. They do arrange for a few photographers to document the event for their own archives, but often not to capture runners on the route.
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2. If the event organiser intended to deliver a photo and had event photographers on the route, am I assured to get a good photo?
The answer sadly is NO…for the following reasons
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a. It is dark…flashes can only work for so much distance. And with low light and auto focus etc settings often the outcome is blurry. In some events, I have seen a wall of LEDs erected to provide the necessary light, but that is rare.
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b. Runners run in clusters…and runners who are behind one another get blocked by the runners in front of them.
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c. Poor planning by the photography team. Good photographers do a route recce the previous day and decide where to the place the photographers. This is done from three aspects. Direction of sunlight, Background scenery and de-clustering of runners on the route. Brijesh Nair of Veloscope does this well. Vasanthan of MyRace recently put photographers at the Marina Beach U-turn and gave most runners a photo with the beach and sea in the background.
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d. Social media photographers are deployed. These are photographers who do it for free as a community service. Often their coverage is spotty and also restricted to those whom they know on social media. The unknown runner with no social media presence gets a short shrift in this case.
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e. Photos are not tagged but are uploaded on social media albums. Here the photographer relies on the goodwill of fellow runners to tag those whom they know. And the ability to tag also depends upon the privacy settings of the runner.
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f. Photos do not get tagged. Even the best bib tagging OCR has a success rate of about 80% or so depending upon photo quality. Your photos may be there..but may not have been tagged. At our photo tagging service, Treasured Moments, we do a manual curation and quality check to see that maximum photos get delivered to the runners and are not left in the untagged bin. ( sorry for the plug ).
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g. Percentage of saturation. This indicates how many photographers in the event took how many photos of runners on the route. Often the number of photographers are less than what is required and then also some of them aim for the creative approach rather than the mass blast, machine gun approach that increased saturation calls for. Even with automated cameras on the route, which keep taking photos continuously, the coverage is not often 100%. A recent event that used this technology got a coverage of runners just a little above 50% or so.
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So there….you have it. The several reasons why EVERY runner may not get a good photo of his run on the route.
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So what is the average runner to do..to have his treasured memories saved?
– Do not run in clusters. Open up when you see the photographers.
– Be friends with social media photographers 🙂
– Do what is within your control. Take photos at selfie stand post the race…or of each other during the race.
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