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Photographing A Running Event

Techniques > Photographing A Running Event

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Category: Sports and Action

Fun Runs And Marathon Photography - Running events are the perfect opportunity for you to capture some close-up, photographic action.

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Many sports take place some way from the spectators which makes taking decent pictures without long lenses a challenge. However accessible sports photography comes in the form of road running events. Something which can be captured right up and down the country. Plus, good action shots can be captured with modest gear at local events because you just stand by the roadside – often there are no barriers or anything to get in the way.

Two leading sites to search for events close to you are running diary and runners world.


If an event is local to you, walk/cycle/run/drive the course beforehand to find the best vantage points for the day itself. You could check light direction and backgrounds if you have the time. Get to your chosen location early – only relevant at big events – to ensure a good spot. Have all your gear ready the night before so you're not rushing on the morning of the race and take a camera bag that's big enough to carry your gear but won't weigh you down or prevent you accessing lenses quickly. Take a look at Vanguard's Kinray Lite Series if you often shoot outdoors as they're designed for active photographers and offer easy, side access to equipment as well as space for various lenses and accessories.


If you want shots of a large group of runners, these are usually best done at the start because once a race was started runners will soon be strung out. Only in big events will this not be the case.


Shutter Speeds & Focus

For sharp pictures keep shutter speeds 1/250sec and above and set the camera to continuous focusing so that the camera tracks focus as the subject gets closer to you. Many continuous AF systems will cope fine with the closing speed of a runner – though you might have to try your camera in different AF sensor configurations to see which works best to suit your shots.

Lens Choices 

A telezoom will be perfect for frame-filling shots at a local event, but also try a wide-angle lens from a low viewpoint.


If the sun's shining you might find that underexposure will occur. If silhouetted figures are what you need, that's fine. However, if you want some shadow detail set a + exposure compensation value or set manual metering, taking a reading from the road. That should give good shadow details. If your DSLR has LiveView, use that to help with composition although, depending on your camera, you might find that the autofocusing is less than brilliant so manual focusing is advised.

Detail Shots 

As well as shots of the athletes, there will be plenty of detail shots and candids to be had. In road races, you will often get drinks stations and they are great places to try something different. You could try to grab shots of cups of water as they are being grabbed, or runners jostling for position to collect their drink.

After the event, you may get runners draped with survival sheets and that can look good for pictures too. The thing is to keep your wits about you and don't pack up shooting and wander off when the leading runners have finished. The fun runners and joggers often make for better pictures.

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