Duck face. Fish face. Cow-slowly-dying-in-extreme-agony face. I've rocked all these looks during a race, if my race photos are to be believed. Slouchy shoulders, wide open and gasping mouth, and brick-like feet slogging along the pavement: these aren't exactly the looks you want to pay money for and hang next to shiny medals or put on your office desk.
While I don't have any example photos of me looking lithe and fit and fleet, or even any photos that look like I enjoy running, after photographing a running event a couple weekends ago I can give you an idea of what race photographers are looking for. I always hated the idea of being photographed while running, so I never tried to get a decent photo. What was the point? Who actually looks good running? But walking a mile in a running photographer's shoes has given me a little perspective and a bit of appreciation for the job. I'm not saying I'll be the first to ham it up next time (after all, photographers prefer to be BEHIND the camera, not in front), but there are a few things you can keep in mind if you're hoping for some decent-looking memorabilia to go with your race swag.
1. Be aware.
You can't get ready for a great race photo if you don't see the photographer and they don't see you. Make sure the photographer can get a clear shot of you and be aware of when you're in range. Don't pose immediately when you see the lens a quarter mile away, but also don't expect to be the center focus when you're whizzing inches by the photographer. There's a sweet spot where the photographer is focusing; just look up and make sure they're looking at you.
2. Look alive!
It's a race. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of runners. You want to stick out! I highly recommend a big ol' smile, even if you feel like death frozen over. Here are the pros of the smile approach:
a) It's harder to mess up with an ill-timed shutter click. Goofy faces can easily turn into Quasimodo grimaces, but big smiles are always a winner.
b) Who can resist a happy runner? All the runners I saw smiling at the running event I photographed made me smile, and looking back on their smiling photos makes me smile even more. What a great way to remember a major event!
c) There's something to be said about the "fake it 'til you make it" approach. If you take the time to fake being happy running with a gazillion other crazy fools then you might feel the benefits of creating your own happy race conditions. And a happy race is a good race!
3. Pay attention to posture.
When we run we generally lean forward, keeping our center of gravity and momentum over our forward-moving foot. That's great, we want that, but we don't want to go so far as to collapse our shoulders into a forward slouch and look like we're falling into the pavement instead of running. Just pull your shoulders back and tilt your chin up a bit: you want to look tall and strong and athletic like you're in race beast mode not slouchy and double-chinned "what-am-I-doing-here?!" mode (though if you're feeling much more the latter, just remember what I said about "fake it 'til you make it" and run strong).
4. Speed up just a little.
Not like "sprint unsustainably" or anything; just give yourself a little edge as you go by the photographer. There's this mystical magical running shot where both feet are off the ground and you look like you're flying. That's the money shot right there, the elusive unicorn photo that makes you look like a running deity, and a little bit of speed helps achieve the look. At the very least, the faster stride can help minimize the "dead-legs-trudging-miserably" look.
5. Be smart about your clothes.
I'm not saying go crazy in a full costume (or do if that's your thing) or only wear spandex or only wear non-baggy shorts or xyzabfgmod. I'm saying wear something that is comfortable to run in and makes you feel confident. Confident, happy runners are a great way to remember a big race.
6. Pay attention to accessories.
That bib? Yeah, you've got it for a reason. Besides the chip for your time, the number identifies you in photos, so if you want a photo then make sure the bib number is visible. Also keep in mind things like hair, hats, and sunglasses. Sunglasses may hide things like crazy eyes or pain. Hats may throw harsh shadows. Ponytails might smack you in your face or stick to your neck or look a little funny. That said, I'll take practicality over good looks, and I'm also a fan of the bouncing ponytail because it emphasizes movement (even though my opinion seems pretty unpopular, oh well). Just be aware of how you accessorize and how it will look if you're hoping for a race pic.
7. Push through the finish line.
Go Go Go! You've got people cheering for you and an announcer calling your name - ham it up! Either run strong well past the line or prep your victory glamor shot for the final steps across the line. Don't immediately check your watch or pass out or puke: finish strong, you've got it!
Of course, to me the race comes first over photos, but sometimes you just want the added satisfaction of looking like a badass. What about you? Do you have any favorite race photos (the good, the bad, and the ugly) to share, or any tips on getting your vanity photo?