Wednesday, August 10, 2011

MarathonFoto, and why they kind of piss me off

"Yay!  I can't wait to ship you 25 big ones for this photo!"

If there is one thing I've always had pretty good radar for, it's when I'm getting played.  It's a great survival skill in the Army (if not a job requirement) and it has served me well whether I was at home or deployed.  I also have a knack for understanding when I'm being held over a barrel.  In the case of MarathonFoto, I believe a bit of both is happening simultaneously and it doesn't take a genius to figure that out.

First, let me just say that I understand that MarathonFoto is doing something that not everyone can do.  They are camped out in uncomfortable places, taking photos for quite a few hours and capturing moments that would be difficult, if not impossible, for the average spectator.  I get all that.  The issue I have is that they abuse the shit out of the vig that they take.

They totally deserve to turn a proft, but they don't need to be such a shark about it.  I have an issue with their margin mainly as a result of the fact that they have a captive clientele.  You simply don't have much of a choice with regards to getting some action shots during the race.  Yeah, yeah, you can have friends or family take the photos along the route, but let's be honest, if your wife and kids have come to San Francisco to see you race, they are not going to be able to get the same kind of shots or even have access to the opportunity in many cases.  In addition, MarathonFoto knows that most runners will be desperate to get a finisher's photo or action shot given that this is their first marathon, a category in which a growing number of participants are a member.

To summarize, I have no issue with the business model here.  In fact, I admire it.  But sonofabitch, trying to stick me for 25 bucks per 5 X 7 is ridiculous and borderline extortion.  Having spent my entire career in the Army, I know and understand why there is a premium on certain items; you're paying for all of the work that went into it.  However, I believe the margin is more a result of the "situational" variables involved than the tangible issues of getting the photo (related costs of making it happen).  At any rate, I don't do this for the 8 x 10 color glossy photograph, so I'm happy to let my buddhist side take over and let this go, which is a good thing given how completely effing horrible I look in my photos:

Exhibit A:

What the hell was I looking down for?  I never look down.

Exhibit B:

Not only do I look like refried Ass, but out of focus refried Ass to boot.

And the piece de resistance:

Who the fuck is this guy?  And why am I looking at him like I want him to die?  So funny I couldn't help but refrain from clicking the "NOT ME" button.

What do you think about MarathonFoto?  Are they savior or vulture?

By Marcus with 61 comments


Dude! Great post! Seriously, this is funny as hell. I especially love the last pic! Digital downloads should be $5 tops! Crowdsourcing marathon photos is something we need to explore more!

I got bad news cousin they don't just stick it to you with sports photos but I am sure you have been taken for child photos. its a conspiracy with all photographers!

Great post, though putting these pictures out there with a rogue PSYOP NCO running about is asking for trouble... right-click, save as...

I agree with Mike's idea about crowd sourcing. The crappy thing you didn't touch on is marathonfoto maintains the copyright to the prints you purchase. It's your image, but they own it since it's a public venue.

Wonderful post! And I vote for VULTURE.. like you I don't mind them turning a profit--but jeez louise!!! $25 for a slightly-out-of-focus 5X7? Not right at all. I say we need a little competition out there-- a few paparazzi-like companies and then WE the consumer can choose which company we would like to purchase from. Prices will fall and perhaps we will get a better product.

Great post Marcus, very good points made all around. I wanted to take a minute to respond to this, because I think you seriously hit it on the head.

No doubt many of the larger companies lack in creativity, and picking the best spots. And a lot of the tagging of your numbers is done by computers that don't understand that a horribly out of focus photo isn't something you want to buy. It's frustrating to athletes who know better.

Although the main problem lies in the cost. As you mentioned, $25 for a 5x7, that's a bit insane. However, being in the game ourselves, we understand why the rates are high. The percentage of people who buy their photos is pretty low. Now, you have to ask if it's because the quality isn't there, or is it because it's too expensive? The answer seems to be a bit of both. And to top it all off, hiring photographers is expensive! A smaller company such as ours sometimes pays more than $5k for photographers for a 2 day event!

With that said, you have to ask yourself... if the costs were lower, would more people buy? The answer is yes. But does it balance out? Who knows. Marathonfoto has been in the game for a while, so it seems they would have arrived at a sweet spot in terms of pricing, but their prices aren't really fair for those of you who race every weekend and just want a way of preserving the memory. Their bread and butter is first-timers, and even then paying that much for photos just doesn't seem fair for those athletes.

We are in the same game, but we see that there are absolutely better ways of doing race photography. We're hoping our growth at least encourages these bigger companies to improve their game, and drop their prices so that more people can enjoy the images from a moment that took a lot of training to get to!

Happy training!

Agreed. (looked up "vig" added to my yiddish, thx)

I've run the Peachtree Road Race eight times, plus several qualifiers... I've purchased just one marathon foto: Only because it was a birthday gift for my 1st time runner friend.

The price was a scorcher. I'll be satisfied will cellphone snapshots hereafter.

I happen to be a former employee of MarathonFoto and thought I'd just toss in my two cents. I'm afraid to say that our tagging is not done by computers, as suggested above, but by actual people. We hired so many temp taggers during peak racing seasons. The halls were always crammed with high schoolers. They are supposed to see that a picture like the one you posted is out of focus and mark it as bad. Of course, the taggers are generally young kids only there for the paycheck (they're paid per photo), so I'm not surprised at the number of bad photos that get marked as okay to sell.

And I couldn't agree more about the prices. It is a little ridiculous. But like you say, you're kind of out of options. Which does completely suck. But, having worked there, I will say that I can see where the high prices come from. Everything mentioned above by Nuvision Action Image is completely true - high photographer costs, low buying averages, etc. But all that aside, it does suck for the customer. I feel for you there.

Unfortunately, it's a rock and a hard place with this situation. You'll just have to make friends with an amateur photo junkie with a DSLR ... somebody with a standard DSLR and a decent lens could camp out and get at least one or two good shots of you at a desired location. Good luck with your crowdsourcing for any future races!

Valid concern. But what you don't realize is that to get the exclusive rights to photograph said events, to get the participant list so that the images can be conveniently emailed to each participant, MarathonFoto and others have to pay the event organizer per finisher. NY Marathon, 30,000 participants, the company may have to pay NYRR $9 per finisher. So before they have even taken a single shot, the company is down $270K. Go to MarathonFoto, I'm pretty certain no one is getting rich there.

I have worked as a photographer for marathon photo. You have to wake up when its pitch black, stand out in the cold all day, and try to take pictures of people who really dont want their photos taken. They only pay you about 9-11 dollars an hour, depending on how many pictures you take. It is not a fun job at all. When you buy a picture, you are having to pay the company, every one at the office headquarters, and tons of photographers. If you are so cheap, just have your mom take a pic at the finish line, but dont complain about it. People have to make a living you know.

As someone who finally ponied up the money for the photos from our first marathon six months ago, I am glad companies like MarathonFoto exist. Sure, the prices are high but it IS "first timers" who buy the whole package. Six months ago, I was a different person. It was just before I was diagnosed with some health issues and I want to remember that moment in time. It was not a stellar athletic achievement but it will always be my "first." I have since been in two other half marathons and did not buy the photos. Cell phone pics are fine. They are filling a market niche.

The thing I like about MarathonFoto, compared to BrightRoom, is that they stay on the course until everyone is in. BrightRoom packs ups, disinterested, when the less athletically inclined are still out there. They are probably the most likely to buy the photos because it is a real achievement for them to finish.

Just ran a marathon where MarathonFoto was the selected vendor for the occasion. For one digital image of the finisher's line it's just under $40! Wow...for a digital image. Of course I Googled 'MarathonFoto too expensive' and your hilarious and spot-on post came up. My vote: Vulture. No wonder they have such a low buying averages.

I recently ran a half marathon where, with shipping, I paid the $25 for the one 5x7 photo. They were so cheap they didn't even put the race name/logo anywhere on the photo. I'll pay the price, just finish the job!

Not defending MF because $25 for the one 5x7 is strong; however, what they do is not easy or cheap. The average road race photographer is walking around with about $4,000 worth of equipment. You have to stand there for hours no matter how hot, cold or even raining. A large marathon puts about the mileage on your camera equal to a cross country trip in a car. A large marathon will have about a dozen photographers being paid about $150 each, include gas/travel, hotels, food and give backs to the race directors and you are quite a bit in the hole starting out. Then there is the post work, such as getting the images from each camera, categorizing, editing, tagging and uploading, etc., etc. Although it might look similar, but what MF does is not like using your BestBuy camera to take a picture of your wife at a local 5K. And yes, out of 100,000 photos, there are going to be a few blurry ones that end up online because the workflow process is very labor and equipment dependent.

I am not a fan of MF because they are like Walmart squeezing out the local guys, but...pimping isn't easy.

I've just run the silverstone half marathon here in the UK. The cost of one photo download is £45 ($68). Now I know they have to cover costs and everything but that is an unbelievable rip off.

VULTURE x 1,000.
BTW, what's the big, bright-white blob blocking the bottom left corner of the last photo where you're not even the primary subject??? Low quality photo...easiest way to explain it.

This comment has been removed by the author.

As a pro-tog; a single print (from me, not the sports agencies) is around £30. It's not just the time out in the field, but the time back in the office too, the editing, the usual office overheads, insurance, wear and tear on equipment - pro camera upwards for £3000 (body only), lenses are more (at least £900), transport to the venue, and often overnight stays because it starts early or finishes late. Food and water (water is more important than food) - and yes, a very small profit (I have a family too).

Add to that MarathonFoto are not a lone tog, but an agency. Togs take the pictures & hand over cards, backend staff do the validation, editing and tagging.

I'm not justifying MarathonFoto's prices (especially given the extremely poor quality of the last image), but ask yourself - what is a tangible memory worth to you? Yuo can either tell your grandkids you ran a marathon, or you can show them. And a really good image, you can have on the wall.

(and the bright white 'blob' is the edge of a white sleeve on a t-shirt. That whole image just smacks of an amateur - probably because MarathonFoto won't pay proper rates, so hobbiests take the jobs).

Marcus, great post...kept me laughing as I sit here and anguish over the same dilemma. Vultures for sure!! By the way, Hooah, thanks for your service to our country!!

I was actually looking for a way to "liberate" one of my photos (at no cost to me) from MarathonFoto (MF) when I stumbled onto your post. I too served this great country (26 years as an AF NCO) and I too feel the exact same way you do about this company gouging us. Hence the reason I was contemplating "cost free appropriation ideas".

I just completed my first Tough Mudder and REALLY wanted the MF pics (at a cheaper price than what those MF folks are asking). However, after reading the replies to your post I think I need to stop looking for a free handout and use some of the core values the military has taught us. You know, like "Suck it up and deal with it!!" and "You've gotta love it when it sucks!!".

Luckily for me, I'll still have a couple of bucks left after my Ex takes her half of MY military retirement this month. Besides, eating is overrated, it can wait until next week...LOL.

I probably will give them a call before I acquiesce to their extortion, just to see if they will honor a Military Discount...lots of luck with that!! Right!?!?

I'm going to share a secret. I'm not sure if you'll ever get this, but go find your old marathonphotos again, and find the thumbnail url. You've already blown up the thumbnails to the large format, but you still have the watermark on the images.

Then try changing the 'images' in the URL to 'offsiteimages'

some random image of a dude:



if you do figure this out, enjoy!

I have been shooting endurance events for a number of years and I will share with you some of my knowledge. I started shooting for ASI and then they were bought out by Brightroom and then Marathonfoto acquired Brightroom. I have shot for all three and several local outfits as well. Typically the smaller outfits will allow a little more creativity in a shot and the large companies allow little to no creativity. In the case of Marathofoto the photographer is given a camera, told where to stand and then measure 24' from there. Tape is placed on the ground at the 24' mark and the camera set to manual focus. The instructions are to shoot anyone that hits the tape and try to get as many bibs as you can in the photo. If the shooter is slow, the runner will be off the tape and the photo be slightly out of focus. With the inexpensive equipment that is supplied, the auto focus just can't keep up with the runner which is why they measure out 24' and set to manual focus. The cameras that are supplied are not the best and I refuse to use their equipment and the tape method. The equipment that I own and use will keep up with a moving runner with auto focus and my shots are normally razor sharp in focus. I find the interesting runners that will make a good shot no matter where they are. This has gotten me in trouble more than once since I don't get enough other bibs in the shot.

Keep this in mind though. My camera backpack weighs in at about 30 pounds and I will usually have to hike better than a mile to my shooting location. In the backpack I have at least $15,000 in camera gear from lenses to backup bodies and assorted other equipment all professional level gear. On a typical shoot for a large event I will take between 5,000 and 8,000 shots, this puts a lot of wear and tear on the shutter and the camera requires a lot more maintenance. Why do I do all this? I can only speak for myself when I say that I do it because it's fun. Each race has it's own "vibe" with Tough Mudder being the bomb, I will do those in a heartbeat even though it rips me and my equipment up. In my view I'm outside on a usually nice day at a fun event taking photos (I love doing that) and getting paid. A bad day shooting is always better than a good day at work.

Some tips for if you want or don't want a photo, these apply to most experienced shooters. If you don't want to have a photo taken of you, cover your bib. I get rated on sales percentage on the no bib runners end up in lost and found and rarely sell. No bib, no shot. If I have my long lens on don't wait to get 10' from me and ask for a shot. More than likely I have already nailed you 50-75' away if I see you and the bib. At 10' all I will get are your nose hairs. If you can see me, have your bib on and make some sort of gesture I am probably going to take several shots of you. If you and your significant other are running together I will try and get a shot of both of you if you are the right distance away. If two or more people are running together with sequential bib numbers, I will do my best to get all of you together. All those kinds of shots sell better and up my percentage and the more likely I will be asked to work again for that company... I am on contract.

As a contractor I sign away any rights to the photos that I take and I have to hand them all over to the photo house at the end of the event. The photo house owns the copyright and this is in line with the laws of the land. Just because you are in the photo does not mean that you have the copyright. The photographer or in this case the photo house owns the copyright even after you buy a copy.

Lastly, there is one exception that I make to the no bib, no shot rule. If you are an attractive woman, smile, I am taking a picture of you. Yes, my wife tells me I'm a pig. Deal with it.

I did work for a smaller company and 25.00 may seem like a lot of money for a single photo but to really appreciate the value of it you need to consider this; I shoot with a 5D Mark III which is a 3,500.00 camera body and I will either have on my 24-70mm lens which is a 1,600.00 lens or my 70-200mm lens which is a 2,500.00 lens. I also have for support either my mono-pod or my tripod which is 500.00 and I am lugging a lot of equipment to the spot where I shoot as well and its a lot of work. Usually its normally pretty hot and many times I'm in the hot sun for hours shooting shots of runners which not only puts a lot of wear on my camera but also is a lot on my body and I am not allowed to leave my spot so a lot of times I found myself almost going in my pants and a couple times I forgot water and the shoot was complete torture. Agt a certain point with these events a lot of times my hand will also go numb from shooting the photo and holding the camera up.

I also have years of experience under my belt. Normally for a photographer to do senior photos that knows what he or she is doing with pro level equipment its around 500-1000.00 and that's what the standard is. Not only do I have to be payed but so do the people that oversee the event, the people that edit the photos, insurance, benefits for some employees, and many other factors and for you to hire a good photographer to take good photos of you that knows what they are doing for that event would cost you hundreds plus they would charge you around the same amount for each print. 25.00 for each print may seem like a lot for a person who doesn't do photography for a career but once you start to shoot and realize how expensive it is to get started and how long it takes to get good enough to take professional shots then 25.00 doesn't seem so bad. When you do a marathon you pay a lot for a room, food, the entrance fees, and everything else. Gas and sometimes plane flights add up really fast; to most people the entrance fee for the marathon may seem expensive so 25.00 for an image really isn't bad. Also consider that the amount of people that actually buy the images is very small in comparison to how many images are shot so profit has to be made somewhere.

They should seriously consider selling $5 at most for a digital copy. Yes they need to pay for their equipment, but more people will purchase them if they aren't selling them for $30 a photo! Most of the photos aren't that spectacular (yeah, it's not a photo shoot for a magazine), many of us would just keep a copy on the computer, maybe print out a hard copy or post it on facebook to share with family and friends; definitely not using it for commercial purposes.

For those of you that like Tough Mudder but do not like Marathon Foto, you can always run at MudManX. The obstacles are just as challenging if not more challenging and the photos are priced reasonably.

I have the same experience from a different company. Mine's even worse, I can't barely see myself in the picture because I was drowned among hundreds other people who run with me. They make it very ambiguous in the website whether the displayed pictures are samples or the actual picture sent. the website says 'personal photograph' and the zoom doesn't work so I thought they were samples & my photo would be my 'personal photo'.

Read your all comments, those of clients (like me) and those of photographers. Taking pics is a job and should be paid for... however.. consider this 10,000 participants - let say half of them were shot with an average of 5 photos. That makes around 25,000 pics each priced at .. £19.95 or £50 all per customer. This adds up to a £250-500k, surely this pays enough for a discomfort of shooting pics through entire day? Including a cost of a new gear and etc.. etc..?

Why so greedy?

Anon on Jun 21st - maybe I (as the racer) should carry a camera and take pics of you, since you sound like the real athlete here...

@"Anonymous May 7, 2013 at 7:07 PM"
Thanks, thanks and thanks again!

I'm one of those photographers you ran, walked or dragged yourself by. Yes we are tired, hot or cold, numb at the wrist, aching. But above all, we care about the runners. We try to get that picture that says yes I was there, I did that, I made it etc. I also add comments as you run by like "Great running," "looking strong" and "you make this race look easy" etc. Nothing but complements... I do get a lot of thank you's! We care. We also care about our photo of you. It's not easy. Yes, our hands are tied. We are frowned upon to use our own equipment. We do measure distance and tape the focus. We use flashes that work at a very specific distance. etc. Not easy. Try and shoot decent photo's with your hands tied behind your back, and you'll get what I mean. To make a point, we're given 12' to mark off. Flash distance. People wave hi and drop their hands right before 12'. I point at the line before the runner gets their and they understand. I always say something like "Awesome" etc. they smile and I get that difficult shot to say the least. $25. You should pay $100. It's your picture. What are you worth?

I did my first marathon in 2012 and it was the San Francisco one as well. I wanted some photos to document me in the race. The photos were not that great and the price too high for it. If it was under $5 per image then I may have forked out the cash.

I own a camera and had some friends run the Nike Women's Marathon a couple of weeks ago. I took some photos of other participants and are posted them online for anyone that is interested. Images are as is, no post processing or BIB tagging.

Just to add to my previous comments. I'm the guy that has shot for several photo companies and carries around the heavy backpack. Here is some of the business side. First, I'm contractor and I get paid by the hour and I don't get any revenue from the sale of an image. The only thing I get is invited back if my sales are good.

Now for the surprising business part. For a large marathon the photo house can collect about 700,000 photos from the photographers. When all is said and done if the photo house sells 1%... yes 1% they are lucky. From those sales are all the expenses to coordinate the race, supplies, air fare for the corporate staff, hotel rooms, car rentals, hourly pay for the local photographers, the money paid to people who ID the photos, sort the photos into the correct categories and on and on. Also, there is revenue sharing with the event organizers. You don't think the event organizers give away the shooting rights do you?

I have spoken with several of the smaller companies that shoot the races. Their experience is that they can price a print for $5 or $25 and they have the data to show that the sales percentage doesn't change at all. If they charge a lower price, all the photo house gets is bankruptcy.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Hello Running Jackalope community,

I hope all is well and I found this blog thru one of my searches. A very interesting read and all very understandable points when looking from the outside in. My name is Sean P. Walkinshaw and I'm the Business Development Director for MarathonFoto but I'm also a runner & triathlete. My position is to provide a service that I would like to receive but also be business minded with our profit & loss forecasting. As many of you who've been running for the past 5 years have noticed the majority of photography companies have folded up shop. One,, who was my prior employer for 8 years, was acquired by due to the ever changing market place in still photography. In short, the field we work has experienced significant changes due to consumer behavior with mobile phones, drops in disposable income, exposure to sheer volume of images in our lives & what we do with them and shopping habits. For many of our consumers, a single digit percentage ends up making a purchase and the price of our photos is the maximization price (ideal blend of price vs quantity to reach highest gross revenue return). The majority of our purchasing audience is first-time Half Marathon/Full Marathon runners, family/friend destination marathon or someone's PR. I tell people all the time, we’re really not selling photos…we’re providing memories. For this segment of runners, price becomes inelastic. If we cut our photo prices in half, then at a minimum we would need to see a 100% gain in quantity just to reach our original revenue forecast. Unfortunately this does not happen and I as a runner am forced to be more selective with my purchases due to the price. The comments about out expenses just to get the images to you are significant at this level of quality but aren't actually our largest cost. To secure the exclusive rights to photography we must pay the event organizers a large percentage our revenue just to be there and market the images to you. That money in return is used to help offset the high costs an event incurs to put on the event and ultimately keep your registration price down. I'm also the finish line director of the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, TX and I ensure you budgets are top priority when weighing the experience we deliver and costs the city charges us to put on the event (cops, road closures, etc.) to the price we charge you to run the event. As I share this information, I hope you understand it's not our (MarathonFoto) position to charge such high prices but it's out of necessity. We don’t sit around smoking cigars, eating Kobe beef and having expensive single malt scotch watching the profits role in. For another quick insight, even the President of MarathonFoto attends and photographs events for cost saving efforts.

I would like to now paint the future for you. A running world where runners no longer pay “extortion pricing” on digital photographs. A world where MarathonFoto is no longer a retail vendor to the running community but rather a service provider. A world where all digital images are 100.0% free. This is very similar to the adoption of chip timing for you veteran runners. Remember paying to have chip time? If registration at your favorite marathon only increased by a handful of dollars but you received all digital images for free, would you be pleased and excited? That is my vision but the industry is not quite there. Early adoption is taking place as we speak but only at very small events. The event directors will have a choice to make in the coming years if this is a service they're will to adopt and understand the financial impact it will have to their books. This is a service I would like as an athlete and I betting you would too.

Cheers and remember we’re always striving to provide the best possible experience to you,

Sean P. Walkinshaw

-Results, not intentions, count!

I agree, I think they do a very good job, and would happily purchase, but £19.95 for one digital photo is a joke. I normally wait until they offer a reduced rate about 3 months later and get 3 for the price of one lol

Great post! Totally agree. Ran the Modesto Marathon in 2013 -- nice race -- AND all race photos were made available for FREE download! And no, the registration fees were not jacked up to cover some enormous photo expense, regular registration was just $90.

So what's the difference between a $25 photo and a free photo? 1) Race promoters collecting kickbacks to impose stealth increases in the registration fees. 2) Corporate "MarathonFoto" maximizing profits by exploiting first time runners who'll pay almost any price (-- to hell with the other 95% of us.)

I'm thinking, it's time to start considering the choice of Race "Photographer" as a key factor in choosing races (as in NOT MarathonFoto races) . . . . While giving race promoters heated feedback that most runners do not appreciate stealth fees, nor faux fotographers . . .

This is an awesome post. They are really robbing the runners.

I am trying to be the savior of this very problem with We do race photos for $4 hi-res downloads and $5 prints, same day. We just have to worry about about legal issues, photo releases, etc.

I just ran the Boston and they're charging *$90* for all my digital photos. This is insane - I found your post because I wanted to see what others were saying about this. (Actually, I was trying to find how they tag the photos, but close enough.) I wonder if they manually or automatically tag their photos? Anyone know? I imagine if you could get a company with a good machine vision algorithm to do some automatic tagging you could reduce the cost quite a bit, if they're doing manual tagging... (just need photographers and a website, instead of the manual time to tag).

This comment has been removed by the author.

I'm both a racer and a race photographer. When I first started racing, I admit I too thought "wow, these photo prices are outrageous!" Because I was comparing it to the cost of developing a roll of film (... okay, I'm old) or ordering a 5x7 of a photo of my own.

Then I camped out from dawn in my chosen spot at an event with my $10,000 of cameras and lenses. Bribed my girlfriend into covering the finish line with $5,000 more in gear. Cheered everyone on, did my very very best to give each person running a good memory. Dealt with the people who thought it was great I was there, and the ones who somehow thought it made me a bad person. Stayed till every last runner had passed. Dragged myself home, sifted every card and uploaded every decent shot. It took most of the night. Found out there is a patent on tagging photos with bib numbers - you need to pay royalties, I-kid-you-not. I charged a bit less than MarathonFoto. I didn't end up covering my cost of gas. So I'm a crappy businessman. But I did it mostly as a favor to the race organizers anyway.

As many have already written above, when you add up the cost of the gear, photographers, processing - and for bigger organizations, the payments to the race, to insurance, etc... well, it turns out the prices aren't so out of line. And that's the cost of just getting the shot - which applies even for digital prints.

So, are you really saying the photo is worth $5 (e.g.) to you? No, if it were worth that little you wouldn't even bother writing about the issue. A good pro shot is much better than the cell phone snap your friend got as you zipped (or plodded) by. And that photo and memory is actually worth quite a bit, and we just aren't used to admitting it. Don't get outraged about an optional $25 when you spent several times that on the race registration and over 100x that in training and travel costs. Either the memory is worth preserving for you, or it isn't. The event photographers can't judge the price for each participant, they set a rate that pays their bills. You have every right to choose not to buy it. No one's making you do it.

That said, admittedly a lot of shots aren't all that good. Getting a good photo in the middle of a race is a fickle thing even for an experienced shooter with pro equipment. People make unflattering faces, others block the view, autofocus fails. As the shooter you take multiple pics of each person as they go by to try to help that, but you still won't get a winner every time. So not every participant will get an awesome photo, unfortunately. As a runner you can improve your own odds by spotting the photographers, giving them a smile, and wearing something that is not a flat, single color (to improve the autofocus odds). And if the shot still sucks, don't buy it. But please appreciate the shooter is trying hard, and is putting in a very long day to be there.

Hey Sean P. W.
Here is the thing. I know photographers and I understand that if the company is selling one photo at a time then yes $25 is not that unreasonable. Considering that once you get it they can no longer make any more money from that picture because you can print it anytime you want on a printer at home or your local CVS, Walmart, Target.
The issue I have is that what if I want more than one. What if my whole family ran the race and I would like to make a family collage. Now to get a CD made of all 20 of my images I need to spend $70. But to be able to get 2 images from everyone about 16 photos I need to buy 16 individual digital images for $200. How is that even close to being fair?
I now from a lot of my friends that most runners out there now are doing it with groups and other friends and that being said if you wanted to sell more then you should allow us to buy the $70 CD/Digital download and let us choose the pictures we want not the ones you tell us we have to choose.
Just a Thought...

You say you're goal is to have to photos free if the event charged a little more for the race but are you now asking that everyone pay an extra $25 so now in some cases where the race is only $25 you are asking that we pay twice that for images that are just a little better then fair because your hire amateurs at $11/hr? How is that fair?

There website is the absolute worst! And the price rape... Hate them, but if you want a pic. And don't mind waiting, they will hit 80% at some point. For me, I would be okay with the price, if there website was so T^@%@@#%#@% bad. I add it to cart, then look at a pic, then have to start over....

BS (as in Bull....), not my initials...

JF - my initials!

Sorry if this is a repost. Check out Free crowd sourced photos from races. Anyone can contribute. Photos are free. Search by bibs...

I am a photographer, but I never factor in the cost of my equipment every time I use it, because I do not buy new equipment for each use. I find it bizarre that some photographers constantly count their capital expenditure on equipment into every event they cover.

I had a recent experience with Marathon Photo and its companies like this that give real photographers a bad name. The fact they have a monopoly leaving runners with no choice but to purchase from them should they want a photo means they can charge what they like and deliver when they like. It is time race organizers realized that their runners are getting fleeced! Many people run for charity it would do Marathon Photos good to remember that!

At a recent marathon so many people were just taking pics with their smartphones. It would be easy to say that the photography company was essentially being out competed with iPhones. For a photography company, this trend cannot be good.

Sean Patrick Walkinshaw: "Results, not intentions, count!"

Wow Cousin
You have been awarded the most flawed signature award of 2014

I rise to the defense of MarathonFoto!
Imagine planning an event for six months, bidding for the contract including at least one on-site PowerPoint presentation, hauling a truckload of expensive and fragile equipment to sites all over the country, setting up at Zero Dark Thirty at spots along the course, being there for the first runners AND the last runners AND everyone in between, lying on the wet ground or perching in high trees to get the right images, sorting the images by bib numbers -- note that the runners wear timing chips but their photos don't -- and then web publication, printing, and order fulfillment. It's a hard business to keep profitable. The competition? It's everybody. Even I myself have taken publication-quality photos from my cell phone. Nothing says you have to buy photos from the event's vendor. If my races were big enough, I'd hire MarathonFoto -- but we only accept 350 entries to the marathons I direct (see

-- Thank you
-- Jay Jacob Wind

Sponsorship opportunities

As my commitment to the endurance community continues I have left MarathonFoto and now work for ChronoTrack. I’m creating a “digital media” division and acting upon what the future will be.

See it here, 48,000+ HI_RES Digital Photos, uniquely tagged, instantly downloadable for free and made available to public within 10 hours after the 2014 Palm Beach Marathon (held on Dec. 7).


Facebook commentary:

In response to 'Phat One/Cousin' like I said, "Results, not intentions, count!"


Sean P. Walkinshaw
ChronoTrack Product Manager- Digital Media
-Results, not intentions, count!

All of our images are watermarked with our copyright notice. This protects us against someone trying to sell our images. We can't prevent anyone from screen capturing a image, distributing them, or posting on Facebook...nor would we care. No one would purchase such an image so there is no reason for concern. We look at it as advertising. FYI...those photos are a result of countless hours in the field, paid photographers, post processing, uploading, and marketing,. We spend 10's of thousands of dollars for staff and equipment to provide the athlete a journalistic record of his/her efforts that Uncle Bob can't capture with his cell phone. All for less than one good meal. Please think about that the next time you see a photographer at a event, or, just bring along Uncle Bob.

I filled out my Surf City Marathon 2015 survey today and added a comment suggesting what some people on here have said: Add a couple bucks to the entry fee per person and just pay the photographers and make the digital photos available for a nominal fee, like $1 each.

I think it's important to have some fee per photo to encourage the photographers to take good photos, that's assuming the photographer gets a cut of that money as well as their base fee.

yea they have to pay a pretty penny for their photographers of which is a mix of local Prof and on hand staff, then they have to pay a few people to spend hours going through them cropping and sorting. This says nothing for all the other costs. What do you want them to pay their employees min wage and make their staff pay for their own travel expenses? I think you have no idea what goes into this sort of thing, how many people they have to pay and how much they pay them.

Have worked for marathonfoto for 4 years, have never heard of or seen the tape mark off.

You try tagging over a million photos by hand. Bet you won't be charging no $5.

That patent has since been revoked.

I would far prefer a $5 added fee for every runner than these crazy prices. And that Marathonfoto justifies it by saying "we are selling memories" is even worse. I have an SLR at home, the photos my wife took are far better of my son and I anyway. When the price of your photos are more than the cost of registration, you have a very flawed business model. (Oakland gave out free medals to everyone, i'm pretty sure that they could have handled photographs of the runners as well, but either Marathon was asking for too much - Likely - or they didn't see the value). You can try to justify the costs however you want as a photography company, but I've seen much lower costs in other races and other photography companies (for smaller races where fewer people would purchase). It is extortion for "memories" as they call it. Terrible

OMG the SO pissed me off at the Dallas Rock 'n' Roll Half!!! Extorsion indeed!! PLUS only shots I got (and my bib was showing VERY well) were the ones taken BEFORE the race posing (which I could have done myself) and 3 at the end... NOTHING in between! I refuse to pay $30 for ONE decent photo... It should not be allowed for ONE company only to be able to to take photos at these events.... Some healthy competition would be appreciated....

My luck with race photos has been equally bad - this gem is of me crossing the finish line with someone puking in the foreground.

I am a runner and photographer. My daughter and I ran a race together when she was in 8th grade. I am happy that someone took that picture that is still on our hallway wall 10 years later.

As a local sports photographer, I have found that very few people want to purchase race images no matter the price. I know that people like the images because they are all over social media with my watermark. Some one recently complained about my price of $8.10 per digital download. She said that the images should be FREE. The problem is that this is a decision by the race director not by the photographer.

My set up at races includes multiple photographers at different locations and premium equipment including a $6000 lens, 2 X $2000 cameras and $500 flashes. My reimbursement for about 40 hours of work (including pre-race, post race and during the race) is about 10-25 cents per participant. What MarathonFoto is charging is not extortion it is survival. Additionally, most race directors do not want to pay for something that they are currently charging photographers about a dollar per participant.

I fully understand the reasons behind expensive images so crowd sourcing is definitely a great alternative e.g.
However not all events are covered and not all participants in the event have photos. Prices are normally very good and donations also go to charity if the photographer elects to do this. The more spectators that contribute photos the more this alternative will be viable !

hello little non-tech me developed a solution= an APP called iPOLPO (ios only/android is in development) ANYONE along the course YES all spectators/family/friends/ anyone with camera phone can take YOUR photo and upload to iPOLPO instantly. tracked by TIME&PLACE NOT BY BIB#. YOU the rider can "track your path" and iPOLPO finds photos along your course during the time you were at a specific location!! please check it out? please let me know what you think? thx katia

Did not get to read all comments but as a photographer myself, there's more work to be done aside from clicking the camera's shutter button.

People don't realize the photographer's time behind the scenes that needs to be accounted for. Time to download the photos, sort them and choosing the best images (a term called culling), editing, and delivery (printing which cost money or through digital downloading, which includes a software program that most likely requires a fee).

Gather all this time and costs and you'll see that the photographer's profit is based on the prints.

People realize that this is not simple and some people should be paid. But still this is a rip-off to pay 30$/€ for a download of one blurred poorly composed photo. Most runners would mind if photo was made using 300$ worth camera , so i don't get the "it must be pricey cause i used Mark X super camera". Many people work hard in the rain, commute to work for hours and there are not much products that would cost that much taking into consideration that it needed fraction of second to be made.

As a runner and photographer, I can see both points of view. It is unfortunate when MF does not capture a image of you, but when you are taking 100K photos, there going to be some bad ones. Also, most people have no idea what it takes to do what MF is not easy or cheap. I have spent hundreds dollars to participate in a big city marathon, all things considered $25 for a photo is about what I've paid for parking.

Post a Comment

    • Popular
    • Categories
    • Archives