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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

NYT on road race and triathlon photography
Sean Burges, Photographer, Photo Editor
Canberra | ACT | Australia | Posted: 7:42 PM on 11.01.12
->> I don't think there are really any surprises here, but it is nice to see that the quality of images being produced by the photo mills is coming under discussion and hopefully pressure.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/fashion/marathon-photos-often-fail-to-cap...
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Peter Huoppi, Photographer
New London | CT | USA | Posted: 2:27 PM on 11.02.12
->> It's too bad that the story focuses on the appearance of the athletes and the photographers who get less than minimum wage to churn out this crap.
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Michael Stevens, Photographer, Assistant
Glendale | AZ | USA | Posted: 9:22 PM on 11.09.12
->> Full disclosure: I work for several event photography companies including brightroom. I'm not standing up for brightroom but rather the photographers that have to sit in one position for sometimes five or six hours at a time in an attempt to capture pleasing images of people engaged in an activity that rarely composes the athlete in an attractive manner.

The funny thing about the "quality of images being produced by the photo mills" is that not one of the complaints in the linked article is the photographer's fault.

~ Muffin top
~ Earthquake quads
~ Wind in the shorts
~ Front wedgies
~ Facial expressions

We are paid to sit in one position at a time and take one or more photos of everyone that passes us. We don't have time to warn them, pose them, or do retakes.

Depending on the size of the race we'll have from 1 to 50 photographers at several locations along the course. Typically we'll have two photographers at a position, one on each side of the road or path covering their half of the course. Depending on the amount of athletes at that spot on the course at any given moment we may have literally 1 second or less to get a photo of an athlete. We have to fight not only poor lighting but other athletes, course workers, and friends and family members of athletes for the position to get a good shot.

When we have the time we follow the athlete with our lens waiting for something to happen. Sometimes it does happen and we get a great shot. Sometimes it doesn't and we get a terrible shot. Sometimes, not often, we completely pass on the shot because we know it's not a shot the athlete would consider purchasing: they are vomiting, walking, eating... Basically, not being an athlete.

Often times, as is the case of larger races like PF Changs Marathon or the Pat Tillman 5k race here in Phoenix, you have so many people flying past you that you are lucky to photograph 1/8th of the athletes, let alone get photographs they will find appealing. In all honesty shooting races that big (Tillman's is 25k+ athletes running & walking ~3 miles; that's a LOT of people in a very short distance) seems almost pointless to me. But, we do the best we can on every race and we keep coming back so someone is buying photos.

Let's face it, not everyone takes a good picture under the best of circumstances. Take a person of questionable photogenicness, put them in unflattering attire, have them performing an activity that does not lend well to great photos, coat them in a thick layer of sweat, dirt, and sunblock, and then give the photographer one or two seconds to shoot an athlete on the move that likely has no idea the photographer is even there and what do you often get?

Exactly what you'd expect and what the hand picked interviews in the linked article got: A nicely framed and exposed photograph of a person doing something completely unflattering.

This isn't about the quality of "photo mills." If you put a pig in a g-string and bra from Victoria's Secret and take a picture don't expect to see Adriana Lima in the resulting photo. Athletes shouldn't blame a photographer because the athlete didn't take a good picture. We did our job as best we could with what we were given.

YMMV.

And I'm not calling all runners and triathletes pigs since someone out there is likely stupid enough to think that...

Mike
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Thread Title: NYT on road race and triathlon photography
Thread Started By: Sean Burges
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