Race Photos are Too Expensive

The title says it all, but I’ll repeat it…

Race Photos are Too Expensive!

I respect the work that goes into shooting events and I do think the photographers should receive their compensation. But I also don’t think that we as runners should be gouged to get the pics. We’ve already paid hefty fees for race entry and sometimes travel expenses are involved. I don’t want to buy prints of all my race photos, I just want digital copies. And even then, I don’t want to spend $80 to get a CD or a download of print-ready digital versions. I’ll admit it, I’m cheap!

I think race photographers need to offer another option for getting digital versions of race photos: the web-optimized package. Most people probably would like to share their race pics on blogs, Facebook, email, etc. So if there was an option that cost about $25 where runners could get all of their images with a maximum long side of 600 pixels, that would be plenty big to share in online venues, but not high enough quality to print. And I imagine the photo companies would make even more money if they offered something like this because tightwads like myself might consider paying that.

I don’t want to steal the proofs and post them on my public blog so…

If you want to check out my photos from the recent Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas half, you can see that they actually turned out pretty decent. It seems that if I run by myself in a big race, the photogs actually find me!
View the 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half marathon pics

If you’ve got additional thoughts on race photos, leave them in the comments!


  1. yep way too expensive! We are being gouged because there is ZERO developing now that everything is DIGITAL!!! The SD card is already purchased-all they are doing is snap snap snap taking the pics……a 4×6 shouldn’t cost $15! ridiculous!

  2. I will never ever ever, no matter what…EVER…buy race photos. Ever.

    I think it is ridiculous that they cost such a high amount and I will not support that.

  3. Totally, totally, TOTALLY agree! On top of the pictures being ridiculous, the price to get the pics in a digital format is like $30! I understand their desire to make money, and if they dropped the price THEY WOULD! I have never bought the pictures and probably never will.

  4. i agree! i have purchased some photos before but i would DEFINITELY purchase digital copies if they were reasonable. it’s ridiculous what they want for print or digital! like $20 for a 4×6. PLEASE i know that costs like .20 to print, .45 to mail (or however much a stamp is these days). give us a break brightroom, etc.!!

    great post jill – maybe they’ll stumble across this and utilize your idea!

  5. Too true. If the digital copies were around $15-$20 then I’d consider forking over the money for them. Unfortunately, the photos of my recent race are $45 before tax for just the digital low quality ones, which is completely unmanageable with my budget. I think the photo companies would make more overall if they offered a cheaper digital version – people who want the higher quality commemorative photos will pay the price either way.

  6. Hi, I found your blog and well….loved the name as it’s close to mine :).

    I think race pictures are outrageous also, especially the $6.95 to ship it when it clearly costs them about $.95. I do buy them on occassion IF the race holds a special meaning to me (Boston for instance) or if I just had a great experience overall. But it’s pretty rare. What annoys me is that a year later, you still get an email from that race wanting you to buy and rarely are the prices reduced. Just so crazy!

    I will enjoy reading your running journey and sharing the road with you! Thanks!

  7. ah, the prices are ridiculous!! The only reason I have *any* is because my Dad gets a huge kick out of them and has ordered photos from two of my half-marathons. It’s endearing, on his part, but I’d never pay for it..haha!

  8. I actually just purchased a bunch from our local place for the races I participated in because I wanted something to remember them by and at those I didn’t have anyone else to take my photo. My last race I took my BF along and made him bring his camera so I wouldn’t have to take it in the wallet after pushing my way along the 26.2 mile course. That’s my plan for any future race. I can’t afford it.

    Oh and the kicker…our local race planning site wouldn’t let me go from race to race and have on big cart full of photos. I had to order from each race separately and was charged separate shipping. BUT they sent the photos in one big package anyway! AND then they sent them twice! So now I have doubles! sheesh.

  9. As a race photographer who is also a runner, I’m constantly irritated at how much the race photos cost, BUT… I also know you’re not just paying for the photos. I carry over $10,000 of photography equipment when I shoot a race. I also carry insurance for that equipment and for liability. I also have to pay for my education (still paying off those student loans) and for my business expenses.

    What photographers charge runners is so frequently a source of tension and frustration, and I hate paying money for photos of me running when I’m a photographer myself and know their shots aren’t as good as mine! ; )

    What I can say is, before everyone gets too upset about it, please bear in mind just how expensive it is to be a photographer and pay for the equipment, viewing gallery sites, etc. Also, for every hour a photographer is on the course with you, he/she is spending multiple hours in the digital darkroom of their computers, processing and refining the photographs and prepping them for upload and purchase. When you break it all out, it’s actually barely minimum wage. So please, bear that in mind before you get TOO upset about what is being charged. Yes, it costs $.21 to produce a print. Yes, a download is free. That’s not what you’re paying for.

    • I appreciate you weighing in on the subject. And I can totally appreciate your point-of-view. I experience the same thing in my line of work (web developer) and do understand that quality costs. It just seems like there has to be some way of making it balance out so both parties don’t feel screwed over!

      • A couple of ideas I have had which I am working on to battle this problem include:

        1) Getting the organization hosting the event to cover a “base” or a guarantee of a certain amount of photo sales income, if the photographer sells the photos at a lower price.

        2) Getting the organization hosting the event to convince a corporate sponsor to cover a base in exchange for the photos being provided at no cost to the runners, if the company name is on the photo (such as “Photo provided by ABC Company” in the lower right)

        3) Getting the runners to agree to a higher race fee in exchange for a lower photo cost.

        I’d be interested to hear feedback on these ideas. For what it’s worth, I only charge $20 for high resolution photo downloads, and $10 for lower resolution. : )

  10. Since the photographer’s costs are fixed for an event, it would make sense to balance the cost of downloads with demand to sell as many of the photos already taken and being stored. It seems like we may be looking at an outdated pricing model. Had anyone done a recent cost/benefit analysis based on the new technology available?

    • I don’t know, but I have started to see more races start to offer free downloads of race images. I think when they get a photo sponsor or something like that to cover the photographer’s costs, their event gets a much more positive review from runners. Plus they can usually stick a little watermark on the pic from the event and people share it on social media, so it’s more advertising for their event!

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