Race photograph survey

official photographer
official photographer

Having written up my report of the Anglesey Half Marathon 2017 yesterday a nagging question bothered me. I’ve traditionally made a comment about the race photograph costs at events. However I’ve never really discussed the topic with other runners.

Race Photograph poll on Twitter

I turned to the @UKRunChat group on Twitter to pose the question. This has the advantage that it’s possible to garner the opinions of a wide group of runners. However the disadvantage is that the question has to be posed in 140 characters or less.

Here is the poll result, my question and a clarification!

race photograph poll

Race Photograph Poll

A simple question – or is it?

I thought that the question itself was pretty straightforward. However, I knew what I was looking for. It seems that the topic can be widened a lot further than my initial thought. Rather than try to explain the outcomes in 140 character blocks on Twitter, it’s a lot easier to do it in a post. Hopefully this way, you’ll see the discussion a lot more clearly.

My premise was this:

You have just run in an event. Your photograph has been taken during the run and it’s available for purchase. Having looked at the photograph, it’s actually very good* and you like it a lot.

Given the above, what would the maximum price you would be prepared to pay for that photograph.

*I made the photo quality presumption to counter some possible confusion based on some of the replies. Obviously most people aren’t willing to part with cash for a rubbish photo! So this is a picture which you’d really want to have because it was a good one.

No free option to vote for!

I deliberately avoided the ‘free photo’ option. This upset a couple of people. There were two main reasons:

  • I was looking to comment on what people felt was reasonable to spend on a single digital photograph. This is how most of the photography sites tend to work. Some will do bulk discounts but that’s a level of complication too far for this quick poll.
  • It appears that Twitter polls only allow for 4 outcomes. I might have considered a ‘No payment’ option if there was a fifth vote, however it wasn’t available.

Headline result

Before I dig into some of the discussions which occurred, let’s look at the poll results from those who were happy to answer the basic question posed above. As I’ve commented in the past I’ve seen photos for sale ranging from £1.25 up to £18 per digital image. That’s a huge range and it raises the question as to what is a ‘fair’ price. The poll showed overwhelmingly that anything above £10 per photo was excessive. Indeed about 2/3rd of the responses picked the £5 figure.

So it does beg the question as to how some companies can justify charging so much for an image. This isn’t something where there’s huge royalty payments likely to be sold on; it’s an individual’s memento of an event in their personal life. Not something the press are going to want to print millions of copies of.

Digging a bit deeper

As I mentioned, it’s a bit more complicated than this. I’d like to look at a few themes raised by individual responses.

Club runners

In places this topic got more heated than it needed. Predominantly caused by the difficulty of explaining the points in 140 characters.

A commentator pointed out that they would never purchase a photograph, that they knew people who would take the pictures for them and/or that the photos would be made freely available. Even to the point of naming a few such cases. Ironically, he missed the event that I organise, where the photos are freely available..!

This was an area which I’d perhaps over-simplified. The point that the commentator drew was that in club-arranged events the photographs would not generally be sold to the runners. They would be made available for free. So to ask club runners to pay for said photos would not be popular. A fair comment.

Large events and occasional race runners

Indeed the same commentator noted that in their opinion having been charged £25+ for a race entry, demanding further money for photographs was beyond what they considered reasonable.

This leads to the second theme, relating to the type of runner.

The feeling appeared to be was that club runners racing a lot would be less inclined to pay for a photo than an occasional race runner. What I mean here is that there are some runners entering an event purely to raise money for charity. Or they might train up to do a specific event (10k, HM, Marathon etc) with no intention of making such races a regular part of their life. They might do an occasional event but that would be it. So the photograph would provide more of a memento to that individual as the event would be ‘more special’ compared to someone running events every few weeks.

It is worth noting that based on my experience, the most expensive photos tend to be found at the bigger events. It’s the big events that generally reach out to the charity runners or the ‘one-off event’ runners. To me, this rather suggests a profiteering approach on race photography directed toward those occasional racers.

I accept that in the big events the amount of work to collate and store the images will be more than a small event. Similarly the larger events usually use software to help a runner search for their pictures e.g. by runner number. I know this software is expensive. But spread across all the runners in the event, does it make for such a large premium?


Interestingly whilst some people have commented that they would never pay for a photo, others commented that they would not expect a photograph to be provided for free. That said, their intention to purchase a photograph was highlighted as being only in a special case e.g. first of that distance. What I can’t tell from all the responses is whether runners fall into regular or occasional racer categories.


I’m going to draw a line under this for now. My intention was to confirm whether my personal feelings with regard costs of photographs was consistent with other runners’ views. On the whole it is. I’ve said in the past that £10 is the maximum I would ever pay despite it being the median figure that I’ve seen.

The matter is far more complex than the simple question suggests though! Ultimately some people like to get photographs of themselves in events and others are not as bothered.

Personally I’m happy to pay a couple of pounds for that memento. Others are not. It’s an individual choice.

It highlights another question too regarding the increasing costs of event participation. I’m interested in digging into that one, although I suspect that there’s a hornet’s nest of horrors below that one!

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