The Most Common Mistakes Photographers Make at Races

We often get asked why a photographer didn't sell more photos at a race they photographed. There's typically never any one specific answer, but we recommend a formula to ensure that you set yourself up for success (make sure to check out our new tool here). However, we've compiled a list of the biggest mistakes we see photographers making when covering an endurance sporting event:

Not having the email list

This is hands down the biggest mistake. If you don't have the email list as a contractual obligation, don't show up. If the race is going to email on your behalf, that also works, but getting an email to participants after the race is imperative. Other forms of marketing like fliers and expo participation have been proven by our team to show an extremely limited impact on sales, and ultimately only erode profit margins as you have additional personnel and marketing costs.

Not having the email list

Just wanted to mention it again because its so important. Don't underestimate this.

Poor photography coverage

Its nearly impossible to get pictures of everyone, but that doesn't mean you can't try your best. Typically good coverage at a race would mean having photos of 80-95% of participants. You can use automated cameras to ensure you get a picture of everyone, but don't count on those selling. Ultimately this leads into the next point.

flashframe internal tools

Our internal tool to help analyze your results post race

Bad photos

If you are just taking pictures to take pictures, you are going to have very limited success in selling photos. Having an automated overhead image of every participant in the race is not only wasting your time and money, but very few participants will actually purchase the photos. We've seen the best sucess when photographers follow our sports photography guide. We also commonly get asked about pre and post race portraits; these photos have extremely low return on investment because they are easily taken by a friend or family memeber with a phone. You need to capture the photos that are impossible for those people to get--an iconic photograph capturing their once in a lifetime feat of athleticism.

Stripping EXIF data

Many photographers batch edit their photos after races, which is a great idea to fix any exposure issues that may have come into play as the sun moved around. That being said, make sure you don't strip out the EXIF time data. Many times athletes can still search for themselves, if their bib number was obstructed, by using our patented shirt color and time search. That can only happen if the time EXIF data remains in the photograph.

Bad tagging

Now this one is tough and typically not the fault of the photographer. If you took great photos, and the bib contrast is terrible, there is very little you or Flashframe can do about that. We've seen bibs where they are completely illegible due to the font and background color choices, we've also seen races where there are no bibs at all, or everyone has the number '1.' Make sure to have this discussion with the race director before they print bib numbers, and if they have poor contrast, reconsider going out to photograph that race. We have a full blog discussion on this here

ideal bib image
An Ideal Bib
bib with bad contrast
Bad Contrast

Tagging is most effective on bibs with standard fonts. Our algorithms can handle a decent amount of variation and work with both serif, and sans-serif fonts, but non-standard or confusing fonts are going to make tagging less accurate. Bibs with the number stacked vertically are a big red flag.

bib vertical tagging
Vertical Tagging
halloween bib
Non-standard Fonts

Not having the email list

Did I mention you should have the email list? Make sure to demand it.

Waiting too long to upload

If you're selling pictures at this race, you have a 24-48 hour window to maximize profits. If you're waiting a week to post your photos you're losing a lot of potential revenue as interest sharply declines as the race gets further from people's minds. They want to brag to their friends with a picture now, not later.

Not emailing multiple times, and having a bad email

So you finally got that email list, but are you using it correctly? You can expect that everytime you email your participants, you'll get a few more sales. Interest diminshes over time, but email them early, then a few more times the following weekends to make sure people look at the photos. Run a sale a few months afterwards to drive a few final sales. On top of that, your call to action in the email needs to be strong. Flashframe enables you to create a completely custom email campaign, scheduling different emails over the course of weeks. We built that functionality for a reason, so please use it! You can also drop a low resolution watermarked thumbnail into the image for a 'sneak-peak' of what the athelte should be excited for--we have seen that when used, it dramatically increases click through rates, and ultimately purchases.

We hope you don't make these mistakes, and if you have before, you have learned, and moved on. We're here to make sure that you're as successful as you can be, so do not hesitate to reach out and email us if you have any questions, and make sure to checkout our tools on the management page to help you ensure you've set yourself up for success.