A blog by runners. For runners.

9 ways to look better in race photos

9 ways to look better in those race photos

*This is not a real race photo. And judging by those abs, we’re not even sure if this is a real person.

A couple of years ago, I had a race go perfectly. I crushed my time goal, ran negative splits, and pushed so hard in the final mile that I literally couldn’t feel my legs. I was so proud of my new half marathon PR.

When I received that “click here to see your race photos” email days later, I fully intended to order a picture to commemorate the experience. Except the pictures were absolutely awful.

I know this has happened to almost all runners out there. Crummy race photos are sort of a rite of passage in our sport. Still, who wants to look bad in race photos? Running makes us feel good about ourselves, so the last thing we want to see is a picture where we look bad.

Since that half marathon photo disaster, I made a vow to try to look better in race pictures. Here are some tips that have helped**:

  • Wear bright colors. Donning vivid colors will not only help your spectators spot you more easily, but race photographers will focus on you more, too. Plus, people usually look better in bright colors. Wearing black or white can make the shot appear washed out or too dark.
  • Leave the hat or visor at home. The bill of the cap may shield your face so much that it may be completely hidden by shadows. Opt for a headband instead.
  • Rethink sunglasses. If you typically run without sunglasses but notice yourself squinting in photos, try sunglasses and see how the pictures come out. Likewise, if you’re wearing sunglasses in all of your race photos, try forgoing them on a cloudy day.
  • Choose clothes that look good on you. Did I mention that I wore spandex shorts during my PR half marathon? That style isn’t exactly flattering for my figure. Check yourself out in a full-length mirror before you head to the start. Loose clothes tend to make you look bigger in photos, so go for form-fitting apparel that’s not too tight.
  • Consider make-up. Some women swear by wearing waterproof mascara or fake eyelashes to make their eyes pop in race photos.
  • Speed up when you see the photographer. When you run faster, your leg muscles work harder and become more visible. Picking up the pace will make you look strong, lean, and hardcore. Plus, when you run fast, there’s a certain point in your stride where both feet are airborne. You may be lucky enough to score one of these enviable shots.
  • Concentrate on good posture. Stand up straight and roll your shoulders back down your spine. People with good posture look taller, more relaxed, and just better in pictures. A bonus: good posture is key for proper running form, so it may make you run faster, too.
  • Smile. Unless you want to look serious or in pain in your race pics, smile when you see a photographer. If you look happy in your photos, you may even forget the pain of the race and be more likely to sign up for another event!
  • Look straight ahead at the finish line. For a first-class finisher’s photo, look straight ahead at the photographer as you run through the finish line. I can’t be the only runner who’s been caught looking down and stopping her watch in a finisher’s photo. Waiting a few extra seconds to pause your watch is worth it for a topnotch shot.

**We admit this article is a bit vain — after all, who cares what you look like when you’re running, right? That’s true — in theory. And obviously, the race comes first.  The reality, however, is that sometimes we want a damn good photo to complement our damn good race time.

What do you think?

Do you think it’s, well, dumb to care what you look like in race photos or do you feel it’s worth making an effort (however minimal)? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Written by Jen Matz.