Taking Great Marathon Pictures

The trouble with runners is that they can't stop moving! Without the proper settings, you'll most likely wind up with blurry, poorly framed pictures due to lack of preparation. Follow these tips to properly adjust your shutter speed and take a frame-worthy photo.

The trouble with runners is that they can't stop moving

Be ready

Don't wait until the runners round the bend before setting up your camera. Be prepared:

  • Your device should be on and ready to click;
  • Your ISO sensitivity and white balance settings should be based on the ambient light;
  • Your tripod should be set up and the image stabilizer active, as shooting a moving subject requires a lot of stability.

A sharp subject

For a freeze frame of a runner in action, you'll have to play with the shutter speed. The higher the shutter speed, the shorter the exposure time, and therefore the less the moving subject will produce blur. Set your camera to Shutter Speed Priority mode (S or Tv) and select the appropriate shutter speed for your subject.

A sharp subject

The right speed

To determine what the appropriate shutter speed actually is, you'll have no other choice than to do a few tests. For reference purposes, remember that a shutter speed of 1/250 should allow you to get a freeze frame of a runner. If blurring occurs, increase the shutter speed.

Bringing out the movement

But what if you do just the opposite (i.e. decrease your shutter speed)? A shutter speed of 1/100 or less will give you a sharp foreground and background with a blurred runner with streaks illustrating his/her movement. Be careful to remain perfectly still, otherwise your picture will be blurred beyond all recognition.

Bringing out the movement

The best angles

Maximize your chances of success by vetting the course before the race to scout out the best locations for shots:

  • Before: play the paparazzi and get a few shots of runners as they warm up for the race. You could, for example, take a shot of a runner tying their shoelaces.
  • Start line: try to find a vantage point from where you can convey the “hustle and bustle” atmosphere at the start line.
  • Turns: turns usually offer interesting opportunities to play with framing and the natural backdrop.
  • Water stations: take freeze frames of runners as they splash water over their faces.
  • Finish line: take a full-body shot of the runners crossing the finish line.
  • After: after running over 40 km, the runners' faces become increasingly drawn. Use a flash to avoid unsightly shadows on your portraits.
The best angles
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Taking Great Marathon Pictures

The trouble with runners is that they can't stop moving! Without the proper settings, you'll most likely wind up with blurry, poorly framed pictures due to lack of preparation. Follow these tips to properly adjust your shutter speed and take a frame-worthy photo.
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