I used to think that race photographers were just catching me at bad moments during races. I'd look through the thumbnail images emailed to me and see all kinds of unflattering poses: painful grimaces; a red, sweaty face; eyes closed; awkward arm and leg positions; my head down as I crossed the finish line. After seeing many race photos, I started to realize that the photographers weren't just catching me at during a random rough patch – I'm just not a photogenic runner! But I started thinking that maybe I could try to make little improvements so I wasn't cringing every time I viewed my race photos.
I asked some experts (photographers and photogenic runner friends) the secret to flattering race photos. Here's what I came up with:
1. Be on the lookout for photographers.
The most horrible race photos are usually those ones when the photographer completely catches you off guard. For instance, when he snaps a photo of you just after you dumped a cup of water over your head to cool yourself off.
You can often find out in advance where the photographers will be stationed on the course by looking on the race website or at the course map. I've even seen signs in races that warned race participants, "Race photographer ahead". If you know a photographer is coming, you'll be poised and ready for a fantastic shot.
2. Make sure your number is visible.
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The more race photos you're in, the more chances you have of getting a nice-looking one, right? The race organizers use your bib number to match photos with participants, so they won't be able to identify you if your number is hidden under an extra layer, blowing in the wind (use four safety pins), or obscured behind other runners in front of you. When you see a race photographer, make sure he has a clear view of you and your race bib is front and center.
3. Shoulders back, chin out.
Good running form
doesn't just make you a more efficient runner. It also helps you look better in your race photos! Make sure you keep your shoulders back (stay relaxed, though) and your arms at 90 degree angles. Look ahead -- don't look down at your feet (or at your watch) when crossing the finish line.
Also see: Video: Proper Running Form
There have been times when I could clearly see a race photographer in front of me, but preferred to go for that "serious runner" look rather than smiling. Of course, the photo ends up making me look more like I'm constipated or just really want the race to be over. In most cases, you'll look a lot better if you're smiling. So, even if you're not feeling very happy or enthusiastic, flash those pearly whites long enough for the photographer to capture a smile.
5. Practice your finishing shot.
If there's one race photo of the bunch that you might be willing to fork over the $20 for, it's that one of you crossing that magnificent finish line
. And since you know when that will be coming, you'll have plenty of time to be prepared for it. Think about what type of finishing pose you'd like. Some runners opt for a strong running finish with arms swinging high, some prefer a thumbs-up or fist pump, while others choose to place their arms directly above their head in triumph. Practice a few different options in front of the mirror and decide what you like best. Make sure you choose something you'll be happy with and proud of because the photo may end up sitting on your desk in a frame.
6. Get your picture taken after the race.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
If all else fails, many big races, such as half marathons and marathons, have a photographer stationed right after you get your medal. At that point, you may be feeling a lot happier than you did when you saw photographers on the course, so it's your chance to strike a pose. Choose your most flattering stance and make sure that race medal and your bib number is front and center.