This is a super-quick post, merely because I wanted to draw attention to it before this weekend (as doing it afterwards would be silly).
Long-time readers may remember that I’ve ranted in the past about both the quality and pricing of sports photography at races. In general, the situation hasn’t changed much. While there’s likely an even greater influx of photos being taken on courses now by non-official photographers – it’s unlikely that many of those photos are making it to the athlete being photographed.
A reader and friend of a friend reached out to me last week to let me know that he had read my post years ago and finally did something about it, creating ‘Crowdpixel’ – targeted specifically at endurance events.
The concept is simple: You can signup as a photographer, take photos on the course (or anywhere I suppose, perhaps one of Steve in a Speedo’s Portapotty shots), tag the people in the photos, and then folks can later turn up to buy your photos.
The prices seem reasonable looking at one of the pages for a recent half marathon – $4-8 for image download (medium and high resolution) and even the same price for print. Though while there were 700+ images of this particular event, they do mostly appear to be from one vantage point. Like the Apple AppStore, Crowdpixel splits the revenue with the photographer.
Ultimately, at an event like Kona with so many folks out there taking photos (many of them with high quality equipment), you could probably get both great photographic quality, as well as diversity in shots. Though in reality, anyone with a camera could upload (especially useful for Ironman finish line shots, which tend to be more sentimental in nature).
The site allows photographers to group photos into categories like swim/bike/run (customizable), and even specify location/geotagging. And also contains tools built-in to allow fast tagging of athletes:
I’d be interested in seeing how this works out, especially for highly populated events like this weekend at Kona. If you’re there, have a camera, and plan to take some photos – swing over to their site and sign-up as a photographer (it’s free). Alternatively, you can do the same as an athlete and be automagically notified when someone tag your bib you in a photo (also free).
I’ll check back next week in my Week in Review post and do some random tests on folks that I know are competing and see how things shake out, and if I can find them in photos (and if the photos are worthwhile).
And of course – most importantly – if you’re competing this weekend: Good luck!
Just a general comment about event photo services. If they let you search the photos by exact time, and I could tell what the vantage point was, then from my Garmin track I’d have a pretty good chance of finding myself in photos where I hadn’t been explicitly tagged.
Anyway, this service sounds like a great idea. Hope it does well.
Funny, just this morning came across a Dutch website doing the exact same thing (www.oypo.nl) while I was looking for my own tortured grimace taking part in a coastal marathon last weekend. At least five amateur (?) photographers put their pictures of this event up for sale. Prices are quite reasonable (EUR 7.50 seems to be the norm for a high res digital version or EUR 3.50 for medium-ish res). Quality varies from just ok to rather good. Oypo.nl doesn’t do race number tagging, but most of the series are in chronological order, so you can use the race results to narrow down the search. They charge the photographer 20 percent of his sales as a commission.
link to oypo.nl
I’m the guy on the left looking like ***t
We have something similar in the UK: link to 42run.com and link to flickr.com, although it’s never really taken off in quite the way that mainstream photographer websites have
DC, I’m a long time fan and reader of your blog, you seem like a very smart and reasonable guy. Unfortunately understanding pricing for sports photography is not one of them. Most Sports photographers are barely profitable. They are a ton of work, they usually can only work on weekends. Equipment is very expensive, man hours of photographing and editing is extensive.
Let me ask you, when you pay a lawyer to create a legal document for you. Do you complain to him that the contract he delivers to you would only cost $1.29 in paper and ink? Of course not, you are paying for their expertise and skills. The same goes for a photographer. He has thousands of dollars in camera and computer equipment, time shooting and editing and ordering prints.
You really shouldn’t be so opinionated on an area you are so clueless about.
Thanks for stopping by.
Sounds like you’re either a sports photographer, or close to one.
Ultimately, as I discussed in the other post – photographers have to either step up their game, or come up with innovative solutions (true of any industry). I talked about those solutions in that other post (faster delivery, better pricing, partnerships with race directors to offer free photos for a flat rate, etc…). Some photographers do that, and it works out well for them (as well as the participants). Others don’t.
Like many other aspects of the pro photography industry (or semi-pro), the industry is changing with access to higher quality cameras becoming easier.
One can either innovate, or not. People won’t pay what they won’t pay, no amount of complaining about photographer costs or work hours will change that. This isn’t a legal service that people have a minimum bar requirement to hit. It’s a photo. For some, the photos may be just as important as that legal document. But for most people in most races, they’re not. Hence why services like this will likely take off.
Again, just my two cents.
Great post, Ray. As for Eric’s comments, I don’t know whether the legal analogy holds up. In most cases, people looking for race photos don’t necessarily care about high-quality and/or high-res. For example, I often just want a shot to put on my blog and/or share with friends. Lower quality, crowdsourced photos at a reasonable price sound like the solution when all we want is the file and not something printed/professional.
Anyway, thanks for sharing! Per usual, great post!
I am working on a similar project, but not in US.
BTW: In US, someone claims that he has patent on finding photos based on bib, and ask every race photo website for license fee.
link to sportsshooter.com
For most of the events that I compete in – rowing – pro shots cost $21.95 at minimum + tax and shipping for a PRINTED 5×7! Wtf! That’s insane. Half of the time the pros don’t have a better vantage point than my friends do and the quality of the shot (composition, exposure, color, etc) is nothing special or different. To boot, I don’t care about prints, nor mail order. Price the photos for digital download and make them cheap. You’d sell a lot more of them and have to do a lot less work in getting the product out the door. We are not talking about senior portraits here, quality doesn’t matter that much. These are amateur events – not the NFL.
A an amateur sports photographer, websites like these are the best thing to ever be created. When I don’t compete, I love bringing my equipment and take shots of friends and people I know that are competing.
By doing so, a lot of people I don’t know get in my shots. Websites like that one will enable me to reach out to all of those ”faces in the background” and give them the chance to get an action photo of them at a fair price. As of now, all I’ve been able to do with my library of different events is to put them on websites like Flickr and give the link to as many people I know and hope that everyone spots themselves. The $5-$7 am sure will be well worth it for everyone.
The thing I really don’t like with the current state of race photos that are made available at events is that it is rarely a good shot photographicaly, so why should I pay that amount ($20+) for something of that quality. And don’t get me started on ”retouching” of the pictures by the photographers, I have a hard time believing that much is done for most events, maybe not at world championships and the like, but on a local scale it always feels ”amateurish” anyways.
Like it has been said on this and on twitter replies to the post, if the sports photographers do not adjust, the market will. This is merely the demand (athletes who want action shots of themselves) adjusting itself and trying to move the offer.
I think the argument here is a good one. In all of my years of racing, I have purchased 2 event photos. Ever. Why? Because there are over exposed shots and under exposed shots and blurry shots and unflattering shots of me from most of my races (except the time where the photographer cancelled because of weather and the time a photographer forgot to show up). And then there is a chance that the photographer might miss you anyway. How many times have I gone to a race photographer’s website and there has been one picture of me… and only one? At a major national-level race last month in a sprint to the finish, the only photo of me that I can find is the person behind me where my foot is randomly in the corner of the frame. How awesome would the photo of me beating the other guy have been?
No. “Professional” race photographers rarely ever deliver a product that I would consider paying $20 per shot for, let alone the $80-100 that they charge to get all of them. Why would I pay $80 for a bunch of bad photos when my friend with an iPhone can get a much better one? Seriously, I have better race photos taken from an iPhone than I have seen from the professionals at races.
I think crowdsourcing this is a great option until the race photographers step it up.
As someone who has been on both sides of the fence (albeit on the editorial side) race photography is certainly a bit of a conundrum. This is a tricky market as it’s something that’s costly to provide, but at the same time the value proposition for buyers is a hard one to sell.
The problem, however, is that most race photography companies have responded to this souly by cutting costs. They pay their photographers next to nothing (guaranteeing limited talent), don’t hire nearly enough of them and give them sub-optimal equipment. When you have one guy trying to catch *every* athlete going by them, there is no time to be creative and they have to stick to safe shots (ie high shutter speeds, lots of DoF, no panning, etc.). The result is uninspired and low-quality photos, which just goes to exacerbate the problem.
As an athlete, the only usable photos I’ve ever got from a race are when I had family take them. Given the amount we pay for equipment in this sport I’d have no problems paying $100+ for a shot, but it needs to be something worthy of being framed.
The solution, however, is a tricky one. Reducing prices is the ‘obvious’ solution (almost all costs are fixed), but to see a significant uptick in sales the prices would have to go waaay down and I’m not sure that would balance out. There is a certain population that will buy a photo regardless of price (eg bucket listers who want to remember their one time out), so the increased volume would have to offset the revenue lost from those athletes. It would be foolish for companies not to experiment with this sort of model, so I suspect that they have and determined it’s not worth it (although knowing how stubborn some people can be, it’s distinctly possible they haven’t).
Increasing quality is the other natural solution, but doing so would be expensive and whether or not the market would bare that cost is a question. You’d need more and better photographers (ie one group to get the safe shots so everyone is covered, and another with the freedom to be more creative) so that cost increase would be significant.
One way around that would be to allow people to pre-pay for higher quality shots. Have the production line shooters out there for everyone else, but add a couple of extra photographers contracted to take higher quality shots of specific people. Have a timing pad (or spotter) ahead of them to notify when one is approaching, and give these athletes a different colour bib/stickers so they know who they are. Naturally, you’d need a critical mass of people buying in order for this to work but I’d certainly be interested in it.
The ideal solution would be to build some of the cost into the race registration fee and give everyone one photo. The largest cause of the high price/crappy quality situation is that a small percentage of athletes buy photos (for good reason), so if you could get a little from everyone to guarantee a minimum revenue they’d be free to experiment more. The problem is that except for the biggest races, registration fees have a lot of price sensitivity so talking RDs into this is tricky.
With all that said, perhaps services like this are the solution. If the market for professional services isn’t viable then no one is served by the status quo. Empowering athletes to connect with amateur photographers is just another way to get the job done. Right now neither the buyers or sellers are happy, so a radical re-thinking of the situation is something that needs to be considered.
Did this site go under already? Doesn’t appear to be a working URL.