Thursday, December 16, 2010

Photo fail; the economics of pile them high!

I was interested to see the photos from last Sunday’s race, if nothing else so I could see what my form looked like given I am trying to transition to forefoot style. They posted pretty quickly 61 pages of 48 prints per page, that’s 2928 prints, now how may of me are there do you think? Well having looked through them all, yes there was no cataloging by bib number, I can tell you, a grand total of two and a half, the half is of half of me and blurred!

Santa 1


santa 3

The first one is pretty good, I am moving so fast I am leaning into the corner, but he’s nipped my feet, the second shows very little heel strike and a whole lotta palm trees, the third well it’s a bit of a miss! Now having looked at the photos there are some good ones, some really good ones!

path park bridge

Now by my memory there were 5 maybe 6 photographers on the course…not a very good ratio me thinks, one photographer gets two and basically the others miss! Oh well!

Now the next thing on the fail-list, the cost. They start at $12 for a teeny tiny 5 x 7 print…a digital download, which lets be honest is what we want; Facebook, Blog, Twitter and the like a whopping $49.99 can you say daylight robbery!

Let’s look at the business case here, as best I can tell each photographer is independent, that is they contract to the company that sets up the photography of the race, somehow they divide up the course and select their location, as you can see there were some pretty good vantage points. From there they take the photos…lots and lots of photos, zero editing and in this case zero sorting (IMHO #fail) and then they get posted to a website from which you can order prints or download.

Let’s assume that a photographer takes 500 photos, of which 20% are duplicates that leaves 400. Of that 400 how many runners buy a digital download, remember they are basically $50 each, maybe 10%, that’s 40 photos, which is $2000 not bad for a day’s work. but let’s look at it a different way, what if they were $12 each how many would be sold then?

Well ask yourself how many would you buy, two maybe three and that maybe opens up 50 of the duplicates to choose from. So now we have a pool of 450 photos of which 20%, (because they’re cheaper more people by them) buys two photos, that’s 180 photos at $12, or $2160.

Of course this is all based on assumptions…but it makes you think, maybe pile them high and sell them cheap does work?


  1. I don't think I"ve ever bought a race photo, partly because I look terrible, but more that they are so expensive. In the old days of film and devleoping costs, maybe, but digital? No thanks.

  2. I agree, the pricing is ridiculous. I stopped buying race photos long, long ago.

  3. I couldn't agree with you more. Some how, some where, some one got the economics all wrong on race photography. They're counting on the emotional connection, but unless it's your first marathon, Ironman or ultra, I gotta believe most people don't bother purchasing. Granted I understand they are protecting their ownership rights of the images, but from a retail perspective, race photographers stand to make a hell of alot more money by considering the price point.

  4. In all of the events I have been in I can only recall purchasing ONE picture. It was a trail event.

    I say sell them cheaper.

  5. This business model is similar to the one record companies were using: you have to pay for the "tangible" product. Digital killed the record company. Old school, race photo people, especially those online, just don't get the volume-based formula. Lower price, let someone else do the printing, digital only - input is less, output is more.
    The photos still suck, usually, though.

  6. i've purchased a few actual-prints... but not in awhile. now i just save a copy of the proof, even if it says PROOF across it. i also try to drag someone along with me so they get pics of me :)

    it is awfully expensive. do they really have enough people buying at that price to justify keeping it that much? sell the prints for a few bucks and sell a digital file a little higher based on how many images the runner wants.

  7. I agree with you, they kind of screwed up your photos. Although picture 2 shows that you are too fast for the camera without cutting you off. In the 10 years of participating in events I've only bought photos twice; one of a friend and one myself recently at the Quad Dipsea. I rarely see good photos of myself but I think half the time it's me. I'm just not that photogenic:)

  8. Donald has a couple of amusing posts on this topic:


    among others.

  9. I've bought the photos a few times - including at one of my Ironmans, which is the ultimate insult because they get you for $200+ for the set. But at least those are sorted and much higher quality than the ones from this race. I like your argument but wonder why no one does it that way.

  10. Price point of elasticity - Econ 101! I'm sure the problem is that if the photogs are independents - there are probably others taking a cut as well (company organizing photogs, website publisher, etc. etc.). But - it's still highway robbery! I've purchased a couple photos - one from my first marathon, one that was a great finish line photo. These days I don't even look at the post race layouts....


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