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Photo tips

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Contributor: The Nerd

Photo tips for amateurs from an amateur photographer

We've had quite a few DMs from parents wondering how to replicate the quality of photos we post on our Facebook account. We're not photography pros by any means - I've seen much better - but Mrs. Nerd has let us invest in two solid Canon cameras and two long Sigma lenses (70-200 and 200-600) that cover up a lot of our weaknesses. However, here are a few tips for parents who don't want to blow $2,000+ on a camera and lens:

  • Your phone's camera probably won't zoom well enough to take great pictures, although Apple continues to do wonders on its iPhone camera.

  • Consider buying a Canon or Nikon DSLR camera which usually comes with two lenses, including something around 55-250 mm that is great for XC. Ask the salesman (I recommend Rockbrook in Omaha) or search on Google for a model that has a high frames-per-second feature. That's important for sports photorgraphy; I tried to use a newer Canon model at State T&F that was loaned to me, and it simply didn't have the speed to capture athletes in motion. These recommended cameras are also great for vacation pics, family photos, etc. if you need to justify the expense (usually less than $1,000 for a camera package with two lenses).

  • I have played around with manual settings but generally just use the sports mode, which is a preset function on most good DSLRs.

Finally, a few important tips unrelated to camera quality:

  1. Walk the course prior to the race and find a spot where the background doesn't include cars or ugly buildings, since those tend to ruin an otherwise cool picture.

  2. Find a place where the sun is behind you and thus illuminating your athlete who is running towards you - or at a minimum, don't have the sun directly behind the athlete. The last 200 meter stretch at State XC is brutal for pictures on a sunny day because the brilliant green grass overwhelms the athlete's image unless you're a pro who knows how to change camera settings to account for that background (I don't even try). Having the sun on the side of the athlete is better than at their backs, although you may end up with a half-illuminated face.

  3. Don't skimp on how many shots you take; with a digital camera, I may take 3-8 pictures of the same runner and then use the one image that looks best. My sons say that I should delete every picture on a runner's downstep - when they're shorter and don't look as athletic. The multiple shots increase your editing time when you're home at your computer, but it helps you avoid closed eyes, flying spit, downsteps, out-of-focus shots and other oddities that ruin what you thought would be a perfect picture.

  4. Zoom in to get a closer shot of your athlete. You're taking the photo because of the kid, not the background, and zooming in will blur the background and make for a cooler picture.

  5. You'll get better with a lot of practice and by following the simple tips above.


Originally written for and posted at by Jay Slagle.

Like this coverage of Nebraska high school distance running? There's more of this at Check out the Blog tab for our frequent stories, the Articles tab for long-form articles, the Results tab for every Nebraska high school race we could find this year, and the Rankings tab for team and individual rankings. If you want to see meet photos or just need to kill a few hours on social media, follow us on Twitter @PrepRunningNerd or on Facebook at Finally, if you thinking runners are the best thing on earth, you'll enjoy our article, "The Runner with the Broken Heart," from 2018. Since we wrote it, Noah Lambrecht has been a guest at the State of the Union address, won a national award for perseverance in sports, and been featured in Runners' World.

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