The Importance of a Photo Finish with an Industry Expert

September 20, 2018

Providing event photos to attendees might be at the bottom of the priority list but we agree with one of our beloved customers, Brendan Dagan, Owner of elitefeats, that you should consider making it a top priority.Brendan entered into the timing industry 12 years ago and helped launch elitefeats in 2014. Over the years he has helped time race events ranging from 60 participant to over 6,000 spanning 10 different states.Brenden believes including photos for your event can make you a better timer and win the hearts of your participants with those free photos and videos. Enough from us we’ll let the expert share on the subject.The Importance of Race Photos & VideoTiming an event is all about results. But it is also about free race photos and video. I have colleagues who cringe at the idea of giving free race photos, saying it is not their responsibility and that timing is becoming watered down by nonessential services that could take away from doing the required job correctly. Picture a timer standing out snapping photos instead of working a laptop at the finish line and you can see where they are coming from. Yet, I disagree. We not only see it as an added service but a way to offer more accurate timing results.First off, photos and timing go hand in hand. Have you ever hear of a photo finish? And today, F.A.T. or Fully Automated Timing is just that, cameras taking 1,000 or more photos a second. However, think 500 runners or 5,000 runners and you can see how this is not practical. Enter disposable and reusable passive RFID tags as well as Active RFID. This means people wear the bib (or shoe tag, anklet or other apparatus) they run the race and they get a very accurate time. Not as accurate as F.A.T., but a common sense compromise used for pretty much all 5K’s, half marathons, triathlons, cycle races and so on. It is a compromise of accuracy for market demand.But timing is always about being prompt and most importantly correct. The expectation of participants and Event Directors is often perfection. However, even using the best timing equipment available like Race Result, ChronTrack or MyLaps there is always the chance for a missed read, specifically if a participant is not wearing their bib correctly and/or it is raining (passive chips do not like water, that is why the foam spacer).Additionally, in timing, like most things, perception is everything and it doesn’t matter that the participant is wearing their bib on the side of their Turkey Hat (bibs should be worn on the outside of clothing, in the middle of the stomach – think a belly button protector) they, and often the event director, think it is your fault. This can lead to a poor review on Facebook and in the worst case make you lose the account. So what to do?Now, in the early years of RFID, there was someone using a keypad to enter runner order. Often known as ‘select timing’ it was a backup of race order. This can also be done on a clipboard, simply writing down the order of runners by bib number to verify finish order. However, having an event volunteer use a Cannon or other $400 camera to work the finish line means that you can get more accurate data – it is waaayyy easier to take a photo of finish order then use a keypad – and get something you can then give participants. If you couple this with a GoPro you have a pretty inexpensive backup system to your timing equipment. Thanks to Youtube and Facebook you can then host this participant content for free. Our organization leans into this, doing live time photos up before the awards and synced with participants information but if you lack the team to create this, no big deal. The point is to make it a win-win; be a better timer and remember those participants love their free photos/video.Protip: Make it a win-win-win Get a free photo banner service. There are a ton out there. Make your photos look professional and feature the sponsor/event logos across the bottom of the pic. This gives you redundancy for timing, the participants photos without watermarks but still gets the event/sponsor branding out there.Well there you have it from Brenden! Sure, standard timing via bibs or manual tracking can work but adding photos not only enhances your attendees experience but it also increases the timing performance. Perfection is expected and while that may not always be possible adding photos can help you meet this high standard more often than not. We'd love to hear your experience with adding photos to your event.