Disappointed in quality of pro shots

Started 10 months ago | Discussions thread
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Alastair Norcross Veteran Member • Posts: 6,384
Disappointed in quality of pro shots

I ran a local 5K last weekend (the Colder Boulder, on the University of Colorado campus). The race is run in multiple waves, so, after my race, I took my 7DII with 70-200 F2.8 and positioned myself right at the 3 mile mark, which is close enough to the finish (which was indoors) to get the runners putting on a finishing burst of speed. I wanted to get shots of my wife, various other members of our running group, and anyone else with colorful costumes or fun expressions. I'm not a professional photographer. I've been a fairly obsessive hobbyist since I was a teenager, and done the odd photo job as a favor to friends (charity calendar for our running group, bar mitzvah shots for friends, that kind of thing), but I have a day job, and don't feel comfortable charging friends for doing something I really enjoy as a hobby. At the races I run, there are often professional photographers shooting away. I usually get an email soon after the race, with a link to a bunch of pictures of me, usually looking terrible (for reasons unrelated to the photographer's skill). I've never paid for such a picture. One or two races have offered free digital versions, but most charge quite a bit. The Colder Boulder offered one free low resolution (1000 pixels on the longer side) download, and encouraged me to buy more for $35 for a high resolution download (of one picture). I was particularly interested in the shots of me at approximately the same stage of the race as the shots I took of others, because that was the only part of the race where I felt I was moving reasonably fast! Just like me, the photographer had positioned themself pretty much head-on, and fired off a burst of the runner coming towards them. I looked through all the pictures on their website, and chose my one free download, but was disappointed in all of them. Not because of how I looked (I can't do anything about that anymore), but because of the quality. None of them was particularly sharp, and none of them had any kind of pop. Here's the one I downloaded:

The others were all pretty much the same in terms of IQ. By contrast, here's a few I took from almost the same place:

My wife, not really enjoying herself

This guy was the overall winner, and was moving seriously fast at this point, despite looking relaxed--the b*stard

My shots were all at slightly higher shutter speeds, but not enough to make a difference (1/2000 and 1/2500 compared with 1/1600). In the shot of me (and all the others I saw on their website), I was large in the frame, and offered plenty of high contrast for the AF to latch onto (all my shots above were cropped at least a fair bit). The main difference I can see is that the professional used a 28-300 zoom, and had to shoot at F5.6 at ISO 1600, whereas I was shooting the 70-200 at F2.8, and was able to keep the ISO between about 200 and 800 to get 1/2000. But even that doesn't really explain the difference. The D500, with its supposedly amazing AF system, should be able to get sharp shots of a not very fast runner coming straight at it (the runner in the last shot above, who was the overall winner of the open wave, was running nearly twice as fast as I was) even with the 28-300. That lens is no 70-200L, but it isn't chopped liver either. Is this just incompetence on the part of the pro? I've put the 2XIII extender on my 70-200, and shot birds at F5.6 at ISO 1600, and got better results. I looked at the shots the same photographer took of my wife from that position (at pretty much the same time I was taking mine), and they were all slightly off too. Do people actually pay for shots like these?

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As the length of a thread approaches 150, the probability that someone will make the obvious "it's not the camera, it's the photographer" remark approaches 1.
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