In Our Opinion

When & how to pay for the pictures

By September 26, 2021 September 28th, 2021 No Comments

Here in New England, we are fortunate to have many talented photographers who attend and document local cycling races – either in partnership with the race organizers or independently. The result is that we racers can often find a moment of glory – or disaster – captured and ready to share with friends and family.

With photos so easily available and sharable, it can get lost that while there are some hobbyists capturing these moments, many professional photographers attending races are there not just for their love of sports, but with the hope that they will be paid for their time and skills through the sale of photos and prints.

How do you know when you should pay for the picture? The short answer is – if it is offered as an option, you should pay for the pictures you share.

That being said, let’s take a look at when, and how, you can pay for the pictures using examples from AB Woolley Photography, a talented photographer who recently captured many moments at Rock Hard Racing’s Freetown 50.

It’s become common practice for photographers to offer a selection of free photographs for racers to share on social media. These are often lower resolution (great for online, but wouldn’t necessarily work for having printed), and may have a subtle watermark with the photographer’s logo, or in the picture of STBG Cycling Team member Ty Paquin, the race logo. When sharing these photos, it’s important to remember not to crop out the watermark as this is, for lack of a better equivalency, how the racer “pays” for the photo. It doesn’t hurt to give the photographer photo credit and, if possible, link to their website.

Photographers may also offer the same photos, or a larger selection of shots, for purchase. These photos are generally higher resolution – perfect for printing for your workout room on in the family album – and have the watermark removed.

But before being purchased, they may appear on a photographer’s website with a large watermark and a statement related to use permissions. Here’s an easy tip – if the photo is covered with a watermark, it’s likely not approved for sharing and could be considered stealing. (Yes, I know people do it but know many of us will be judging you).

Don’t be a jerk is very good advice.

Not sure if there are photos available for purchase? Look for a link, check with the race organizers or contact the photographer directly – it never hurts to ask!

It’s important to note that the license for most photos is for personal, non-commercial use. According to SmugMug, a website used by many photographers to host and sell their work, a personal license is:

…is for personal use only. Personal use means non-commercial use of the Media for display on personal websites and computers, or making image prints or video copies for personal use. The Media may not be used in any way whatsoever in which you charge money, collect fees, or receive any form of remuneration. The Media may not be used in advertising. The Media may not be resold, relicensed, or sub-licensed.


As a bike shop owner and team organizer, we purchase race pictures for use in race recaps, on the Shop’s social media, and in photo albums to look back at when we are old and retired, which admittedly walks the line between personal and commercial. What we do not do is use the photos for advertising, in-shop signage, or to provide printed copies to racers. If we ever want to use the photos in marketing materials we would contact the photographer to discuss a commercial-use fee.

I recently participated in an event where the photographers on the route seemed to go out of their way to avoid taking photos of amateur racers like me and my friends (to the point that one dropped their lens when they saw us coming). It was at this moment that I was reminded how fortunate we are to have so many talented photographers willing to give their time and talents to ensure racers at all levels have access to professional race pictures.

We can, at the very least, pay them for those efforts.

This is not the first time we’ve written about photography and copyright – here are a few other articles: