photographing the London marathon top top tips by Juliet Lemon

This weekend 50,000 runners will be pounding the streets of our great capital in the London Marathon.  It is such an epic sporting event which is not just a race; it’s a celebration of human endurance, camaraderie, and the vibrant spirit of one of the world’s most dynamic cities.

I love attending live sporting events, but the London Marathon really is something special.  This year my cameras and I will be working at the event, photographing for Parkinsons UK. In preparation for the event, I put together a little video sharing top tips about planning, logistics, camera gear and shoot settings if you are spectating the race and do take your camera with…


Marathon Day Race Schedule
First on the track in the morning are the professional athletes competing in the elite wheelchair race followed by​​ the elite men and women. It really is special watching the professionals in action and of course being at the side of the road, so close to them as they sprint by. After the elite races are the rest of the runners, and this is when the fun and energy really begins.

Securing a running spot in the London Marathon really is as hard as securing a ticket for Glastonbury Festival! Apparently just four percent of applicants actually get a place when applying in the ballot.  Thousands of the runners enter through charities by agreeing to raise money in exchange for their spot.  In preparation for the day, the runners have been putting months of time and effort into their training schedules with carefully planned short and long-distance runs, many on nutrition programs to ensure that their bodies are sufficiently fuelled for the grueling endurance race they are working towards. As well as their physical preparation, many have undertaken fundraising activities for their charities by hosting a wide range of fundraising events from sponsored cake bakes, BBQs and dinner parties to skydives and community projects.

Running 26.2 miles is a long way and such a great achievement to accomplish. All of the runners have had to be consistent with their training schedules, many have sacrifices and have overcome personal challenges, you can really feel the sense of determination, focus, persistence and from all those pounding the pavement.

Amongst the runners this year, there is an extremely remarkable human being that I personally am so incredibly excited to hopefully see run past an hopefully I’ll be able to take a photo of him, Russ Cook aka @hardestgeezer. 2 weeks ago, Russ completed an epic achievement where over the course of 352 days, ran the length of Africa, 16,295 km, from Cape Town to Tunisia which is the equivalent of 386 marathons! This Sunday he is putting his trainers on again to do what he is calling a ‘victory lap’. If you haven’t already, do check him out on the socials, Russ really is an absolute legend of a guy and has raised over £1 million for charity.

Along with the runners will be thousands of supporters lining the streets and the combination will result in a kaleidoscope of photographic opportunities. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or an enthusiastic amateur, capturing the essence of the London Marathon requires more than just pointing and shooting. In this guide, we’ll delve into practical photography tips, recommended camera settings, and essential equipment to help you immortalize the energy and excitement of this monumental event.

12 Photography Tips For Photography The London Marathon

  1. Get there early. London will get extremely busy on race day with so many spectators flocking in. Get into town before the crowds to secure a great spot at a great location.
  2. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and capture crisp, sharp images of the runners in motion. Aim for a minimum shutter speed of 1/250th of a second.
  3. Opt for a wide aperture (low f-stop) to create a shallow depth of field, isolating your subjects from the background clutter and emphasizing their determination.
  4. Consider using a telephoto lens.  I’ll be using my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM the most on race day.  The focal length range will help capture intimate moments from a distance without disrupting the runners.
  5. For focusing on the runners, use continuous AF focus mode (AF-C) enables you to keep the focus bang on track, focusing on your subject continuously all the while the shutter-release button is half-depressed
  6. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to add visual interest to your photos. Get down low for dynamic shots or climb to a vantage point for sweeping panoramic views & don’t forget to capture the emotions and expressions of both the runners and spectators. Candid shots often tell a more compelling story than posed portraits.
  7. Keep an eye out for unique moments and unexpected scenes that unfold along the marathon route, from amusing costumes to heartfelt displays of support.
  8. Use burst mode to capture a series of images in rapid succession, increasing your chances of getting the perfect shot amidst the fast-paced action.
  9. Pay attention to the lighting conditions and adjust your exposure settings accordingly. Overcast days can provide soft, diffused light ideal for photography.
  10. Incorporate the surrounding landmarks into your compositions to provide context and convey the sense of place.
  11. Stay hydrated, take snacks and keep comfortable throughout the day, especially if you plan on covering the marathon from start to finish. A lightweight, versatile camera bag will ensure you have all your gear within reach without weighing you down.
  12. Download the official TCM London Marathon App. The app has some great features including the ability to live track participants during the race.  Also in the app you can send ‘Belief Booster’.  It is a really snazzy way of sending a motivational message to the runners and your message will actually be displayed on a Big Screen at the Halfway point and on the Finish Line Gantry on The Mall.

History of The London Marathon
The London Marathon, established in 1981, has grown into one of the most prestigious and popular long-distance running events globally. Every April, elite athletes, charity fundraisers, and enthusiastic amateurs converge on the streets of London to participate in this iconic race. What sets the London Marathon apart is its unique course, weaving through the heart of the city and showcasing its rich tapestry of landmarks, culture, and history.

Running Past London’s Iconic Landmarks
As runners traverse the marathon route, they pass by some of London’s most renowned landmarks, each steeped in fascinating history and architectural grandeur. The Tower Bridge, a symbol of London’s resilience, offers a stunning backdrop for photographers, especially during the race’s iconic crossing. Did you know that the Tower Bridge can be raised to an angle of 86 degrees to allow ships to pass beneath? This mechanical marvel adds an extra layer of intrigue to your marathon snapshots.

Another must-photograph landmark is the majestic Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the British monarch. As runners approach the finish line on The Mall, capturing the palace’s regal facade against a backdrop of cheering crowds encapsulates the triumphant spirit of the marathon. Fun fact: Buckingham Palace boasts a whopping 775 rooms, including 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, and 92 offices.

So Much To Capture
Photographing the London Marathon is not just about capturing images; it’s about encapsulating the passion, determination, and sense of community that define this iconic event. Armed with the right equipment and photography tips, you’ll be well-equipped to document the marathon’s unforgettable moments and create lasting memories for both participants and spectators alike. So grab your camera, lace up your shoes, and join in the exhilarating journey through the heart of London.


The Camera Gear I Will Be Photographing The Marathon With
For this photographic assignment, I will be taking just one rucksack and taking minimal equipment…

·  Canon R5 body
·  2 x Canon 5D mkIV bodies
·  Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Zoom Lens
·  Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8 II USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens
·  Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Prime Lens
·  Peak Design Everyday Backpack

I really hope that you find the info I’ve shared in this little video useful and if there is anything you want to chat about photography, do drop me a message.

Before I sign off, here is a little bit more blurb about me…

I’m London-based and have been working as a full time, professional photographer for over 16 years.  I’ve had the honour of photographing in a wide variety of worlds over the years, like the little snippets I’ve covered in this video.  It really is a delight sharing my knowledge and passion with others.

As well as photographing, I also run The Successful Photographer Programme where I run 1-2-1 and group courses, helping photographers build profitable businesses filled with freedom, fun and fulfilment. 

If you’re keen to find out more about business coaching with me, or you’re in need of great photos, do get in touch.

Juliet 🍋