Fancy shooting a Colour Run?

I think that we have all seen the dramatic photographs of the Holi Festival where there is a riotous explosion of colour as the participants celebrate the festival. More recently, we’ve seen various groups and organisations holding fund-raising Colour Runs with the same spectacular results
So… I receive a call:
‘Hey Stu, fancy covering a Colour Run?’
The fun-loving side of my brain immediately replied ‘I’d love to!’
The ‘Mr Careful’ side of my brain whispered ‘Have you thought this through, Stu?’

Well, here is my tale…

If you were to put ‘colour run camera damage’ into your favourite internet search engine you would see images of cameras and the internal gubbins* of lenses where the colour powder has wrought havoc on the photographer’s kit (hence Mr Careful’s interjection).

*whatever anyone tells you, ‘gubbins’ is a perfectly acceptable technical term

This was, in essence, the dilemma; a Colour Run can present an opportunity for some beautiful photographs while at the same time presenting very real risks to expensive equipment – some photographers have reported that lenses damaged by the colour powder have been deemed as beyond economical repair and insurers have allegedly been reluctant to pay out for equipment damaged when covering a colour run. For this reason, some photographers are reluctant to cover Colour Runs.

So…what to do?

This had a very easy answer and is something that would be done for any possible assignment: have a conversation, determine exactly what is required, clarify the customer’s expectations, be clear about risks and – most importantly – be clear about what were acceptable risks or how (shall we say) more adventurous expectations would affect the rate for the job.

For example, in a Colour Run, if a customer wanted shots taking from within a powder-throwing throng then, because of the risks to kit, the cost of the assignment would have to be much higher.

As it turned out, the customer was going to be happy with shots taken from a distance so my much-loved Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 would be my ‘go to’.

At this point I will add: I am not sponsored by any manufacturer (though would clearly welcome any patronage!) so if I mention a brand it is to pre-empt any questions that might arise and to merely add detail & offer my observations.

Looking over Mr Cautious’ shoulder as he runs down his checklist:

  • Worst case scenario: acknowledged
  • Customer requirements: explained, understood and agreed
  • Risk level: determined through conversation with customer
    • Risk Level: Acceptable ?….and there Mr Cautious added a series of question marks… ???

When the idea of covering a colour run was first mentioned those horrendous images of powder-damaged kit sprang to mind; the customer may be happy for longer-range shots but is that sufficient to reduce risk to equipment? Well…No!

Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. I have seen tape being run around the junction between the lens mount and the camera body sometimes being augmented with a food bag and other varieties of homemade, cheap-as-chips solutions but I’m with Mr Cautious here, we both like certainty and knowing that the kit is being treated with as much care as possible.

Having been caught out taking photographs of Horseball* I knew that I needed a really good quality rain cover so imagine my surprise when some seasoned Colour Run photographers recommended the ThinkTank Hydrophobia rain cover and that is what I invested in.
*Horseball: imagine a combination of rugby & basketball on horseback and you’ll get the broad idea and Horseball will be the subject of a future blog article!

Imagine my surprise as I was planning for this particular Colour Run when I received another call: ‘Hey Stu, fancy covering a Colour Run this Saturday (i.e. tomorrow)?’. This made me wonder whether word travels quickly around the event organiser circles of Northamptonshire? Who knows? But as before, I replied, ‘Sure’.

All joking aside, the potential for something (and something expensive) going wrong was very real but I was satisfied that I knew what was required, how I would achieve that and how I would reduce risks to kit to an absolute minimum.


So it was that last Saturday (11th June) I left home to travel across Northampton to Overstone Park.  The course of the Colour Run looped round 5km of beautiful parkland and, while I didn’t get to take photographs at each of the Colour ‘stations’ I did visit three and over the course of the day covered 20,000 steps!

The organisers of the event, Cynthia Spencer Hospice, were superb and provided maps of the course so that I could familiarise myself with the course while enjoying my first coffee of the day.After taking a few shots of participants arriving and registering as well as families and friends greeting each other the Colour Run started promptly with the burst of colour shown in the first image above.

Once the runners started, as with all such events, it’s just a question of looking at what’s happening, looking to see if you can tell what might happen and looking out for those unexpected moments; what is a certainty is that there will be smiles, laughter, images of determination and achievement where my job is to capture those Moments and Memories.

How did it all work out?

A stack of images that were immense fun to review and edit. A rain cover that kept my camera and lens absolutely protected (though I will say that, as it was a very warm day, breathable material on the rain cover would have been welcomed but I’m nit-picking). Plenty of exercise. Lots of smiles and friendly conversation.The planning and consideration of risks was worth every moment, and while it was an additional expense the rain cover was already on my wish-list and it did work perfectly. The experience of the event was superb and the organisation by the Cynthia Spencer Hospice was first class. Best of all, next week I will be covering the Colour Run that I was initially approached about so I am now far better prepared and I cannot imagine any better preparation.

In conclusion, there were good lessons here:

  • Did I have experience of covering a colour run? No (but do now!)
  • Did I have reservations? Yes
  • Was I able to clarify requirements? Yes & very easily through conversation
  • Did that clarification help reduce risk levels? Yes
  • Was further action required to reduce risks further: Yes
  • Was this affordable and reasonable? Yes
  • Despite having no experience of the Colour Run did I feel prepared immediately before the event? Yes
  • Did the customer like the images? Yes
  • Did I have fun? Definitely

The event described was in my home county of Northamptonshire so my travel time was negligible but, being centrally located, I can easily travel to cover events further afield so if you like my approach and you like my photographs and have an event requiring a photographer, let’s start a conversation and drop me an email to [email protected]

#colourrun #cynthiaspencer #cynthiaspencerhospice #charity #charityevent #sportsevent #publicity #community

Cynthia Spencer Hospice Colour Run Pictures

The Colour Run

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