Sports Photographers


Exploring this Job

Participate on a sports team to learn a sport well and build skills. This will later help when sitting on the sidelines and positioning to capture the best images.

Photography clubs provide good practice for shooting and editing pictures and to meet others with similar interests. Joining the school newspaper or yearbook staff is also a great way to gain experience in shooting sporting events. Most yearbooks and newspapers cover their team sports in detail, and photos are what make the stories stand out.

Start a blog that features your photographs of sports events and commentary about sports and the photographic process, or post your photos to the Internet using Instagram or other photo-sharing apps. Be sure to understand the terms of usage before posting photographs for public viewing on social media sites; it is always a good idea to include terms about usage permission. Professional associations can provide language for copyright protection. Another way to explore the field is by talking to sports photographers about their careers. Finally, consider becoming a high school- or college-level member of American Photographic Artists. 

The Job

Sports photographers are hired to shoot quality photos of sporting events, athletes, and crowds cheering on their home teams. Their work is published in newspapers, magazines (such as Sports Illustrated), Web pages, social media sites, books, and other sources.

They are usually trained as photographers but also must have thorough knowledge of the sports they are assigned to shoot. Many sports photographers specialize in shooting one or two sports, such as soccer and hockey—both fast-moving, unpredictable sporting events to capture in photographs.

To be able to capture quick movements and subtle details on the athletes' faces, sports photographers must have good equipment. They need cameras with fast shutter-speed abilities, tripods to hold cameras steady, and lenses of varying lengths to achieve appropriate depth of field for the intended image.

Sports photographers also need to be at the right place at the right time to get the best shots. Location is key when shooting sporting events. If photographers are too close to the action, they might get injured or, at the very least, interrupt play. If they are too far from the action, they will inevitably miss shots. They need to know where to position themselves to be able to capture the best moments of the game, such as a winning goal or a perfect header in soccer.

In addition to taking pictures, sports photographers may also spend some time developing film and printing photos. However, most now use digital cameras, which eliminate the need for separate developing and printing time. These photographers shoot a sporting event and then head back to their office to download the pictures onto a computer for printing or editing. Sports photographers may also use drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) to capture images.