Sports Photographers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

While in high school, take photography classes and any other art classes that are offered. Painting classes, for example, teach composition and balance, which are both important when shooting pictures. Physical education classes introduce the rules of various sports, which will also come in handy when trying to capture images. For self-employed photographers, essential classes include business, accounting, advertising, and marketing classes. English and speech will help to develop communication skills. 

Postsecondary Training

Most sports photographers earn college or art school degrees in photography to increase their skills and knowledge, build a portfolio, and improve their attractiveness to potential employers. However, in this line of work, experience is more important than formal training. Only the well-practiced photographer is skilled enough to capture a soccer header or two athletes in mid-air fighting for a rebound. These shots require a lot of trial and error before getting the timing down, not to mention the right camera settings.

Other Education or Training

Continuing education events, seminars, classes, and other activities are offered by many professional associations, including American Photographic Artists, American Society of Media Photographers, American Society of Picture Professionals, and Professional Photographers of America.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Professional Photographic Certification Commission, which is affiliated with Professional Photographers of America, offers certification to general photographers. Visit for more information. Photographers who use commercially operated drones in their work must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration; details can be found on the FAA's Web site:

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

The best way to obtain experience in the field is to work as an assistant to a sports photographer. Contact photographers in your area to inquire about opportunities.

In addition to knowing the ins and outs of photography, sports photographers need to know their game and photo subjects in order to be successful. For example, a football player who is known for a post-touchdown victory dance would make a good subject for a post-touchdown photo. Other players might be known for facial expressions, special moves, or other qualities that would be good to get on film. If possible, photographers should study individual athletes or teams for possible photo opportunities.

Sports photographers need to be thorough and patient when shooting pictures because even the smallest detail could make or wreck a photo. A photographer might shoot a hundred photos in the course of a game, but might only get a few good photos—so photographers needs plenty of patience.