How to Become a Sports Photographer

Many people who excel at taking pictures and also love sports wonder how to become a sports photographer. Sports photographers are photographers within the sports industry, adept at taking action shots during games. They will typically need to take classes to learn camera use, framing strategies, and similar crucial skills. However, a college degree is not required. They may find jobs with websites, magazines, newspapers, or stock photo agencies. Many sports photographers also work independently as freelancers.

What Does a Sports Photographer Do?

Before we get into how to become a sports photographer, let’s briefly look at the position’s duties. Your overarching objective as a sports photographer is to tell an accessible story by capturing athletic images. However, it is much more complex to succeed in these positions. You may have many other tasks you need to perform adeptly. Specifically, a sports photographer may need to self-manage in terms of going to sporting events, getting photographs published, landing assignments, and developing a professional network. In other words, yes, a sports photographer takes pictures – but the daily reality is that you are a blend of artist, technician, and business professional.

If you want to know how to become a sports photographer, focus on your competence. Sports photographers must have expertise in the craft of photography and be continually improving their techniques. They must have a thorough knowledge of how to capture incredible sports action shots, along with incredible detail orientation. They must organize their schedules to make deadlines and develop photos. 

A sports photographer may need to handle photoshoot setup, lighting, and cleanup. While work is often performed at games, sometimes images are captured in a studio setting. 

Related Jobs

They should also have a passion for sports. Beyond familiarity with the rules of the game, they should also be aware of top players and league news. A strong grasp of the sport will make it easier to understand how plays are unfolding and when the most compelling action shots will become possible. 

Networking and developing relationships are essential to success in a sports photography position. The people you know will often help you find great locations for shoots and make it easier to get access to players.

A sports photography position will involve meetings with other individuals in your company or with the team. Often these roles include collaboration with sportswriters so that there is a strong alignment between the text and images of an article.

Here are typical tasks that sports photographers perform:

  • During games, capture action shots while play proceeds.
  • Also, look for good coach or player stills, whether in-game, pre-game, or post-game.
  • Submit photos to be published with written stories.
  • Use photo editing software, such as Photoshop to edit the shots.
  • Create schedules of games to determine where it is most important to go (if working independently).

How to Get into Sports Photography

The crux to understanding how to get into sports photography, as mentioned above, is understanding sports. Your knowledge of sports, along with technical knowledge of photography, will help you capture the best possible moments in the best ways. Beyond that, attention to detail, business skills, computer skills, and interpersonal skills will also be necessary. Many of the skills can be learned through education.

Related Jobs

Educational Requirements & More

The educational part of how to become a sports photographer is somewhat ambiguous. You could simply attend a one-year certificate program. To better ground yourself with business skills and technical knowledge, an associate’s degree is helpful. Further accelerate your career with a bachelor’s degree in journalism or photography. 

Beyond education, capturing the most spectacular sports action shots will require expensive equipment. It will cost thousands of dollars to get the cameras you need to succeed. It can be difficult to purchase your own equipment – which is why full-time jobs are so coveted.

Plus, a fundamental of how to become a sports photographer is self-promotion. You will also have to figure out how to get your work noticed. Look for chances to show off your capabilities. Beyond contests and internships, connect with as many sports photographers as you can.  

How Much Do Sports Photographers Make?

If you are interested in how to become a sports photographer, you probably also want to know about pay. Sports photographers in the United States make an average base salary and bonus of $60,489 and $1167. Experience will significantly impact salary, with senior sports photography roles averaging $74,214 and entry-level positions averaging more than $30K less: $43,937. 

What Types of Sports Photography Jobs Are Available?

Beyond understanding how to become a sports photographer and pay expectations, it also helps to know specific ways you can make a living in this field. Sports photographers can work for the media in a journalistic setting; as photojournalists, they could write articles as well. They could also get jobs with teams or other sports industry companies.

Starting Your Career as A Sports Photographer

Are you wondering how to get into sports photography? Beyond honing your skills and considering an educational path, connections become absolutely critical. At, we offer a community of 14,000+ sports industry professionals. Join for FREE today and begin making significant industry connections.