How to Become a

Sports Photographer

The complete career guide to be a Sports Photographer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $40,280
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 3.1%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute

Sports photographers capture still photos of sporting events. They may capture photos at many different types of games—including basketball, baseball, football, or soccer—or they may specialize in capturing photos for a specific sport. Their work may be published in newspapers, magazines, or online.

Recommended Schools

What is a Sports Photographer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in sports photographer roles:

  • Capture action photos of players during live sporting events
  • Capture stills of players and coaches in important pre-game, in-game, and post-game moments
  • Submit photos to publications to be considered for inclusion alongside articles and other reports
  • Create schedules that consider what games are most important to attend
  • Edit photos using Photoshop or other photo editing software

A Day in the Life

For sports photographers, the aim of any shoot is to capture images that weave a narrative and tell a story that relates with viewers. However, the day-to-day practice of being a sports photographer involves much more than just showing up at a sporting event and clicking away. A sports photographer is not only an artist, but in most cases must also manage their own business by creating professional relationships, obtaining assignments, getting images published, and finding time to attend sports competitions.

At the top level, the most well-known sports photographers may be able to afford an agent that takes care of the business end, but most will need to handle all tasks related to their sports photography without paid assistance. This means that while the images may get all the attention, a large part of a sports photography career is spent developing professional relationships and establishing connections that improve publishing rates.

Because start times and schedules for sporting events can vary drastically, a professional sports photographer does not usually enjoy the benefits of a standard schedule. Instead, they need to carefully craft an agenda that allows them to attend as many events as possible. This is helped by having a regular outlet for images, but the vast majority of sports photographers operate on a freelance basis and are engaged in a continual process of building up a collection of photos that could be licensed.

Typical Work Schedule

The role of sports photographer is not a 9-5 job. Most sports competitions occur in evenings and on weekends, so sports photographers must often be available during irregular hours. Additionally, sports photographers commonly travel for work to attend sporting events in different locations.

Typical Employers

Many sports photographers are self-employed and sell their photos to publishers and photo distribution companies on a freelance basis. Others may be employed by newspapers, magazines, television stations, news stations, and online publishers who publish coverage and highlights of sports competitions.

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How To Become a Sports Photographer

For most people, the road to becoming a sports photographer starts with a genuine passion and aptitude for photography. Enrolling in photography courses or degree-level programs will form a foundation of theoretical knowledge, and time spent photographing sporting events will give you the practical experience to begin your career. A bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a focus on photography can be a good way to develop your skills as a photographer, but no formal degree is required to succeed in the field of sports photography.

In addition to education, one of the major barriers to entry as a professional sports photographer is the expensive equipment needed to capture iconic shots. Because of the action nature of sports, having the right equipment is imperative, with acceptable cameras costing thousands of dollars. This initial investment can be financially difficult, especially when it is considered that having the equipment is only one step in a three-part trek towards a sports photography career.

The last part of becoming a sports photographer is getting your photos noticed, which can be extremely difficult for those without an established name. The best way to start getting noticed is to compile a portfolio of your best images and look for opportunities to showcase your ability. Partnering with a local newspaper, entering photography contests, and simply interacting with those that are employed as sports photographers are all ways to improve the chances of having your images published.

Sports Photographer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Sports Photographer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Sports Photographer's can make an average annual salary of $40,280, or $19 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $22,600 or $11 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #522 Nationally for All Careers

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Sports Photographer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Sports Photographers

  • 1.7%   Doctorate
  • 7%   Masters
  • 44.1%   Bachelors
  • 10.2%   Associates
  • 22.8%   College
  • 11.7%   High School
  • 2.4%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Sports Photographer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 3,900 jobs for a total of 128,800 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 3.1% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #515 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Sports Photographers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 75,500 7,100 7%
Photographic services 29,700 -3,300 -3%
Television broadcasting 3,800 400 0%

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