Sports Photography: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a sports photographer. Learn about the required education, job outlook and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Photography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Sports Photographer?

As a sports photographer you will be in the middle of the action, capturing photographic images of different sporting events. Sports photographers must be able to move and adjust their cameras quickly to focus and capture high quality images of the action. They also adjust for natural lighting at outdoor events and artificial light inside stadiums, arenas and gyms. Sports photographers may use digital cameras and then go back and enhance or edit some images with computer software. These professionals market and promote their services to attract clients, which typically involves keeping a detailed portfolio of their work. The following table presents an overview for this career:

Education Required No specific education or training requirements, associate's degree in photography is helpful
Key Skills Knowledge of lighting, positioning and camera technique; photo editing expertise; maintain a dynamic photographic portfolio
Job Growth (2014-24) 3%* (all photographers)
Median Salary (2015) $31,710* (all photographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Can I Begin a Career as a Sports Photographer?

You could begin a career in sports photography, or photojournalism as the larger field is called, in a variety of ways. Because no specific education or training requirements exist for becoming a photographer, it's important to have a solid portfolio as the measure of your skill. Additionally, especially if you are a freelance sports photographer, maintaining a strong list of contacts in the field will be important for your success.

Should I Get a Degree in Photography?

Earning a bachelor's or associate's degree can help you build your technical knowledge of the field. Some schools offer a concentration in photojournalism, through which you can learn media writing skills in addition to building your knowledge of photography. To obtain your Bachelor or Associate of Fine Arts in Photography degree, you will likely take courses on camera equipment, lighting, digital imaging, color design and digital printing.

When you graduate with a degree in photography, you will have a substantial portfolio of work to then present to potential employers. Another way to obtain a solid portfolio is to take photography courses independent of a degree program. Many places, including photography studios, private trade schools and community colleges, offer photography classes.

How Do I Get a Job?

As a new sports photographer, you may need to start out as an assistant to an experienced photographer. This will allow you to build technical knowledge and field experience that you may not have gained through formal education or training.

Freelancing is another option to start working in this field. As a self-employed sports photographer, you can use a stock-photo agency to market your work to publishers or media sites, or you can work directly with clients to provide photos for various events. In order to be a freelance photographer, promoting and protecting your own work, you will need networking skills and a working knowledge of copyright laws.

How Much Could I Earn?

Sports photographer salaries vary widely, especially now that so many photographers are self-employed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2015 most photographers made between $18,850 and $72,200 annually. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report specifically on sports photographers, the average annual salary in the same year for newspaper, periodical, book and directory photographers was $45,310.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Desktop publishers hold similar positions and require an associate's degree. These professionals create the page layouts for different forms of media, such as newspapers and websites. Fashion designers and craft and fine artists also have related careers, but they typically need a bachelor's degree. Fashion designers often sketch or use computers to create designs for new clothing and accessories. Craft and fine artists include all types of artists who create artwork and pieces to sell and display. Some may paint, sculpt, blow glass and more.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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