The Life of a Sports Photographer


While it may seem that being a sports photographer means getting front row views of all the top sporting events the reality is that is can be a lot of hard work. A love and appreciation for sports certainly is helpful when contemplating sports photography as a career, but there is a lot more to it than just showing up at games and other sporting events.

The life of a sports photographer can be quite lonely, traveling from event to event, often spending nights in hotels and motels. It can also involve flying or driving long distances. While this may initially seem to be a great life to lead often there is nothing more that a sports photographer looks forward to than getting a good night’s rest in their own bed.

It is important to understand that there are different career paths a sports photographer can take. Some choose to become photographers for a specific team and will travel with them to every away game as well as photograph home games. They will be responsible for taking photographs of the team playing and may also be expected to take publicity shots of individual players as well as the entire team. The advantages of being a specific team photographer are that they will be aware of their schedule from one day to the next and can plan accordingly. The photographer will get to know the players personally, at least on a professional basis, and may also have the opportunity to meet players and management from other teams.

Freelancing is another option for a sports photographer. Working in this capacity can be tentative as there are no guarantees of income. The photographer will choose which events he or she chooses to cover and then will hope to sell their photographs to magazines and other media. As a fulltime career freelancing can be quite lucrative if the photographer has managed to build a rapport with several print and online media companies. This can take years to establish but if the freedom to choose which events to cover is desirous then this can be a good option for a sports photographer. If the photographer has also developed writing skills he or she may choose to submit articles that include their own writing and photographs for publication.

A sports photographer working for a specific newspaper or sports magazine will be designated events to cover. For the most part the publication will dictate which sporting events the photographer is to cover and will provide an outline of what they require. Expenses will typically be covered by the publication but travel may be limited to local events and those held in surrounding areas. The photographer is likely to become familiar with particular sporting locations which may make his or her job a little easier as they will know what to expect at each event.

Whichever career path the sports photographer chooses there are some aspects of this job that are the same. Equipment must be kept clean, fully functional and up to date in order to take the best photographs possible. A good photographer will spend time regularly keeping gear in top condition. This is not one of the most enjoyable aspects of sport photography but as is typical of any career that involves equipment it is very much a necessary task that should not be neglected. As the photographer relies heavily on his or her equipment it behooves them to maintain it in good working order.

Attending sporting events is the bonus to this career. While the photographer will spend all of their time while the game is playing photographing the action they may also have the opportunity to interact with the players after the game is over. It is likely that over the course of their career a sports photographer will meet some of the great players of their time. Where possible they will often have the best view of the play from the sidelines. One thing to bear in mind though, is that despite their prime position they are under great pressure to take the best possible photographs. There are no second chances for once an opportunity for a great shot has passed it can never be recovered.

Travel features largely in some sport photographer’s lifestyle. Getting from one game to another may include the need to take flights or travel by car. For this reason a significant amount of time may be taken up with getting to a specific sporting event. Preparing for travel requires collecting all the equipment a photographer may need, packing it up ready for transportation and loading it into a vehicle. Once the photographer has arrived at the event he or she will have to unload their gear and take it into the event. This may require a couple of trips from vehicle to event.

While photographing the event every second counts. A photographer needs to maintain a reasonable level of fitness in order to move around the perimeter of the play area, getting great shots as he or she goes. For the duration of the game the photographer is likely to be constantly on the move, and even during half-time break he or she will be reviewing equipment, changing batteries and memory cards and the like.

The sports photographer’s job isn’t over once the game ends. He or she must then travel back and once reaching their home or office will review all of the photographs taken during the sporting event. With possibly hundreds of photos taken this could take a couple of hours or more. If any editing is required this too will be done by the photographer before choosing which photographs to submit for publication.

Seeing photographs that the sports photographer took in a publication is one of the reasons a person does it for a career. Capturing what could one day be a world-class photograph of a moment in sporting history is what many sports photographers strive for every day. Making every photograph be the best that it can be is the name of the game.