Sports photographers work for newspapers, sports magazines, Web sites, social media sites, sports card companies, photo stock agencies, and wire services. Like many other types of photographers, sports photographers are often self-employed and sell their photos to various sources for use in print and online publications. Approximately 64 percent of photographers are self-employed.
Beginning a career in photography can be an uphill battle. The equipment and materials are expensive, a great deal of risk and competition is involved in getting the right photo, and the pay may not be enough to support the photographer's craft. For this reason, many photographers hold other jobs in related fields, such as journalism or editing, and shoot pictures on the side. Others start out as assistants to experienced photographers in order to hone their skills.
Starting out, the photographer's main responsibilities should be to build a portfolio and make contacts in the area in which they would like to publish work. College internships with newspapers or magazines are a great way to accomplish both these tasks. An internship with a newspaper or sports magazine is a good way to meet potential employers and build a body of work.
Sports photographers advance by selling their work to highly respected publications (such as Sports Illustrated) and commanding more pay for their work. Some photographers become so well known for their work that they are requested by news organizations to shoot international or national sports events, such as the Olympics or the Super Bowl, year after year. Some sports photographers become photo editors or managers at their newspaper or magazine. Others teach photography classes.
Tips for Entry
Start developing a portfolio of your work so that you are ready to begin looking for jobs once you graduate. Include only your best work.
Create your own Web site that showcases your sports photography and advertises your services; be sure to include terms of usage, including a permission form, on your images.
Read industry publications such as Aperture (https://aperture.org/magazine) and Shutter Magazine (https://www.behindtheshutter.com/shutter-magazine) to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers.