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Sports Photographer: Education Requirements and Job Description

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a sports photographer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs in photography or journalism, certificate program options and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

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Sports photographers capture photos during sporting events to tell a story or capture the moment. It is common for aspiring sports photographers to pursue an associate's degree, bachelor's degree, or certificate from a photography program. Sports photographers can work as freelancers and sell their work to magazines and newspapers.

Essential Information

Sports photographers take fast action photos at outdoor and indoor sporting events. Education options for becoming a sports photographer include bachelor's degree programs in photography or journalism, 1-year intensive certificate programs or associate's degrees in photography. Aspiring or current photographers interested in the sports industry are ideal candidates for pursuing a career in this profession.

Education Requirements Certificate program, associate's degree or bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Owning photography equipment; operating photography enhancing software; obtaining a press pass
Median Salary (2018) $34,000 for all photographers*
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) -6% for all photographers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Sports photographers can work as freelancers, taking pictures at sporting events and selling action shots to magazines, newspapers and sports enthusiasts. Some sports photographers work for sporting teams and organizations and take pictures that are mass-produced into commercial products. Sports photographers who also work as journalists, known as photojournalists, write articles to complement their pictures.

Education Requirements for Sports Photographers

Some sports photographers enter the profession with a bachelor's degree in photography or journalism, while others go through a 1-year intensive certificate program that focuses on the craft of photography. Some obtain an associate's degree to learn the technical skills and business knowledge necessary to start work as a photographer.

Most degree and certificate programs provide coursework about using both film and digital cameras, including lab experience in dark rooms and working with photo manipulation software. Other classes cover lighting, color choice, subject positioning and use of technical equipment. Longer programs tend to include classes on the history of photography, as well as instruction on business practices within the industry.

Sports Photographer Job Description

Photographers working in the sports industry use their artistic vision to take pictures of fast-moving athletes during live sporting events using manual and digital cameras. Most photographers use specialized equipment, such as high-definition lenses and multi-shutter-speed cameras. Sports photographers take many images during a sporting event and then scan through the images to choose the best photo for publication or sale.

Although some sports photographers use film-based cameras, many have switched to digital cameras, allowing the ease of cropping and editing pictures on a computer without wasting money on film and printing supplies. As a result, many photographers have become highly skilled with photo-enhancing software programs.

Job Requirements

Those working as freelance sports photographers typically own their own equipment. Testing and maintaining photography equipment prior to and after a film shoot is an essential part of the job.

To get close to the action at sporting events, photographers need to obtain press passes. Employers may provide press passes, but many freelancers have to request passes from event staff, which requires filling out paperwork ahead of time and sometimes paying fees.

Career Outlook

Photographers in general could expect to see 6% decline in employment from 2018-2028, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is slower than the national average of 5% for all career fields. Photographers earned a median yearly salary of $34,000 in May 2018.

Sports photographers take fast action photos at sporting events. There are associate's degree, bachelor's degree and certificate programs available for individuals interested in pursuing this field. Sports photography is a great career choice for sports enthusiasts interested in the technicalities of camera work, as well as art and design.

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