Sports Photographer  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotAlthough sports photographers work in an exciting and glamorous profession, it's hard work that requires specialized training and an artistic eye. Some are full-time staff members for publications and sport teams. Others work as freelancers, picking and choosing who they want to work for.

dotCreating commercial quality photographs requires technical expertise and creativity.

Corky Trewin is a sports photographer in Seattle. He says light, focus and composition are the three main elements of a photograph. "Without light, you don't have a picture. Without focus, you don't have a picture," he says.

You may have a picture without composition, if you have the other two. But composition is the difference between a truly great photograph and a mediocre one.

Sports photography is both an artistic and technical occupation. Many pictures not only reveal technical skill, but also are so beautifully composed that they can be considered works of art.

dotSports photographers take pictures of sports figures, places, events and objects. Some even develop and print them as well. This requires a fully equipped darkroom and the technical skill to operate it.

As a result, many send their film to laboratories for processing. This is especially true for color film, which requires expensive equipment and precise conditions for processing and printing.

Sports photographers use a wide variety of cameras that can accept lenses designed for close-up, medium-range or distance photography. They also must use many kinds of film and lighting equipment when necessary.

Finally, photographers must be able to arrange whatever they are photographing so that it will show up clearly in the finished picture.

dotPhotography increasingly involves the use of computers. A photographer may use a digital camera to take a picture and use a computer to manipulate it. The images may be stored on a CD the same way music is.

dotWorking conditions for sports photographers vary considerably. Some may shoot athletes only, some shoot games and some cover extreme sports like snowboarding or rock climbing. This means they often work long and irregular hours and must be available on short notice.

Chris Noble has combined a passion for adventure with the art of photography to explore the interaction of man and wilderness.

"My photographic art has exploded into a thriving, successful career, with lucrative editorial and advertising accounts worldwide," says Noble.

dotSelf-employment allows for greater autonomy, freedom of expression and flexible scheduling. But income is uncertain and freelancing means continually searching for new clients. Some photographers hire an assistant solely for this responsibility.

One way self-employed photographers can earn additional income is by licensing the use of their photographs through stock photo agencies.

These agencies grant magazines and other customers the right to purchase the use of a photograph, and in turn pay the photographer a commission. Stock photo agencies require an application from the photographer and a sizeable portfolio.

At a Glance

Capture the action

  • Technical expertise and creativity are important
  • You could specialize in shooting athletes, games or extreme sports
  • Consider college or university courses in this field