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How to Photograph Sports for a Living

written by: Ryan C.•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/21/2010

Learn to make money shooting the sports you love to watch and play! Here are some tips on building a sports photography career.

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    Introduction

    football Photographing action sports and teams can be an exciting and rewarding career if you know how to go about doing it correctly. If you enjoy sports, it can also be a great way for you to merge your two hobbies and learn to make money from them. Obviously to be a professional at anything, you need to be proficient at both photography and the sport you choose to photograph. Some of the events you will be photographing will have once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and it is your responsibility to capture them.

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    Starting Your Sports Photography Career

    IMG 5920 Obviously, the first thing you will have to decide is what sport you want to shoot (whether it's football, soccer, baseball, hockey, golf, or something else). It should be something you know well so that you can follow the game and know exactly where and when the action will be. Your passion for the sport will show in your images. When you are starting your sports photography career, it helps if your friends and family play the sport so you can get some experience in a low-pressure situation.

    Start off photographing high-school or elementary school sports. Take it from me that your viewers will be blown away at the types of images you can get, especially if you have the right gear. Share it with the players and parents. Once you get established, you will start to feel more comfortable and can start selling your images.

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    Learning From Others

    IMG 7059 Check out what ESPN magazine and other sports photographers are photographing. Check out their compositions, angles, depths of fields, and where they focus. By looking at other's photos you can see what sells and what you like and think works best.

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    The Gear

    Depending on the sport, you will need some very specific gear to capture the best sports photos. The main items you will need is obviously a digital SLR and a few lenses. Not just any camera or lenses, but something with the following specifications.

    Camera

    • Modern DSLR (within the last 2 years with decent High-ISO performance and autofocusing capabilities)
    • 5+ Frames Per Second (FPS) to keep up with the action
    • Weatherproof body

    Lenses

    • Fast Standard Zoom (Roughly a 35mm equivalent of 24-105mm)
    • Fast Telephoto Zoom (70-200mm F/2.8)
    • Fast Telephoto (Something at least 300mm and an aperture of F/4 or wider)
    • Optional: Ultra-Wide Angle (used for stadium and setting photography)

    Misc.

    • Monopod for holding your big heavy lens and camera during the game
    • Fast memory cards to keep your buffer clear
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    Promoting Yourself and Your Work

    What will determine your success is your ability to set yourself apart and market your work. This includes setting up a website with your contact information, building a portfolio, creating business cards, and a method of selling your work (directly from your website, a newspaper, magazine, etc.).

    Network! As with any other job, you need to make contacts and get your name out there. Let people know what you do.