How Much Does a Sport Photographer Make?

How Much Does a Sport Photographer Make?
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Professional photographers can take a moment in time, and freeze it for years to come. In order to do this, the photographer must have a keen eye for detail, and the technical knowledge of the right equipment to use. A sports photographer not only needs this knowledge, but also must have an understanding of the sport they are covering. To get the best shots possible for whatever client or publication they sell their photos to, they need to know how to get into the right position.

So, How Much Money Can a Sports Photographer Earn?

One of the most frequent questions that comes up for a professional sport photographer is, how much does a sport photographer make? That will depend on the type of publication you are pitching to, for freelance photographers. If you are lucky enough to become a staff photographer at a major publication, or corporation, your salary could be much higher, and could include insurance and benefits.

Local newspapers and magazines typically only offer the thrill of publication for your photos. Most of these papers and magazines are small and won’t have much money to pay for staff, so most of the staff, including the photographers, will be on a volunteer basis. This is a great way to begin your professional sport photography career though, as it helps to build up your portfolio and experience.

According to Sports Illustrated, a photographer whose photo graces the front cover can receive $2,000 for their work. Other rates from the magazine include a Leading Off - which is the best pictures of the sports week in a two page spread at the beginning of the magazine - which can earn you $1,000. One page will earn you $500, and ¼ page will earn you $150.

These are standard rates across several publications such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The Magazine, TIME and others. These are not easy magazines to get your images into, and it’s very difficult to get the cover. It would be wise for an amateur photographer to gain experience locally first before attempting to pitch to them.

Staff Photographer vs. Freelance Photographer

The majority of the sports photographers in the United States and Canada are freelance photographers. This means they attend sports events, without receiving a specific job assignment, and then pitch to sell their photographs to a magazine or newspaper. Some freelancers obtain clients who wish for photos to be taken at their events, or of certain athletes and will pay an agreed upon price.

A staff photographer’s job is a bit more secure in the fact of benefits, a regular salary and set assignments. Newspapers and magazines will employ staff photographers, but also government agencies, corporations, universities and even museums. How much does a sport photographer make who is part of the staff depends greatly on the employer. Generally, a good staff reporter can make $35,000 and up a year.

Four generations of nikon cameras

Focus on the Sports You Love

One of the most important things to remember when beginning a sports photography career is to focus on the sports you love. You must carry around a heavy camera bag, and possibly a tripod with you, so you need to really want to be there. When you love the sport, you will know instinctively what will make a great picture.


Ask the Photographer: How Much Does a Photographer Make For a Picture on the Cover of Sports Illustrated?

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Skillset: Staff Photographer