How to become an action and sports photographer

Are you passionate about taking pictures and learning how to capture the very best action/sports shots? Then you’re in the right place! We’ll give you a breakdown of this awesome genre of photography and by the end, you’ll be raring to find your nearest sporting event to get snapping!

Once you’ve mastered the ability to take sports action shots consider displaying your photos on a wall canvas. If you don’t fancy putting your work on the wall you’re still able to save your best sports shots by printing them online.

What is an action & sports photographer?

You can probably guess what action and sports photography is all about, but we’ll give you the bog-standard definition anyway. It is essentially capturing a still image of someone in motion, or a movement that is captured sequentially. It can involve anything you would commonly consider a ‘sport’ and many things that aren’t!

For example, you could be at the park one day and see a man running after his dog, taking a picture of this would still be considered an ‘action shot’. Note that with sequential photography, you will need to have access to photo-editing software.

What sort of salary can I expect?

Traditionally, photography is more a passion or love than something that rewards you with a huge pay packet, and it’s largely no different with sports and action photography. With that being said, professionals in this field can earn a starting wage of around £20,000 a year with the bigger firms.

However, according to pro Ross Kinnaird, to get into a position like this you would be expected to be able to show a stellar portfolio of work and experience. According to self-reporting figures, 15% of freelancers earn between £20,000 and £30,000 a year, while the remaining 85% earn less than this amount.

How do I become an action & sports photographer?

There are a few things you need to do in order to become a good action & sports photographer. You need to have the right equipment for starters – just like you wouldn’t participate in sports without the right footwear, you shouldn’t turn up for action shots without having acquired the right camera kit.

If you want to visit a stadium or track event, for example, you will need to have the right type of lenses to be able to zoom in from a distance, and a tripod is also helpful in order for you to capture steady, focused images. That’s the technical side of things out the way, but what you’ll also need is a good sense of timing, and a risk-taking attitude, particularly if you would like to photograph extreme sports. In these cases, you will often have to place yourself in a similar position to the athlete in order to capture the best shots! Blow up your best sports shots as large prints and gift to your sports-crazy Uncle – they make great presents.

What qualifications do I need?

In much the same way you wouldn’t need a qualification to become an athlete, you wouldn’t need one to be able to photograph them if you’re naturally gifted. However, if you are looking to earn money, then a bachelor’s degree (and masters if you’re willing) will raise your stock in the eyes of potential employers.

Think very carefully about the potential outlay on courses and the aforementioned wages that may be possible before making your decision!

Three of the best-known action & sports photographers

  1. Neil Leifer

Responsible for that iconic image of Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali, Neil says that you have to be relentless and practice, but that there was also a big degree of luck to his success.. notice the photographer behind Ali who got a worse shot, simply down to being on the wrong side of the ring at that moment!

  1. Darren Heath

A motorsport photographer who specialises in F1, one of the first messages you will be greeted with upon visiting his site is ‘A good photograph is knowing where to stand’, and this holds true if you want to be successful in action photography.

  1. Heinz Kluetmeier

Having covered nearly all of the Olympic games since 1972, he has an impressive portfolio of action shots.

Having checked those guys out we’re sure you’re feeling inspired! Good luck in pursuing your sports photography career. Did we miss anything in our guide? Let us know in the comments.

Last modified: 39months ago


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