Many sports enthusiasts imagine a career in sports photography. Being able to participate in sports by photographing pivotal moments in sports history is a dream career for many.

But while sports photography can be an exciting and rewarding career for the right person, it certainly isn’t for everyone. It involves stressful situations, and dealing with crowds at sporting events. Plus, professional sports photography can be tough to break into. There are many sports photographers already out there who are great at what they do. A successful career in sports photography takes dedication, persistence, and extensive networking.

Today we will look at some places to start, when building a career in sports photography.

Local Newspapers and Magazines

Most local publications don’t pay much for local sports photography; however they do offer great publicity. When you take photos of local teams, try to get your images and name in print. This increases your recognition, and families of the team players will know who to contact if they need some shots.

School Athletic Directors

Attend local sports games to get some shots for your portfolio, and adds experience for shooting bigger sporting events. Before showing up at events, you may want to discuss your plans with the school’s athletics director. This informs the school ahead of time, and also gives you a chance to network with people who may need some photography. Sometimes schools will be interested in team photos for the yearbook.

Some photographers have photography arrangements in place with the school. The photographer will donate a few free shots to the school, in exchange for being allowed a great location to get the photos, sometimes even on the field! This allows the photographer to get some great shots that people in the stands can’t capture, creating more in demand photos.

School Team Parents

First we have to answer the all important question: “Why are people going to pay for photos that they could take themselves?”

The answer of course, is many won’t. Most people have cameras, and anyone with a DSLR (or camera phone!) considers himself to be a “photographer.” Many parents are happy with their photos, and see no need to pay a professional.

This is where networking comes in. Introduce yourself and let people know what you do. Getting to know your specific market helps you market effectively. Your best clientele will be interested parents who value photography, so get to know them. Help them if they ask for advice on shooting better photos. Some photographers find that their best clients are actually parents who have a camera, but are willing to pay for professional photos because the photographer was helpful to them.

Bring a notepad, and take email addresses. After you list your game photos for sale online, email everyone a link. Having an online sales system makes purchasing simple. No one will buy prints if it’s too complicated, so making things easy is essential. Be sure to only include your best shots.

Many photographers find that sports photography allows them to meet families that need portraits, senior pictures, and family photos. Others find that sports photography allows them to build up their portfolio. Sports photography builds a contact base of potential clients who will potentially need other photography services.

Most importantly, be friendly. Don’t be pushy with sales. Remember a good reputation has the potential to bring in more sales -much better than just selling a few prints.

Stock Imagery Sites

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Stock imagery sites provide some extra money from sports photography, but you will have to have everyone in the photos sign model release forms in order for you to make money off of their image. Networking and a good reputation comes in handy here; people will be more likely to sign release forms for someone they know, rather than a stranger.

Going Big

Try starting locally, and building up a good base. You have a remarkably better chance of selling photos to major publications like ESPN and Sports Illustrated once your experience level is top notch.

A good reputation is invaluable for a sports photographer. Getting your name out and meeting people opens the door to new opportunities especially in this highly competitive field.

Do you have some tips for selling sports photography? Please share in the comments!