Salaries in sports photography vary wildly, but the average full-time sports photographer makes between $40k and $45k per year. Of course, that’s not the end of the story. A lot of things can lead to a photographer making more or less.
I’m Caleb, and I’ve been a sports photographer for more than four years. I’ve covered multiple sports and shot games at various levels, ranging from semi-pro to college.
In this article, I’ll talk about the money side of sports photography and what professional salaries are like. If you’re interested in a sports photography career, read ahead to see what you might make from it.
How Much Do Sports Photographers Make?
You’ll find plenty of sites listing answers if you search this question. You’ll probably see a lot of numbers thrown out there as annual salary estimates.
$44,000, $27,000, and $36,000 are some of the estimates that fall within the common range. One of the highest estimates is above $70,000.
Sports Photography Pay Differences
So, which of these numbers is the correct one? In a way, both all and none of them are. Since photography is a creative field with little distinction between hobbyists and professionals, the amounts paid can vary wildly.
For example, it’s not unreasonable to expect a top-tier sports photographer to make $70,000 per year while working with high-end outlets and attending big events.
These kinds of photographers take pictures that millions of people see, so, understandably, they’re paid more than average.
On the other hand, a different photographer may shoot college games for a local media outlet. Smaller outlets, such as fan websites, probably aren’t bringing in much money and won’t pay as much for photography.
Other photographers mainly take pictures for specific clients. Instead of shooting an entire game, they might get paid by a family to take photos of one player at a youth game.
For these photographers, income largely depends on how many potential clients are in the area and how much interest there is.
In a big city like New York, a good enough photographer could probably make thousands of dollars per month just through this type of work. In a suburban town with only a few youth sports teams, that’s probably not happening.
Also, many smaller sports teams around the country have their own photographers but don’t pay anything at all for this. This is the case with high schools, lower-level colleges, and many semi-pro teams.
Many of them are operating at a loss, so paid photographers just aren’t something they can afford. Usually, these teams’ photographers get paid for exposure and free access to the games.
How Much Sports Photographers Make Varies Widely
The takeaway here is that there’s no universal salary scale for sports photography. Some sports photographers make a lot from their work, but statistically, most don’t.
It’s just a matter of math, as there are more sports photographers out there than high-paying positions.
However, it’s also worth remembering that many sports photographers, including ones who shoot fairly high-level events, are doing this as a hobby.
For these photographers, making less profit is worth it in exchange for getting close to the action during games and getting exposure for their work.
After all, getting more eyes on your work thanks to shooting games for free can easily segue into getting more paid clients for both sports and non-sports photography.
Here are some other frequently asked sports photography questions.
How Much Do Wire Photographers Make?
Sportswire services, which provide photos to news sources and are usually updated quickly as games progress, pay through royalties. The photographer is usually paid each time their photo is used, so their pay overall depends on how popular their photos get.
How Much Do Sports Photographers Make Per Hour?
This varies drastically, just like sports photographer pay in general. Some sports photographers might not make any hourly salary, while high-end ones may make high rates like $100 per hour or above.
Sports photography is a broad field, and its salaries vary accordingly. It’s impossible to point to one salary scale as an example of what sports photographers make because there are so many factors that sway income one way or the other.
Have you profited from sports photography? What do you think about doing free photography in exchange for exposure or because it’s a hobby? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.