Imagine standing on the sidelines with your telephoto lens, shooting rapid-fire shots of the touchdown that pushed a down-and-out team into the playoffs. Or of the horse that broke free and won the Derby by a nose. Or of the swing that propelled a team into World Series history in the bottom of the ninth. These possibly historic images are captured by sports photographers.
The sports photographer attends sporting events to capture fast-action imagery of the athletes and the game. Many sports photographers are freelance photographers working for newspapers, magazines, or websites. The best images, of course, are usually the ones taken from the track or field (or as close as you can get to it), so a press pass is often necessary.
The challenge for sports photographers is to apply basic photography skills to fast-action movement, and to use knowledge of the sport to determine the decisive moment in the action. Timing is key -- it's often said that if you see the action, you missed it. You should know the sport you're photographing well enough to anticipate what the athletes will do -- take the picture the moment the action occurs, not after. And attention to the background can also play a significant role. Crowd reactions, or depth of field, can help to tell the story, or can become too distracting.
Expensive telephoto lenses and other camera equipment are especially important for sports photographers. The most commonly used cameras are still the traditional film SLRs, because film can still be much faster than digital.
Though there are no specialized degrees in sports photography, the essential skills that you'll hone in an associate or bachelor's degree program will provide a solid foundation.
Sports photographers make an average of $15.60/hour, but this number varies based on location and experience.