Sports Photography Business

A professional cameraman shares a few secrets of sports photography for those who might want to try their hand at an exciting, do-it-yourself business.

| May/June 1981

  • 069 sports photography - riding hard
    Action shots like this one will be the bread and butter of your sports photography business.
  • 069 sports photography 3 bucking bull
    Another action shot.
  • 069 sports photography 1 leading a horse
    The queen of the rodeo gets her own horse.  
  • 069 sports photography - bucking horse2
    To really profit you'll need action shots of as many participants as possible.

  • 069 sports photography - riding hard
  • 069 sports photography 3 bucking bull
  • 069 sports photography 1 leading a horse
  • 069 sports photography - bucking horse2

If you'd like to work for yourself and you have a knack for shutterbugging, sports photography may be just the job you're looking for.

Now I don't mean you should run out and try to sell free-lance work to national athletic publications. (Oh, you may land an occasional sale with a magazine or paper, but such chancy earnings aren't likely to keep the larder filled with ham and eggs.) Nope, I'm talking about snapping—and developing—pictures to be sold at sports events, to the photographed competitors themselves!

Peddling such contest "portraits" can bring in from $100 to $200 for a pleasant day's work. And (since most sports happenings occur on Saturdays and Sundays) you can use photography as a part time business, or—if you like to travel—actually build up a circuit of events to memorialize and spend your weekdays leisurely exploring the country-side as you travel to the next activity.

There's no end to the sports you can photograph, but I've found that the best "markets" feature individual—rather than team—competition. Have a look at the numbers: One Little League baseball game may require 20 or so photogenic young players, while a midsized rodeo will attract over 200 "camera eligible" entrants! So the real money's in those "solo" sports that attract lots of participants: motorcycle contests, horse shows, marathon races, winter ski carnivals, tractor pulls, skeet shoots, hang gliding events, whitewater races, frisbee meets, or anything else you can find!

And—believe me—"there's gold in them thar sportin' hills"! Take my previously mentioned 200-competitor sample rodeo, for instance. If you sell each of just 30 broncobusters a single $4.00 action print, you'll gross a respectable $120. What's more, with good camera work, you'll often market a lot more shots. (At some small rodeos I've sold at least one picture to each competitor!)

The point is that you can make decent money in sports photography if you have good sales volume. And there are two main ingredients necessary for inspiring a large number of purchasers: quality and time. You'll need to do good photographic work and do it quickly.


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