Sports photographers can work in a variety of places such as small newspapers, photo services, sports organizations and large-scale publications such as Sports Illustrated. The job of a sports photographer is to get action shots during live events and to set up studio portraits as needed. Sports photographers must have some knowledge of the events they are covering to bring back photos that accurately represent the action of a game.
The average income for photographers was $35,640 in May 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This includes wages for all photographers. This number is on par with the figure sports photographer Ross Kinnaird of Getty Images gave The Independent newspaper in a story about sports photographers, which commonly work for international organizations such as Getty Images and the Associated Press. Elsa Hasch, a photographer whose images have appeared in The New York Times and The Sporting News, also agreed. She brought home a salary in the $20,000 range to start her career but was making upward of $30,000 after four years.
The highest-paid sports photographers work in high-profile environments, for magazines such as ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated. The top 10 percent of photographers reported earnings of at least $62,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a handful of sports photographers can earn six-figure salaries.
The lowest-paid sports photographers can make as little as $8 per hour. Depending on the employer, sports photographers at small organizations must also have their own equipment, including cameras, tripods and lights.
Sports photographers also can work on a freelance basis, meaning they do not work for a specific employer or publication. Freelance photographers make basically the same wages as other sports photographers but many have additional work-related expenses, such as camera equipment, computers and travel. Equipment costs can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars over time, said Hasch in a story for Salary.com. Freelance photographers are self-employed and must generate their own work assignments and are responsible for purchasing individual health care and saving money for income taxes, which are not taken out of a contract worker's paycheck. About 92 percent of a photographer's net earnings from self-employment are subject to taxation, according to the Internal Revenue Service.