Sports photographers snap all types of sports action, including individual portraits, team photos, sporting events, action shots, fitness modeling and more. Some specialize in a specific sport, and others can cover a range of sports, including basketball, baseball, football, gymnastics, martial arts, hockey, tennis, track and field, soccer, swimming, and dance. Athletes may be at any level in their sport and any age, from youth to seniors. Photos can be for editorial use, personal use, print or catalog advertising, or for websites. Several factors affect the cost of sports photography.
Reputation and experience
Sports photographers who have worked with famous athletes or those with a reputable and long-standing career often charge higher rates than those just starting out in the field. The geographic location of a pro can also affect their rates. Photographers in regions with a higher cost of living generally charge more for services.
Some sports photographers charge an hourly rate for their services. The rate may include some post-production work (retouching), or it may solely be for photographing the event or game. Don’t be shy about asking questions to make sure you understand what services are provided at what rate. Here are two examples of hourly rates:
Ezra Brathwaite Photography in New York, New York: $125 per hour
$250 minimum fee for a two-hour minimum
- Hourly prices include light post-production retouching.
Greg Dunivant Photography in Phoenix, Arizona: $150 per hour
- A minimum of 50 high-res photos are guaranteed each hour, although more often there are 75–100 per hour.
Many sports photographers offer onsite services in half- or full-day pricing bundles. A package deal gives clients a discount from the photographer’s usual hourly rate, ensures more coverage of their sporting event—or a more extensive photo shoot—and benefits the professional by consolidating work with one client. With Greg Dunivant Photography, clients receive increased hourly savings for longer package deals:
Half-day photo services (four hours): $450, which is a $150 discount over the hourly rate of $150
- Full-day photo services (eight hours): $800, which is a $400 discount from the hourly rate
Some photographers specialize in sports portraits and fitness modeling as an element of their work. Often these photo shoots are on-location (yoga studio, swimming pool) to best showcase the athlete. Costs for portrait sessions can vary depending on the city, photographer background and more. David Keith Photography in Washington, D.C., charges a $395 starting rate for portrait sessions.
Photography is not just taking photos. It involves setting up the shoot properly, retouching images and perfecting final outcomes. Instead of charging one high rate, some sports photographers break down costs for different services to give customers options and make their pricing more transparent. Here are a few pricing examples for add-on services:
- CD/DVD or flash drive of all sports photos: $25
Retouching services: $50 per hour, with a 30-minute ($25) minimum
Special lighting setup: $75
- DVD slideshow of game or sports event, with audio: $75, including up to 50 images; each additional image: $1
Photographers who use higher-grade cameras and lighting equipment typically charge higher rates to help cover their overhead for equipment and insurance. In general, better equipment also results in a higher-quality photo outcome, which is worth the extra cost. Prices for professional cameras range from entry-level at around $1,500 to well into the tens of thousands. Lenses and other equipment are also very expensive. It’s critical that sports photographers have the right gear to capture, however. Fast action games and other sports require a camera capable of high frame-per-second (fps) shooting.
Physical prints of photos increase total costs. Depending on the quality and size of the print, prices can range greatly. Here are some examples:
On-location printing, with a minimum of 10–30 prints: $6 per print
On-location printing, with a minimum of 31–50 prints: $5.50 per print
- On-location printing, with a minimum of 51 or more prints: $4.50
- 25 (4x6) prints: $20; each additional 25-print increment: $15
Some photographers charge a travel fee for arriving at sporting events or photo shoot sites to cover additional time and transportation expenses. For example, Greg Dunivant Photography charges $60 per hour for travel time exceeding 30 minutes in either direction, measured in 10-minute increments @ $6 each.