How Much Do NFL Photographers Make?

In the dynamic realm of sports photography, the NFL takes center stage, offering a fusion of artistry and athleticism through the lens. Aspiring photographers, drawn to immortalize the gridiron’s unforgettable moments, inevitably ponder a key query. What are NFL photographers’ earnings? This article delves into their financial realities, unraveling the factors influencing their income, and offering insights into a career where every snapshot holds both art and opportunity.

Are you curious about How Much Do NFL Photographers Make? The annual income for these professionals varies, typically falling between $30,000 and $75,000. Yet, experienced photographers with a strong portfolio can earn more. Factors like team affiliation, reputation, and the types of shots captured impact their pay. So, if you’re eyeing a career on the NFL sidelines, a rewarding financial touchdown could be in your future.

NFL photographers’ yearly earnings cover a broad range, commonly hovering between $30,000 and $75,000. Yet, it’s not mere chance that determines their income. Success in this competitive field is a combination of skill, opportunity, and adept navigation. This article will illuminate the influential factors, providing valuable insights for those contemplating an NFL sideline career where the perfect shot can score a financially rewarding victory.

How to become a nfl photographer

Becoming an NFL photographer is a highly competitive and challenging endeavor, but it’s not impossible. Here are the steps you can take about how much do NFL Photographers make?

Develop Your Photography Skills 

Start by building a strong foundation in photography. Learn the basics of camera operation, composition, lighting, and post-processing. Gain experience in various photography genres, including sports photography, to hone your skills.

Invest in Quality Equipment

High-quality camera gear is essential for sports photography, where capturing fast-paced action is crucial. Invest in professional-grade cameras, fast lenses, and other equipment that will allow you to capture sharp and dynamic images.

Understand the Game

To be a successful NFL photographer, you must have a good understanding of football. Study the game, its rules, and the strategies involved. This knowledge will help you anticipate and capture critical moments.

Build a Portfolio 

Create a portfolio of sports photography that showcases your skills. Attend local sports events, such as high school or college games, and capture action shots to include in your portfolio. Ensure that your portfolio reflects a variety of sports and action types.

Submit Your Work to NFL Teams or Organizations

Reach out to NFL teams and organizations with your portfolio and express your interest in becoming an NFL photographer. While it’s challenging to break into this field, persistence and a strong portfolio can make a difference.

Stay Informed and Adapt

The world of sports photography is constantly evolving. Stay up to date with the latest photography techniques, technology, and industry trends. Adapt to changes and continue improving your skills.

Build a Unique Style

Develop a unique photographic style or niche that sets you apart from the competition. Having a distinct style can make your work more memorable and attractive to clients.

The Role of an NFL Photographer

Before we delve into the financial aspect, let’s first understand the role of an NFL photographer. They are responsible for documenting the action on the field, the emotions of the players and fans, and the overall atmosphere of the game. NFL photographers play a crucial part in telling the story of each match, creating images that become iconic and unforgettable moments in the history of the sport.

The work of an NFL photographer is not limited to the actual game day. In fact, their job starts well before kickoff. They need to prepare their equipment, understand the game’s context, and plan their shots strategically. They often collaborate with editors and other professionals to ensure that their photos meet the standards and requirements of their media outlets.

On game day, photographers must be agile, creative, and quick to adapt to rapidly changing situations. They need to be in the right place at the right time to capture the decisive moments. These images are then used by various media outlets, teams, and the NFL itself for marketing, analysis, and reporting purposes.

The Different Types of NFL Photographers

The world of NFL photography consists of various types of photographers, each with their own specialization and area of focus. These categories often influence their potential earnings.

Team Photographers

Team Photographers

Team photographers are affiliated with a specific NFL team. They are responsible for capturing images of the team’s players, coaches, and staff during games, practices, and other events. Team photographers typically have a consistent income, but it may not be as high as freelance photographers who can sell their images to multiple outlets.

Sideline Photographers

Sideline photographers are responsible for capturing action shots during games. They’re often hired by media outlets, wire services, or photo agencies. Their income varies depending on their experience, reputation, and the outlets they work for.

Portrait Photographers

Portrait photographers focus on capturing individual and team portraits of NFL players. They often work on a contract basis and can earn significant fees, especially if their work is used for promotional materials, trading cards, or merchandise.

Event Photographers

Event photographers cover various NFL events, from press conferences to draft days. Their earnings depend on the specific event and their client.

Freelance Photographers

Freelance photographers have the most diverse income potential. They sell their photos to various clients, including media outlets, sponsors, and the NFL itself. However, their earnings are unpredictable and depend on the demand for their work and the quality of their images.

Factors Influencing Earnings

The earnings of NFL photographers can vary widely based on several factors.


Photographers with more experience and a proven track record tend to command higher rates for their services. They have a portfolio of successful work and established relationships within the industry, making them more attractive to clients.


A photographer’s reputation can significantly impact their earnings. A photographer known for capturing iconic moments or having a unique style can charge more for their work. High-profile clients are often willing to pay a premium for top-notch photographers.

Type of Client

The clients a photographer works with also play a role in their earnings. Photographers hired by the NFL or major media outlets can generally expect higher compensation compared to those who work for smaller or local publications.


The cost of living in the area where a photographer works can influence their earnings. Photographers in major cities may charge more for their services to account for the higher cost of living, while those in smaller markets may charge less.

Licensing and Rights

Photographers can also earn money through licensing and selling the rights to their images. This can be a significant source of income, especially for iconic or historic shots.

Hours and Travel

NFL photographers often work long hours, especially on game days, and may have to travel frequently to cover away games or events. The number of hours worked and the travel involved can impact their overall income.

Typical Earnings for NFL Photographers

It’s important to note that the earnings of NFL photographers can vary significantly. While some photographers may earn substantial incomes, others may struggle to make ends meet. Here’s a breakdown of typical earnings for various types of NFL photographers:

Team Photographers

Team photographers often receive a regular salary, ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 or more per year. These figures can vary depending on the team’s budget, the photographer’s experience, and the market they’re in.

Sideline Photographers

Freelance sideline photographers can earn around $200 to $500 per game, while experienced and well-known photographers can command higher rates, sometimes reaching $1,000 or more per game. Over a season, this can add up to a significant income.

Portrait Photographers

Portrait Photographers

Portrait photographers who work with NFL players can earn anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 per session, depending on the player’s profile and the intended use of the photos.

Event Photographers

Event photographers are often paid on a per-event basis, with rates varying depending on the event and client. Typical rates range from $100 to $500 or more per event.

Freelance Photographers

Freelance photographers have the most varied earnings. They can earn from $100 to $500 per image for editorial use, with potential for higher rates for exclusive or high-demand shots. Licensing and rights sales can also significantly boost their income.

Additional Opportunities

Aside from the core work of photographing NFL games and events, there are additional opportunities for NFL photographers to increase their income.

Merchandise Sales

Photographers may have the option to sell prints, posters, and other merchandise featuring their images. This can be a lucrative source of income, especially for photographers with a strong fan following.


Photographers who gain recognition in the industry can secure sponsorships from camera equipment manufacturers, software companies, or other related brands. These sponsorships can provide both financial support and access to top-of-the-line equipment.

Workshops and Teaching

Experienced NFL photographers can share their knowledge and skills by conducting workshops, offering one-on-one coaching, or teaching photography courses. These educational endeavors can generate an additional income stream.

Building a Portfolio

Photographers can use their work to create a portfolio that attracts a wider range of clients, including those outside the sports industry. This diversification can increase their earning potential.

Challenges and Considerations

While the earnings potential for NFL photographers can be appealing, there are several challenges and considerations to keep in mind. Let’s explore some of the challenges and considerations that individuals aspiring to become NFL photographers should keep in mind.


The field of sports photography, particularly at the NFL level, is highly competitive. Many photographers dream of capturing iconic moments in professional sports. You’ll be competing with experienced professionals who have spent years building their careers. Standing out from the competition can be a significant challenge.

High Expectations

Working as an NFL photographer comes with high expectations. The NFL has a large, passionate fan base, and they expect top-notch photography to complement the sport’s prestige. NFL teams and media outlets demand the best, and photographers must consistently deliver outstanding work.

Job Security

Job security in sports photography, including NFL photography, can be unpredictable. While team photographers may have more stability with a regular salary, freelance photographers often face uncertainty in terms of consistent work and income. Contracts can be seasonal, and opportunities can be sporadic.

Physical Demands

NFL photographers must endure the physical demands of the job. They often spend long hours on their feet, moving swiftly to capture action shots on the sidelines. Exposure to various weather conditions, such as rain or extreme cold, is also common, making it a physically demanding profession.

Press Credentials

To work as an NFL photographer, you generally need press credentials. These credentials are issued by the NFL and are usually reserved for accredited media members. Getting these credentials may be challenging, especially when you’re just starting out. It often requires a history of sports coverage and a working relationship with a recognized media outlet or agency.

Technical Expertise

The NFL’s fast-paced action requires photographers to be technically proficient. Capturing sharp and well-exposed images in challenging lighting conditions can be a struggle. Keeping up with the latest camera equipment and technology is crucial to staying competitive in the field.


NFL photographers may need to travel frequently to cover away games and events. This can be both a perk and a challenge. While it provides opportunities to experience new cities and venues, it can also be physically and mentally exhausting, particularly for those with families.

Cost of Equipment

High-quality camera gear can be expensive. To capture the best images, photographers often invest in professional-grade cameras, fast lenses, and other equipment, which can be a financial barrier for those just starting in the field.

Licensing and Rights

Negotiating licensing and usage rights for your images can be complex, and photographers need to protect their intellectual property. Understanding the legal aspects of photography, including copyright, is crucial to ensure you receive fair compensation for your work.

Building a Reputation

Building a strong reputation as an NFL photographer takes time. Earning the trust of teams, players, and media outlets can be a slow process. It often requires a track record of consistently high-quality work and professional conduct.

Creativity and Innovation

To thrive in sports photography, including NFL photography, photographers need to constantly innovate. Finding new ways to capture the action and convey the emotion of the game is essential to producing memorable images.

Post-Processing Skills

Capturing great images is only part of the process. Post-processing skills are vital to enhance and refine the photos before publication. Mastery of editing software and color correction is essential.

Ethical Considerations

Photographers should be mindful of ethical considerations in sports photography. This includes respecting the privacy of athletes, adhering to event rules, and maintaining a high level of professionalism at all times.

Despite the challenges, becoming an NFL photographer can be a rewarding and fulfilling career for those who are passionate about both photography and the sport. Success in this field often requires a combination of talent, perseverance, networking, and ongoing dedication to your craft.


How much does an average NFL photographer earn?

An average NFL photographer’s earnings can vary widely, but they can make anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 or more per year, depending on factors like experience, reputation, and type of clients.

Do I need special credentials to become an NFL photographer?

Yes, to work as an NFL photographer, you typically need press credentials issued by the NFL, which are usually reserved for accredited media members with a history of sports coverage and a working relationship with recognized media outlets.

What’s the biggest challenge in NFL photography?

One of the biggest challenges in NFL photography is the intense competition. Many photographers aspire to capture iconic moments in professional sports, making it crucial to stand out with a unique style and consistently high-quality work.


In conclusion, a career as an NFL photographer is a challenging yet rewarding journey. The path to becoming one is paved with competition, high expectations, and the need for technical prowess.

Job security can be uncertain, and the physical demands can be taxing. Securing press credentials and acquiring the right equipment present their own obstacles. However, with determination, networking, and an unwavering passion for both photography and football, aspiring photographers can overcome these challenges. Building a strong reputation and unique style, mastering post-processing, and understanding the legal and ethical aspects of the profession are all critical components of success.

While it may take time to break into the NFL photography scene, those who persist and adapt to changes in the industry can find themselves in a position to capture the iconic moments and stories that define the sport. It’s a field that demands dedication and creativity, offering the chance to be part of the captivating narrative that is NFL football.

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