Guest Post: History and Role of Photography in Sports

Over its 200-year history, sports photography has given us a glimpse into the highs and lows of sports, the passion of the athletes and the love of the spectators. While today, anyone can take their phone out and capture a great shot, it was not always the case. In order to immortalize the sacrifices and the happiness of winning moments, photographers of the past had to be almost as athletic as their models and very skilled and lucky. So let’s see how the history of sports photography unfolded and why we need amazing athletic shots in our lives.

Early days of sports photography

Starting as simple photojournalism, sports photography evolved into a very respected art form. It relies on the photographic medium and its advancements to immortalize certain moments that have been present in human history since ancient times and the first Olympics. Since the very beginning of the 20th century, photographers have been capturing athletes, their impressive forms and even more impressive feats. When the first sports photography was in development, both high and low classes of people started being more interested in sports, which brought great interest for players’ portraits, team shots and action shots. These early shots were mostly posed, with baseball players with bats in hand, teams lined up neatly, etc.

The rise of sports photography

As the quality of the camera improved and we gained access to better shutter speeds, sporting photos started becoming more elaborate and respected, even among collectors. At that time, people could enjoy more spontaneous photos and photos of sporting action. In the 1950s, after the shutter speed increased even more, we got the first issue of Sports Activities Illustrated, a magazine reserved for athletic achievements and those that capture all the wonders of sports.

Modern sports photography

Today, thanks to incredible photo quality, zoom, speed and precision, we have entire exhibitions dedicated to specific sports. Sports photography found its way to galleries, art exhibits, photography conventions, art fairs, and even high-end museums and art institutions. There are courses that teach aspiring sports photographers how to snap the best shots and how to use technology to capture the soul of the game. Sports photography is respected due to the incredible skills it takes from the photographer and the artistic quality of something that’s often organic and unintentional.

Purpose of sports photography

Sports photography has many purposes. It can motivate people to achieve great feats, help people relive certain sporting moments and allow managers and coaches to analyze certain instances in the game. Additionally, sports photography is crucial for personal and business brand promotion. For instance, in Australia, which is a proud sporting nation, sports photography is a huge industry worth millions of dollars. Any brand can hire an award-winning photographer in Brisbane to capture bold, dynamic and creative shots that will stay in people’s minds. This type of sports photography is crucial for the promotion of athletic wear, sporting gear, gyms and sporting events.

The historical importance of sports photography

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a sports photograph is worth a few thousand at least. With one shot, the audience can be instantly transported to the captured moment, relive the match and awaken the emotions only competition can spark. Sports photography is also a way to stay in touch with current events.

With photography, people can enjoy freeze-frames of iconic moments in history that have sporting, emotional and historical significance. It’s well-known that sports can be a great fuse for all sorts of movements, taking a social and political significance. For instance, thanks to sports photography, millions of people can remember the significant moment from the 1968 Olympic Games that saw two Black US runners raising a black-glowed hand as a sign of defiance against their country’s politics. We can also remember George W Bush throwing the first pitch after 9/11, giving hope and cheer to all those affected by trauma. Thanks to sports photography, we can see and remember these important moments for years to come.

We’re lucky to live in times of excellent technology, great zoom and even drones that can capture some super impressive athletic photos. Sports photography has managed to establish itself as an important player in the arena of art, and we can only expect to see more and more of it in the upcoming years.

Author Bio:

Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.

E-mail:; G+:

3 thoughts on “Guest Post: History and Role of Photography in Sports

Add yours

  1. Not to mention the effect it has on the bodybuilding world; photography enabled those statues from antiquity to finally come to life.

    It allowed people to see what they looked like beyond the mirror in real time, and most importantly, make comparisons against the physiques of others.

    Sandow and Macfadden were two of the first to hold contests asking the public to submit photos which was revolutionary for the time.

    1. Absolutely on BBing. I loved that they used to make cartes du visite that people would leave at each others’ houses. There’s something quaint about not being at home when a friend called and them leaving you a small photograph of them hitting a most muscular!

Tell Me What You Think!

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: