Sports photography keeps us connected to the sports we love. If we miss the action live, we can see the photos later. We can follow our favourite athletes as they prepare or compete.
But sports photography takes a lot of skill. The photographer has to know where the players will be and what the fans want to see. They have to be able to get the shot signifies the whole event.
If you’re a sports fan, you need to check out our list of the 25 most influential sports photographers. And if you’re looking for a career in sports photography, then there’s plenty here to inspire you.
What Makes a Great Sports Photographer?
Sports photographers need to master their equipment. They’ll need a good telephoto lens and camera with a fast burst speed. Those players move fast!
But it’s not just about the technicalities. Sports photographers give us ring-side seats and backstage passes. They give amateurs at home a professional’s eye view. They fuel our interest and keep us involved.
Sports photography is about bridging the gap between the fans and the players. Even if we’re viewing images on our phones while we ride the bus, we want to hear the cheers and smell the sweat.
Sports photography keeps passions burning and brings new fans into the flock.
25 Most Influential Sports Photographers to Follow
Let’s dive into our list of the most influential sports photographers in 2021.
Zak Noyle | @zaknoyle
Zak Noyle is a master of surf photography. He has his timings nailed down, and he knows when the wave is going to break. The surf action shots are great. But his work is about much more than that.
Zak uses the sea to fill his photos with energy and movement. And the aquatic blues and greens are a pleasure on the eye. The sea is as much his subject as the surfers.
He gives you access to the life of the surfer. With his photos, you’re either on the beach or in the sea. You can smell the salt and feel the waves. If you look at his portfolio long enough, you might even get a tan! Zak reminds you that surfing isn’t only a sport, but it’s a lifestyle too.
Atiba Jefferson | @atibaphoto
Atiba Jefferson is a photographer centered on the arena of skateboarding. As with surfing, skateboarding is as much about lifestyle as it is about sport. Atiba is fully aware of this, and it shows in his work.
His shots are full of action. And his collection from the Tokyo Olympics is inspiring. He captures the best riders and tricks, immersing you in the world of professional skateboarding.
Maria Svarbova | @maria.svarbova
Maria’s work is concentrated on swimming and other in-pool sports. But her photography isn’t about races and competitions. Instead, she uses the pool as the center of her fine art photography.
Her work is stylised and curated. She uses the lines of the pool and the tile work. And she plays with geometric shapes. Swimmers are used to add more natural shapes and their costumes add splashes of color.
The shapes are sharp, and her composition is bold. The colors are bright but muted. Maria is an art photographer working in the world of sports.
Cameron Look | @koolmac
Cameron Look is the hottest young photographer on the basketball scene. His photographer gives you a court-side seat so you can catch the action.
Cameron’s work isn’t just about slam dunks and three-pointers. He gives you an insight into the wider world of basketball. His work features some of the biggest names in basketball. And you get to see them in more candid environments.
His images capture the atmosphere inside the area. They’re fast-paced and electric, like the game itself. Cameron is a great promoter for one of America’s most popular sports.
Lucas Murnaghan | @lucasmurnaghan
The photography of Lucas Murnaghan is centered in and around the swimming pool. But it’s not all galas and events. He’s another fine art photographer that uses the pool as his studio.
Lucas is a master of underwater photography. He creates another atmosphere beneath the surface of the water. As well as having beautiful compositions, his shots are atmospheric and dream-like.
He uses male models, but it’s almost as if water is his subject. He uses it to manipulate light and create texture.
Claudio Villa | @claudiovillaphotographer
Claudio Villa is an Italian football photographer. He works in collaboration with the Serie A team Inter Milan. And he was the official photographer for the Italian national side during their victorious campaign in Euro 2020.
He does have some stunning images from the pitch. But his work isn’t just about the game of football. He understands the personalities within the game. His portraits and vivid shots all bring the viewer closer to the players and managers.
An international soccer tournament is a journey. Naturally, fans want to take that journey with their team. And this is what Claudio’s sports photography does.
Grant Brittain | @jgrantbrittain
Grant Brittain is a photographer that lives and breathes skateboarding. He’s been documenting the sport for over 40 years. And his work still looks fresh and exciting.
His sports photography is candid and energetic. He gets up close to the skateboarders. And, using wide-angle lenses, he creates a fish-eye effect. Even his portraits seem lively and spontaneous.
He’s an integrated member of the skateboarding community. And his sports photography allows you entry too. Skateboarding is a well-established sport, but Grant maintains a feeling of rebelliousness. As a result, the true ethos of skateboarding is alive in his portfolio.
Brad Mangin | @bmangin
Brad is a sports photographer with a passion for baseball. He clearly has a deep respect for this great American pass-time.
He does have plenty of stunning shots from the diamond. But Brad’s photography is more personal and affectionate than the standard photos you might see in Sports Illustrated. His photography captures the personalities of the game. And he provides context and history.
His style of sports photography isn’t just about the sport. Instead, it’s an intimate look at the community of professional baseball.
Russell Ord | @russellordphoto
Russell Ord has a deep affection for the sea. And a strong respect for surfers. You can sense it in his sports photography collection.
He’s immersed in the world of surfing. But his work focuses as much on the sea as it does on the surfers. His photography portrays the idea that surfers are working with the sea, not against it. You can feel the power of the waves as they break before the shore.
His surf collection is moody, with a sense of danger. His composition is stunning, and the colors are deep and cold.
Patrick Koenig | @pjkoenig
Saying Patrick Koenig has an interest in golf would be an understatement. He’s a golf photographer, blogger, and all-round enthusiast.
His photography is fun and expresses his love of golf. The enthusiasm is infectious and calls you out on to the course. And the courses take center stage in his photography work.
Much of his collection is stunning landscapes as he documents golf courses all over the globe. The colors are rich greens and blues. And he knows how to exploit the golden hour sunlight. So even if you’re not a golf fan, you’ll find yourself surveying the green.
Kirill Umrikhin | @kirillumrikhin
Kirill is more than just a sports photographer. He’s a Russian thrill-seeker. And his photography is about adventure just as much as it is about sports. There’s no single sport he focuses on. So whether you’re surfing the ocean or boarding down a mountain, Kirill will be there.
His photography is full of action and drama. And he has a broad skill set. His underwater photography is incredible, and his landscapes are stunning. You’ll even be impressed by the wildlife photography.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, then you will get a thrill from Kirill’s photography. It’s fast and intense. It will make your pulse quicken even if you’re sitting on your sofa.
Brian Bielmann | @brianbielmann
Brian Bielmann is another sports photographer with a love of the ocean. His surf photography is bold and epic. The waves are huge, and the action is intense. And yet, Brian maintains an air of tranquillity in his work.
Brian’s photography isn’t just about the surf. His work is a testament to the surfer lifestyle. It’s not about competitions or medals. It’s about the sea, sun, and sand. Spend too long in Brian’s portfolio, and you might find yourself quitting your job and heading out to catch the surf in Hawaii!
Savannah Cummins | @sav.cummins
Professional climbing is a sport on the rise. And the photography of Savannah Cummins is definitely helping the popularity grow.
Her photography is jaw-dropping. There are stunning landscapes and mountains. But the climbing picture will surely raise your pulse. If you don’t have a head for heights, you might get a bit dizzy.
And it’s not just the thrill of climbing. She documents the nomadic lifestyle that goes with it. She’s a sports photographer, but travel plays a big part too. It’s a window into a world of adventure.
Philip Edsel | @edsel
The photography of Philip Edsel is less about sport and more about the athletes. He’s a fashion and commercial photographer working with the world’s greatest athletes.
His commercial photography is stylish and trendy. His images are curated and considered. But the athletes appear energetic and candid. There’s nothing stale about his photography. He can change from a studio setting with harsh artificial lighting to soft natural locations.
If you’re into sports and commercial photography, Philip is one to watch. He’s worked with top athletes and top brands.
Donald Miralle | @donaldmiralle
When it comes to sports photography, Donald Miralle is the ultimate all-rounder. He’s a lover of all sports, and his focus is broad.
The Tokyo Olympics was the perfect place for Donald to demonstrate his abilities with a camera. On the track or in the pool, his collection is filled with sharp and dynamic shots. His composition is excellent, and you get a real sense of the occasion.
Donald understands the inspirational side of sport. He embraces it and shares it in his sports photography.
Pelle Cass | @pellecass
Pelle Cass is a fine art photographer that uses sport as a subject matter. He uses camera skills and trickery to make vibrant and humorous images. Pelle uses a lot of time-lapse and multi-layering to craft his images.
Sports photography is usually full of movement and energy. But Pelle takes it to an extreme. His images are overloaded with movement—they seem to vibrate. And even though Pelle is an art photographer, he maintains a sense of fun.
Patrick Smith | @patricksmithphotos
Patrick Smith is a sports photographer in the classic sense. He’s a lover of all sporting events. And no matter what the area, he’ll get some great shots.
Patrick is all about capturing the action on the day. It’s about the excitement of the fans and the special occasions. You’d expect to see his images in magazines and on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Patrick’s portfolio is an advert for sports. Even if you’re not particularly sporty, he makes you want to get involved. Whether it’s on the pitch or the racetrack, you want to be there.
Tom Pennington | @penningtonphoto
Tom Pennington is another all-round sports photographer. He shots different sporting events around the world. There’s a wide variety, but he does have his favourites.
Swimming is one of his main sporting interests. And some of his images from the pool at the Tokyo Olympics are iconic. Skiing and boxing are other sports Tom is clearly passionate about. His work in those areas is definitely worth checking out.
Tom is based in Dallas, Texas. And much of his work involved the sports teams from that state. It’s a fascinating window into American sports if you’re not from the USA.
Michael Willson | @michaelcwillson
If you’re not from Australia, you might not be familiar with Aussie rules football. But down under, it’s their biggest sporting passion. And Michael Willson covers this corner of the market.
Michael is the biggest photographer in the field of Aussie Rules. His photography work is excellent. His images are fast-moving and hard-hitting, like the sport itself. He’s an ambassador for Australian Rules football at home and abroad.
Tristan Shu | @tristanshu
Tristan Shu is a French sports photographer with a sense of adventure. He travels around the globe shooting the sports he loves. And they’re not your average Sunday league sports. These are adventure sports. Motocross, mountain biking, and paragliding are just a few.
His website encourages you to go off-piste. You’ll be inspired to go off-road in search of a new thrill. You’ll get muddy, you could even get hurt, but that’s all part of the fun.
His photography skills are excellent too. He’s also done commercial photography for major brands, such as Adidas and Honda.
Sterling Lorence | @eyeroam
Sterling Lorence is an actions sports photographer. He’s based in Vancouver but roams around the world shooting sports.
His niche is mountain biking. It takes him to some of the most beautiful regions of the world. Thankfully for us, he has the skill to capture stunning images that immerse you in the locations. His action shots are fantastic. But it’s his abilities as a landscape photographer that really stand out.
Teddy Morellec | @teddymorellec
Teddy is another sports photographer that can’t sit still. He travels around the world shooting different types of sport. His real passion is action sports, like biking and snowboarding.
Teddy is unlike many other sports photographers. All his work seems informal as if he’s shooting a group of friends. Everyone is having fun, and you feel involved. Teddy will inspire you to book that trip you’ve never committed to. It’s all about enjoying the moment.
David Bergman | @davidbergman
David Bergman is a sports photography veteran. He’s been capturing the action for over 30 years. And his images have even graced the cover of Sports Illustrated.
In recent years, David has moved into music photography. But when it comes to sports, he is still a master with the camera. He can shoot live sporting events, making you feel like you’re there. But he’s great in the studio too. He’s done promotional shoots for many top athletes and brands.
Will Fox | @thefoxidentity
MMA is a sport on the rise. And Will Fox is a sports photographer that understands what it’s all about.
It’s a brutal sport. And even though Will’s photography isn’t violent, his imagery is stark and hard. He shows you that it’s not just about what happens in the ring. It’s the hard hours of training and the isolation that goes with it. MMA might be too violent for some, but Will’s work has depth and soul.
Al Bello | @albello55
If you need to find Al Bello, he’ll probably be by the pool. He’s a specialist in water sports. Whether it’s diving, synchronised swimming, or water polo, Al will capture it.
He’s not limited to water sports, either. He’s a great all-rounder and a safe pair of hands for any major sporting event. Some of his most powerful work comes from shooting individual athletes. Al has a talent for capturing intimate moments of athletes training.
Sports photographers need to have excellent technical skills. The action is fast, and you need to capture the shot, or it will be lost forever.
But sports photographers do more than shoot the action on the pitch or in the ring. They keep us connected to the sports we love. Or they inspire us to try something new.
We hope our list of the 25 most influential photographers has inspired you to pick up your camera or dust off your old boots and get active!
If you want to capture action shots but prefer nature and wildlife to sports, check out our Wonderful Wildlife eBook!