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I Want Your Job: Sports photographer

'I've always got a game plan'

Alex McRae
Thursday 03 August 2006 00:00 BST

Ross Kinnaird, 48, is a sports photographer for Getty Images, the world's largest photographic agency. He specialises in football and golf photography, and has just covered the World Cup and the Open Championships.

What does your work actually involve?

During the World Cup, I followed the England team everywhere, to photograph training sessions and games. When you arrive at a sports event, you can be knocking around for quite a bit before taking pictures, getting accreditation and finding a good position.

If there's a pause in the action, I'll be hunched over a laptop, downloading photographs, editing and captioning as I go, and then transmitting them to the office via a mobile phone.

Then Getty sends them out to newspapers and magazines all over the world. Speed is vital, asthere'll probably be six other guys sitting near you - you'll be very lucky to be the only one to get an image.

What do you really love about it?

I still get a huge buzz from seeing my pictures published. There's nothing better than taking a picture one day, and seeing it in the newspapers the next.

People nearly always remember an iconic image from an event, rather than a television moment - that's what gets etched in their minds. And for a failed sportsman like me, and many of my colleagues, there's nothing better than working in sport. It's great fun. I couldn't do a nine-to-five job.

What's not so wonderful about it?

The lengthy periods away from home are hard. You see a lot of hotel rooms and airports, but not much of the cities you're going to, so the travelling can get monotonous. And gone are the days when sports photographers had assistants helping them. Nowadays, you really are a one-man band, so there's a lot of lugging tons of camera equipment around.

What skills does someone need to be a really great sports photographer?

The autofocus cameras have levelled out some of the technical skills, but you still need a good knowledge of sport, and sports personalities, as sport has become so personality-based. When you're at an event, you've got to try to predict what's going to happen. I always go to an event with a bit of a game plan.

I try to visualise pictures instead of just snapping away, waiting for things to happen. If you don't want to miss a great picture, you've really got to concentrate - it's no good getting carried away because your favourite team is playing.

Is there any advice you'd give to someone who wanted to be a sports photographer?

Gather together a good portfolio of pictures and hike around to as many agencies and newspapers as possible. There's nothing to stop you going down to the local athletics track and taking pictures. Just try to stand out from the crowd.

You don't need to take the same pictures as everyone else. Sometimes there's a good reason for all the photographers at an event to be in one position, but if you can, try to move away and find a different angle. I also really believe that you have to love photography, and not just the idea of being a photographer.

That's what takes you there - enjoying what you're doing, rather than what everyone thinks you're doing.

What is the salary and career path like?

A photographer at Getty might start out on £20,000 a year, but they'd come to a big picture agency like Getty with some experience.

There are a lot of departments, so you could move into news or entertainment photography. Or you could move to work on a picture desk, or be a picture editor at a newspaper or magazine.

For more information on Getty Images, go to For more details on training and careers in photography, go to Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries, at; the Association of Photographers, at; the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP), at; or the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), at

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