First, a desire and passion. You can purchase gear at anytime and at many places. Desire and passion are things you can only find inside yourself. Without those, photography is just another day job.
Next, equipment. Obviously it’s tough to be a photographer without equipment and there are so many choices when it comes to gear, where do you begin? Also, budget is a very important consideration as well as what kind of sports photographer you want to be. If you want to shoot baseball or soccer, your lens size is a big consideration. Shooting at night as opposed to daytime is also something to factor in.
What I am going to do is give you an idea of a basic setup to get you started that won’t set you back too far financially or cause you to take out a second mortgage or sell a kidney or two.
Now, I go against the grain a little when it comes to the philosophy of camera gear. It has been stated ad nauseum that it’s the photographer and not the gear that makes a great photo. My belief is that it is a combination of the two. As a photographer you need to have a very firm understanding of constructing exposure and how to get the shot under any condition. However, without the right equipment, this can be difficult due to the limitations of lower end gear.
When you are first starting out, most times you are on a limited budget. You are not sure if you just want to shoot sports as a hobby, as a way to capture memories of your young athlete’s moments, or just for the fun of learning something new. As a result of not having the necessary funds to dive deep into photography by spending $10,000 or more, you will have to make some sacrifices when it comes to gear. A Nikon D3300 will not perform as well as a Nikon D5 and a Canon EOS Rebel T6 will not perform at the level of the Canon EOS 1DX.
What I have found working with lower end gear is that you will come to a point where you will become frustrated because you aren’t getting the shots you want, even though you have a strong foundation of photography. And the reason is that you will reach a point where you have a firm grasp of photography but have outgrown your equipment. You will realize, for instance, that some camera gear has a tough time handling low light situations especially when that is compounded by dark uniforms. The gear will fail you and you will have less keepers. At that point you will need to make the decision on how to proceed. Do you upgrade or do you stay at your current level. But, that is a discussion for another time.
Ok, you have the desire and passion. Now, you need equipment. Since you are just starting out, my advice would be to head on down to your local professional photography store. I suggest this not because you should shop local and they probably know more than you. I suggest this because you can read reviews and specs until your eyes are bloodshot from looking at your computer screen but there’s nothing like having gear in hand. You might like the feel and button placement of the Canon better than the Nikon. A Sony may fit your hand better than a Fuji.
Also, Once you settle on a manufacturer, whether it’s Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc. jumping ship and climbing aboard another is expensive. It’s an investment in not only camera bodies but also lenses and accessories. So, pick up different cameras, within your predetermined budget, and see what feels best. You can’t go wrong with any of the big manufacturers.