When it comes to capturing awe-inspiring images of world famous athletes, Sports Illustrated photographers are at the top of their game. The popular American sports magazine is read by more than 25 million people each week and its photographers are among of the most revered in the industry.
Famous Sports Illustrated Photographers
Sports Illustrated's tradition of printing some of the most influential images of all time began shortly after the magazine's inception in 1954. In the decades that followed the first issue, the publication has helped shape the careers of dozens of fledging photographers.
Sports Illustrated Photo Pioneers
Hy Peskin (1915-2005)
Hy Peskin was the first staff photographer hired by Sports Illustrated. During his tenure with the magazine, he earned the title of "World's Best Sideline Photographer" and etched his place in history as a pioneer in the field of sports photography. Peskin helped rewrite history by becoming the first sports photographer to shoot from outside of the press box. The determined Brooklyn born shutterbug had a reputation for climbing up on the roof of press boxes to obtain more interesting shots. In his early days, he was known for the stunning pictures he took of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Peskin went on to capture one of the greatest sports photographs of the twentieth century, an image of Ben Hogan of playing a one-shot iron to the green at the 72nd hole of the 1950 US Open. The photo was ranked by Sports Illustrated as one of the Top 10 greatest sports photographs of all time. During his career at Sports Illustrated, Peskin's photos graced the magazine's cover 40 times.
Herb Scharfman (1912-1998)
The Chicago native is best-known for capturing one of the most iconic pictures in photojournalism history. Scharfman's shot of Rocky Marciano's knockout punch in a 1952 bout against Jersey Joe Walcott helped make him a household name, and eventually secured him a job with Sports Illustrated. Scharfman is also well known for chronicling baseball great Roger Maris during his pursuit of Babe Ruth's single-season home run record in 1961. Scharfman's shot of that record breaking moment is considered by many as one of baseball's most famous photos.
Howard Bingham is one of the United State's most celebrated African-American photographers. The 70-year-old sports photographer is best known for his work documenting Muhammad Ali. Sports Illustrated hired Bingham in the 1970s to capture Ali's every move during his match-up with George Foreman in the first world heavyweight boxing championship held in Zaire. Bingham's poignant and candid sports photos have earned him numerous awards and a spot in the Smithsonian institute.
Current Sports Illustrated Shooting Stars
Walter Iooss Jr.
He is known the world over as "Mr. Sports Illustrated." Walter Iooss Jr. is a legend in the field of sports photography having shot the cover of Sports Illustrated a record-setting 300 times, including 10 of the magazine's famous swimsuit covers. Iooss has documented every major sports figure from baseball great Roger Maris, golf phenom Tiger Woods, tennis superstar Serena Williams, basketball superstar Michael Jordan, and baseball 500-home run hitter Ken Griffey, Jr. to boxing champs Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier and three-time NFL MVP Brett Favre. The 65-year-old sports shutterbug received his first Sports Illustrated assignment back in 1961 and continues to shoot for the magazine today. During his tenure with the publication, Iooss has captured some of the most famous sports photographs ever, including his legendary January 18, 1982, Sports Illustrated cover photo. The image depicts Dwight Clark, then San Francisco 49ers wide receiver, making a leaping catch from quarterback Joe Montana. The touchdown sunk the Dallas Cowboys for the season and gave the 49ers a ticket to Super Bowl XVI.
Neil Leifer earned his first Sports Illustrated cover shot in 1962 at the age of 19. Since then, the world-renown sports photographer has gone on to snap an additional 150 cover shots. In 1965, Leifer made history by capturing some of the only color photos of Muhammad Ali knocking out Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Maine. Leifer's other crowning career achievement with the magazine was a year-long shooting spree, in which he shot 32 of sport's biggest events including the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, the Daytona 500, Wimbledon, the British Open and the Tour de France.
David Bergman is currently one of Sports Illustrated's brightest photo stars. The New York based shooter has covered every major American sporting event and his work has been featured in the magazine dozens of times. Since joining the Sports Illustrated team, the veteran photojournalist says he has had to readjust to shooting on film versus digital since the publication deals primarily with traditional 35 mm cameras. Bergman says he typically shoots between 30 to 35 rolls of film per event, but of those images only one or two are published. One of his most notable shots came after a NBA playoff game. Shortly after the Miami Heat lost to the New York Knicks Bergman captured a prize-winning shot of a dejected Alonzo Mourning walking off the court while the Knicks celebrated in the background.
Tips from the Pros
Sports Illustrated photographers are some of the best in the business and they are not shy about sharing their insights with amateur shooters. Useful tips and rare behind-the-scenes stories about shooting for the popular sports magazine are available online, including:
If you are interested in pursuing a career in sports photography, the aforementioned guides are worth checking out. Good luck!