DuBois Area graduate Sarah Snyder grew up around sports and while she picked up photography in high school, she never thought of combining the two to make a career.
Now, just two years removed from graduating from Penn State, Snyder — who is just 23 — is set to move to Los Angeles to begin work as the lead photographer and digital asset manager for the Rams of the National Football League.
She will become the lone current lead female photographer and just the second woman to ever hold that position with a team in the NFL.
Up until her senior year, Snyder had zero experience with sports photography, as she noted until that point she considered photography nothing more than a hobby, using her talents to shoot weddings and portraits.
Then, in her final year at University Park, she took a job as a photographer for Onward State, a student-run news and sports blog on campus, as a photographer and began to shoot PSU athletic events.
Snyder, who originally went to college planning to become a business consultant, fallowing in the steps of her father, said she from that point on she was hooked and knew she wanted to find a career in photography after graduation in 2018.
“It (photography) just always seemed like more of a hobby and something that I enjoyed very much, but I think the fact that I did enjoy it made me kind of dismiss it from being a real job,” Snyder said. “Then when I shot athletic events when I was in college that’s when it really clicked for me.”
After graduation, Snyder applied for jobs in both the business and photography fields, noting she stumbled upon a job opening for a Live Content Correspondent for the NFL in Pittsburgh.
“I took a shot and honestly forgot about even applying, then a few months later I got a phone call where they interviewed me and ending up hiring me that day,” Snyder said.
“From there, I moved to Pittsburgh and was shooting for the Steelers and I think last year being in Pittsburgh kind of solidified ‘yeah I want to be a team photographer’”.
Snyder noted her main roles as a LCC were to cover games as well as team and player events, as she added it was an interesting experience to see all the different teams come to town and the different ways teams go about game days.
She added that the job gave her a good understanding of what went into a game day, but she wanted to learn more about what went into the other six days of a week for a photographer.
“That is what drove to to want to intern, due to the fact that I had never really had any prior sports photography experience and absolutely no mentors in the past that taught me here’s what you do and why,” Snyder said.
“That led me to apply to internships last year and I ended up getting to work with Dan Szpakowski at the New York Jets, who is one of my favorite photographers in the league.”
With the Jets, Snyder said she worked as a second photographer behind Szpakowski and spent most of her time editing, covering practices and community events while also helping manage a group of freelancers.
She added that while her position with the team was just an internship, the organization gave her a lot of autonomy and prepared her well for when she took a lead photographer role.
That opportunity came this year, as Snyder will be starting her lead photographer position with the Rams April 6, making her the only lead female photographer, and just one of five female photographers overall, in the league.
“It will be a lot of responsibilities I had with the New York Jets and I’m really thankful for the Jets giving me so much responsibility to set me up for it,” Snyder said.
As for being the lone female lead photographer, Snyder noted just in the last couple of years there has been more and more female representation in jobs amongst the NFL.
“It’s a really cool experience, a lot of people ask me how it is being a female in the NFL, but at the end of the day, as long as you are leading with professionalism, the players respect you and you have that working rapport with them,” Snyder said.
In her new position, Snyder said on the football side of things she will shoot games, practices, OTAs (organized team actives and training camp, along with covering sponsorship and marketing requests along with doing community relations work.
On top of all that, she will also manage a team of freelancers and a photo and social media intern.
In her first couple of years in the field, Snyder noted what she enjoys most is the community of photographers and the friendships she has made.
“Its really fun getting to go and meet everyone and see your friends and people that are also in the field that understand everything that you’re going through and the crazy nature of the job,” Snyder said. “It’s just a very tight-knit community and its really nice, everything looks out for one another and its very supportive.”
She also said she enjoys the challenge of shooting sports, noting its a much faster pace than her previous experiences in photography with weddings and portraits.
“The fast nature of the game, the excitement and energy in the stadiums is a really fun challenge to try to encompass all at once,” Snyder said.
“The level of excitement you add as well as the challenge of having to understand the game and have football acumen in order to do your job well made it really exciting for me.”
Snyder, who played basketball and golf as well as a little bit of everything growing up, said she has always enjoyed the camaraderie of football, noting her family would always gather around the TV on Sundays to watch Steelers games.
“It’s been incredible, especially to be a life-long Steelers fan and for my first job in the NFL to be working with the Steelers, was kind of incredible, so many of those players I had been watching on television since I was little,” Snyder said.
“It was cool going to the Jets this past year because the hired on Hines Ward (offensive assistant) and that was just so cool getting to have a professional relationship with him was just unreal since I had grown up watching him.”
She added that while it has been a cool experience to meet all the players, at the end of the day they are just regular people who are working hard to get their job done, just like she is.
Snyder noted she is looking forward to the job with the Rams who are revamping their brand with a new logo announced Monday, new uniforms and a new stadium set to open this season.
“They have a lot of really exciting stuff going on, so from a photo standpoint, you are capturing the brand and direction that the team is headed in,” Snyder said.
She will be hitting the ground running with the NFL Draft set to take place in less than a month, adding she will be forced to work from home at the start due to the shelter in place order in effect in California due to the coronavirus.
“It’s been a pretty wild ride, especially for never really seeing myself doing this, it’s been pretty crazy, Snyder said. “It’s been really exciting so far and I’m looking forward to everything that’s going to come when I move to L.A.”