Richard Heathcote

A golfer swings his arm back to take a shot as crowds watch from the banks of a lake behind him in a photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

Golf is one of Canon Ambassador Richard Heathcote's favourite sports to photograph and he regularly covers major international tournaments. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens at 1/1600 sec, f/2 and ISO 200. © Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Richard Heathcote is among the most respected sports photographers working today and has over 25 years of professional experience. His globetrotting career has included covering FIFA World Cup and Rugby World Cup tournaments, several Olympic Games and all of golf's major championships.

Born and raised in Hertfordshire, UK, Richard initially became interested in photography at around the age of 14. He was inspired by his father, a keen amateur photographer, who taught him to process and print analogue photographs at home.

His passion for the medium grew and he went on to study photography at two further education colleges, which gave him a good general grounding in all aspects of photography. Afterwards he moved to London and began working as a freelancer shooting news and events for a year, before specialising in sports photography and working for Action Images.

"I always enjoyed watching sports and what got me into sports photography was seeing really powerful sports pictures," he says. "I learned a lot by looking at those pictures and trying to figure out how they were done." His first Canon camera was the EOS 5, a state-of-the-art film camera when released, which he bought in the 1990s. He has been using Canon kit exclusively since 2002.

A black and white headshot of Canon Ambassador Richard Heathcote.
Location: Buckinghamshire, UK

Specialist area: Sport

Favourite kit: Canon EOS R3
Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM

Richard's growing reputation as a sports photographer led to him being offered a job at Getty Images in 2004 and he has stayed with the agency ever since. He has regularly covered a range of domestic sports including football, rugby and boxing, but has particularly enjoyed major tournaments.

A skier performing a mid-air trick with tall chimneys and industrial buildings in the background in a photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

An athlete performs a trick during a Women's Freestyle Skiing Big Air Training session in Beijing, China. Taken on a Canon EOS R3 with a Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 135mm, 1/5300 sec, f/3.2 and ISO 200. © Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

"I especially enjoy the big events, such as the Olympics or football World Cups, where I'm working as part of a big team of photographers and other staff," says Richard. "These events are hard work with long hours, but I enjoy them because you get to work with colleagues and friends from around the globe. You get to see different people's styles and bounce ideas off each other."

He is also interested in the technology that helps sports photographers get great shots and he has helped develop robotic camera systems which allow multiple cameras to be placed in locations where it's not possible to put a photographer. This technology is now used widely in the coverage of sports events.

Richard's dedication, detailed sports knowledge, technical skill and eye for a great picture have brought him recognition in the form of several top sports photography awards. They have included the 2019 Sports Journalists' Association Photographer of the Year award and being named the Overall Winner in the 2020 World Sports Photography Awards.

Shot from above, a long jumper lands in the sand pit, her long braids swinging around her head, in a photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

Richard helped develop Canon's robotic camera system, which allows cameras to be placed where it's not possible to put a photographer. Shot using Canon Robotic Camera System CR-S700R, this image shows long jumper Tara Davis-Woodhall of Team United States. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at 400mm, 1/2000 sec, f/5.6 and ISO 1000. © Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

What, for Richard, makes an outstanding sports image? "It's a cliché, but the picture almost has to leap out of the page or screen at you," he says. "You can take interesting sports pictures with lots of detail, but primarily a good sports picture has to have instant impact and show a moment. It makes you feel the power of the boxer's punch or the emotion of the footballer celebrating; it draws you in as if you were there. It makes you look at it and think, 'Wow!'

"Really strong, amazing pictures don't come along very often, but it's great to take one of those pictures where everyone thinks, 'I remember that sporting moment, and that's the picture that captures it.'"

What's the best way to get started in sports photography?

"Start with local sports such as football and rugby so you can get practice and understand what you need to do to get good pictures. Professional equipment is expensive, but you don't need that to begin with. You can get great sports photos on a 200mm lens if you're patient and wait for the action to come to you. Just don't try to shoot something that's beyond the means of the equipment you have."

What's your favourite tournament to photograph?

"I love Ryder Cups. Golf is an individual sport where they only play in a team once every two years and it's amazing to see golfers competing as a team and experiencing the team mentality. The atmosphere is like nothing I've ever experienced; it builds until it reaches a massive crescendo at the end. I'd recommend anyone to experience it if they can."

What do you aim to achieve when you photograph a sports event?

"From a journalistic point of view, I'm there to tell the story, so I want to capture the picture that tells the story of that event. From a photographic point of view, I want that picture to be the best it can be – I want really good light, really good action and a really good angle, shot on the right lens."

How does someone become a successful sports photographer?

"The key thing is to really know your sport, but you also need to be very persistent and willing to put in the time and effort to keep improving. It's also important to develop your own style. You need to incorporate your own way of seeing things and not lose that individuality if you want to stand out long-term."

One thing I know

Richard Heathcote

"To shoot great sports pictures, you need to understand and know what you're going to shoot. You can't just rock up to an event completely blind and expect to come away with everything you need. You need to know your subject, know what's likely to happen and have a plan for that. The better prepared you are, the more you've thought about what you want to do and get out of something, the better the results are going to be."

Instagram: @rheathcote

Twitter/X: @rheathcote


Richard Heathcote's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Richard Heathcote's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS R3

A camera that lets you photograph sport, wildlife and news like never before. Its Eye Detection and Face Detection AF enables you to lock on to subjects with blazing speed and precision. "It's my main go-to camera and I have two of them," says Richard. "I can rely on it to do the job brilliantly."

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

With its 20MP full-frame sensor and up to 20fps continuous shooting, this camera helps you capture unrepeatable moments. "This a real workhorse camera for shooting sports action," says Richard.


Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM

A fast, affordable ultra-wide EOS R System lens. "When I'm carrying a lot of equipment and I want to shoot something extra wide, it's such a handy, light lens to have in my kitbag," says Richard.

Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

A lens that delivers supreme sharpness, extra creative control, and a remarkable low-light performance. "I like shooting things wider and love the look and feel that this lens gives me," says Richard. "It's not something I use every day, but in the right situation and for the right subject, it gives great results."

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM

Offering razor-sharpness and superb low-light performance, the RF 85mm F1.2L USM offers the ultimate in creative potential. "As with the 50mm F1.2L, it's not a lens I use every day, but I love it," says Richard. "Shooting wide open really makes subjects pop and gives you lovely background notes."

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM

Part of the trinity of essential lenses alongside the RF 15-35mm and RF 70-200mm, the RF 24-70mm boasts a fast aperture and image stabilisation plus a Nano USM motor for silent focusing. "It's a real workhorse zoom, useful in so many situations," says Richard.

Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM

A highly versatile 24-105mm zoom lens offering photographers and filmmakers an ideal balance between performance, portability and image quality. "I've had this lens in my kitbag since it was first released," says Richard. "It's a really good lens for a range of shots and I sometimes also use it for video for its extra focal length."

Canon RF 400mm F2.8L IS USM

A high-performance super-telephoto lens with class-leading portability, performance and image quality. "You can use this lens to shoot more or less any sport," says Richard. "It's got beautiful separation on subjects which gives you impact and is very fast to focus."

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM

A high-magnification, super-telephoto lens featuring integrated Image Stabilizer technology and a fast f/4 maximum aperture. "This is another phenomenal lens, an amazing piece of glass," says Richard. "The narrow depth of field with the background blown out of focus makes sports pictures jump off the screen."


Canon Speedlite EL-5

A powerful, advanced flash with fast recycling, great creative control and outstanding performance for all situations. "This is a brilliant flash, absolutely revolutionary," says Richard. "It communicates with the camera very fast and is very accurate with exposure. I mostly use it for trophy presentations and occasionally press conferences."

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