Sports photographers are another group within the golf industry that are tremendously overlooked. Instagram has surely changed the game of photography. You see all these high quality photographs, but it seems no one quite understands the work or thanks the persons behind the camera lens. Contrary to belief, there is more to photography than snapping a few photos. I had the privilege of talking with Mr. Heathcote, who is a Getty Images Sports Photographer. He has done amazing work throughout his career and he was kind enough to give me some insight in his experience of being a sports photographer.
Paige: What do you enjoy the most about shooting golf photography?
Mr. Heathcote: I love golf, which helps, but I like the variety of places we go to, different countries, courses, conditions it’s just a really good sport to travel with and shoot.
Paige: Favorite memory or people you’ve met while shooting at a golf event?
Mr. Heathcote: The Ryder cup is something else. The atmosphere is amazing and it brings out a totally different persona to the players we only see once every two years. Also a funny moment; I was once shooting an advert for the new beds at the Turnberry hotel in Scotland. We had Colin Montgomerie [...] hitting a shot off a bed with a thick duvet [which] isn’t easy and he chunked one about 60 yards in my direction missing me by about 3 inches. His expression as the ball came at me was brilliant.
Paige: How many years did it take you to really hone in on your skill to get to the level you are today?
Mr. Heathcote: I’ve been shooting golf since 1997 when I started my career after college. I would say it took me a few years to figure out my own ‘style’ but that evolves during your career, you're always learning. I was pretty comfortable with my ability to shoot golf after a couple of years.
Paige: Do you own your own camera/lens gear?
Mr. Heathcote: I’m fortunate that Getty Images own and supply my camera gear. I do have various lenses and bits of my own as well, but the big expensive stuff belongs to them.
Paige: What is the basic cost setup to shoot sports photography?
Mr. Heathcote: Lenses are the most important part, they will last you longer than camera bodies and provide you with better images. As a sport photographer you can work easily with just 3 lenses to begin with. The 70-200mm [...] a 400mm, then a wide zoom 16-35mm.
Cost of those lenses isn’t cheap [it is about] $1500-2000 for the zooms and $10k for the 400mm [used]. The camera bodies I use are $5000 each as well (I use 2 cameras when shooting, golf) but there are plenty of additional bits like memory cards, laptop, bags, pouches etc. You can very quickly add up to $30-40k. But you don’t need to spend that kind of money to start with. There is plenty of second hand good quality equipment out there, we all started with older secondhand equipment and worked our way up.
It's incredible how expensive professional sports photography equipment can be as well as the time it takes for each photographer to find their “style” of shooting. Photographers typically go unnoticed for their efforts and that is what makes them another group of unsung heroes in the golf industry. The amount of recognition is considerably minimal for the amount of their product being exposed across the media.
I appreciate Mr. Heathcote for his time and insight into professional sports photography. Thank you for all the hard work you put into your craft and providing such high end photographs, your efforts do not go unnoticed.