Category: Interviews. A Coffee with…

An Interview with Holly Booth – Professional Product Photographer

Friday February 21st 2014

Holly Booth

Photo by Jo Crawford

Today we are speaking to Holly Booth, who creates all the product photos for Milly Inspired. Holly specialises in product photography for small businesses and is now one of the very few photographers will recommend. I believe she caught their eye because of her beautiful trend-led style, lovely crisp photos and pricing that small businesses can afford.

Good product photography is a key factor in the success of an online retailer. Holly has been our photographer for five years now. When we replaced our then product photos with Holly’s, sales improved immediately. Several months later and with the help of her photos, Christmas sales increased by 188%.

We both joke that we cannot remember how we first met, but I know at the time I was looking for someone who could create ‘Pinterest-friendly’ product photos, I found Holly’s work online and things went from there.

So grab yourself a coffee and a little sweet treat and enjoy our chat with the lovely Holly…

…So Holly, why don’t we start by you telling us a little something about yourself:

“Well, I’m a freelance photographer based in Derbyshire, specialising in creative product photography, which means I get to work with super talented makers, designers, crafters, and shops across the UK. I live with my fiancé, our French bulldog Remi and a tiny cat called Juno. I’m a fan of documentaries, antique shops, and David Bowie.”

“My love for photography blossomed at around the age of 13 when I started taking photographs of the things and people around me. My dad has always had a keen interest in photography, so he passed his knowledge onto me and I found I had a real passion for it. Skip forward a few years, I studied art and design at college (specialising in photography) and then enrolled onto the Commercial Photography (BA Hons) course at the University of Derby. I set up my business in my final year, with the aim to go straight into being freelance once I’d graduated.”

What attracted you to product photography over other forms of photographic work?

“In all honesty, product photography was sort of something I fell into! I’d dabbled whilst at university, but I’d always been focused on fashion work and so it hadn’t really crossed my mind. However, back in 2011 I was approached by Abigail Warner to photograph Pearl Lowe’s stationery collection and of course said YES without much hesitation. I was also regularly shooting styled bridal photo shoots for blogs and met a lot of independent designers during that time. It all kicked off from there, and as I started to work with makers, designers, and shops, I realised how much I loved this area of photography and how much I enjoyed working with the people I was getting to meet. I feel like I’ve found a bit of a niche in terms of creative product photography that is also affordable; something that I think a lot of start-ups will appreciate. I also feel like it’s really ‘me’ and that’s a pretty ace feeling to have about your work.”

What is the best photographic lesson you’ve ever learnt?

“I’m not sure of a photographic one specifically, but the best lesson I’ve learnt since becoming self-employed is to trust your gut instinct. I’ve had plenty of learning curves in the past few years, and I’m sure there are more to come, that’s just part of running your own business! It seems like a simple lesson, but when you first start out I think you have this overwhelming pressure to do any job that comes through – rather than listening to what YOU really want to be doing. Since narrowing my market and finding a niche, I’ve become so much happier in what I’m doing, and I really feel like I’m on the right track. That’s a very rewarding, not to mention exciting, feeling!”

While working with you I have admired how in control, confident, and stress-free you are during your photo shoots. How do you think you achieve this?

“Oh, thanks so much, that’s really lovely to hear! I generally try to stay in control and relaxed during most situations in life, but I guess doing a job that I love so much makes that even easier while I’m working. I find product photography really allows me time to think and work through the set-ups, which I find quite therapeutic. As for the confidence bit, I’m not sure where that comes from. After growing up very quiet and shy, sometimes my own confidence in situations does surprise me.”

What would be your ideal day at work?

“That’s a difficult question! I receive emails occasionally from students wanting to do work experience with me, and whilst that’s SUPER flattering, I always find it amusing as it seems a lot of them think being a photographer must be really glamorous and that I’m out shooting all the time. Whilst I’m sure life is like that for some, mine is perhaps a tad more casual… Days swing between shooting either on location or in the studio, catching up on admin and emails, or editing for hours. I guess my ideal day at work would be to have a really brilliant shoot with a great team of people, and finishing in time to spend my evening at home drinking tea and hanging out with Remi. Rock ‘n’ roll, huh?”

Other than your camera, what items can we find in your camera bag?

“Hair ties! Long hair and leaning over the camera to get those ‘from above’ shots of products don’t mix. I also carry around chewing gum, some spare change, batteries, a cleaning cloth, and my keys. I’m starting to think I’m going to need a bigger bag soon.”

Do you have a favourite photo by yourself that you could show us? Please tell us why you like this photo so much.

“I think this is relative to what I’ve been working on recently, as new work will always become a favourite, only to be replaced again by more new work! I’ve worked with stationery designers since the beginning of my career really, so here’s an image from a recent shoot for Eliza May. I loved getting to style LOTS of flowers to enhance the beautiful designs.”

Eliza May Prints

Photo by Holly Booth

Similarly, could you show us some photos from your favourite photo shoot? What made this photo shoot so special?

“Similar to the previous question, my favourite shoot changes all the time. Recently I worked with Jo Want of Hello Sunshine to take new styled photographs of her current collections (and brand new ones!) I’ve been working with Jo for a few years now and we always have a real laugh on our photo shoots. This time Jo tasked me with creating a mini garden set-up – such a fun challenge!”

Hello Sunshine

Photo by Hello Sunshine

What made you decide to become self-employed?

“I was working three jobs at the time I graduated, all part-time, and although all in creative fields, none of them were photography based. I just became frustrated with the situation, and after studying for three years it felt like a waste to not pursue what I loved so much. My parents always encouraged me whilst I was growing up to follow a career path I was passionate about and not just settle for something that paid the bills. So after a lot of deliberating, I made the leap and quit all my jobs. Pretty scary, really! I was already working in photography in the little spare time I had, so it wasn’t as if I was going in cold with no clients or idea about how to run the business, but I definitely wasn’t as prepared as I maybe should have been.”

How did you feel the very moment you became self-employed?

“It was a mixture of being really excited to be working for myself and doing what I love, but also anxious for the very same reasons! Luckily I’m quite self-disciplined, so I find it easy to be working for myself from home and just cracking on with things. If anything, running my own business makes me work harder than I ever did in my previous jobs (sorry, ex-bosses). I have a love/hate relationship with the fact that when you become self-employed you become your whole team, not just the photographer but marketing, admin, tea maker… the lot. It’s definitely been a learning curve, but I don’t regret making the leap for one second.”

If you had to impart one nugget of advice to someone newly self-employed, what would it be?

“I always find this question really difficult to answer as, looking back, I’m not sure I was really ready for self-employment at the time I made the decision, but if I hadn’t have made that leap, who knows where I would be now. I guess I’d go back to my previous answer of ‘trust your gut instinct’. Also, work hard, don’t compare yourself to others (you totally will, but it’s not helpful) and remember that it’s OK to take time off now and again – you deserve it.”

We hope you enjoyed our Coffee Break chat with Holly. If you want to ask her any questions, then please add them to the comments bar below.

Welcome, I’m Gemma

If you are a Craftsperson, an Artisan, Design-Maker or Micro Manufacturer, looking for product design inspiration then is a blog written for you.

I have run my own Designer-Maker Business, Milly Inspired, for over 7 years now. Today our six-figure company is still growing at 50%. Learn how to get the same results right here!

To keep up to date with the latest advice, tips and business support make sure you sign up to our Newsletter below.