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Lets Talk Business – A chat with local photographer Holly Williams

You’ve probably seen her shooting at festivals like GTM and Spilt Milk, as well as seen many of her images posted online by some of the cities most popular night clubs. Holly Williams is a local, self made photographer who successfully runs her own business ‘HollWill Photography’.

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thank you @redbullau ❤️ @spiltmilk_au 🍼🍼🍼 #picscomingsoon

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Holly in her element as a photographer at Spilt Milk

Since creating the business in 2015, at just 17, she has greatly expanded her career, branching out and partnering with many major companies, covering concerts and performances and even working for big-name labels such as Red Bull. 

While running her own business keeps her hot on her feet, she is also a student at the University of Canberra where she studies Tourism and Event Management. Ashleigh Redpath sat down with Holly Williams to discuss why she decided to make her own business, what it took, and what advice she would give to other young entrepreneurs. 

Q. What inspired you to start your own business? 

A. I started my business ‘HollWill Photography’ in high school because I wanted to do something different to what the photography class was offering. The class was so focused on graphic design and image composition and so there was just no opportunity to be original or to document events, which is what I wanted to do and so I spoke with my year coach and principle about the possibility of doing something more hands on.

Image taken by photographer Holly Williams when she made her debut at Canberra’s Fashfest

I spoke to them about doing events and asked if I could cover the year 10 social, as I saw that they didn’t have a roaming photographer to document the night.

From this people encouraged to make a facebook page to post the photos to so that everyone could see them and repost them and that’s when the business really started.  People started asking me to cover their 18th birthday parties and other events and then throughout year 12 I worked with the school photographer to cover other various events. All this led me to photograph Canberra’s Fashfest, which was my first event separate from the school where I was representing myself and from there my business really bloomed. 

Q. What has been your greatest achievement so far? 

A. Shooting for Redbull at Spilt Milk in 2018 is by far my greatest achievement. I was the only person there representing them.

Image of the lead singer of Cub Sport taken by Holly Williams at Spilt Milk 2019

They had picked me based on the images I was producing and it was a really good feeling to know that such an influential company liked my style of work. It was also just a really good opportunity for me to expand my business. Going as Redbull’s sole photographer, I was given an all access media pass. However I was only required to shoot for 3 hours of the entire day directly for red bull. So I then used the opportunity to shoot the rest of the day under my own name and this saw another rise in the following my business. So I guess this wasn’t just my  best achievement but it was also really beneficial to me to gain extra experience and continue to grow my business. 

Q. What have you had sacrifice in able to build your business so quickly? 

A. I don’t go out. I don’t go to parties. I basically give up every Thursday – Saturday night. And on those nights, I could have anywhere between 3-5 different jobs on. Like on a Friday night I could have a party or 2 to shoot, then have to go to the clubs to shoot for a few hours and then I have to go home and have to edit everything before going to shoot more on the Saturday night – all while trying to make time for uni work. So its easy to say that my social life has been the first element I’ve had to sacrifice as well as a normal sleep schedule! Because when I’m working at the nightclubs such as Mooseheads and Mr Wolf, I go to bed as late as 5 am and then still have to get up for my 9am uni classes . 

Also, in high school, most parties and 18ths I went to, I brought my camera and I couldn’t go to dinners or movies with friends as I had to cancel a lot of socialising. Like even now, I go to friends events late or meet people in the city in between gigs. If I do need a weekend off work I have to plan it months in advance. I don’t mind too much but it does get a bit annoying not being able to hang out with all my friends and be spontaneous with them but I know it will all be worth it. 

I also had to stop playing sport. I used to play European Handball for the Australian team but I just couldn’t give it the commitment and time necessary to continue playing. Once a month there were training camps on the weekends we were supposed to attend but I couldn’t because of work so I had to give it up. 

Q. Where do you see your business going over the next few years?

A. I would love to expand my business outside of Canberra as I’m known locally but I don’t want to just stick to local events and get stuck here.  I would love to expand to cover festivals in Sydney such as Listen Out. I would like to basically just branch out and try some different things. Like I want to try and do some ‘higher end’ photography. Like for GTM for instance, I don’t just want to be a roaming photographer like I have been the last few years, but I would like to be there for an artist and travel with them for the festival. So yeah, the main focus will be to make connections with other businesses and people and just apply for all the different opportunities I can find as to get my name out there and known in places other than Canberra. I’ve already started broadening my work, taking portraits of friends and collaborating with some local models and businesses to grow my business name, expand my portfolio and ultimately gain more experience.

Images Holly has taken with local models and friends

I also aim to expand my business with my degree. So I am currently studying Tourism and Event Management at the University of Canberra and I graduate at the end of this year (2019). So next year a major focus will be on how I can bring my degree and my photography together to plan and then photograph events.

Q. What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs wanting to begin their own business?

A. The most important thing is to do what makes you happy and don’t listen to what other people say. I know that sounds super cliche but everyone bullied me the entirety of high school about me wanting to do photography and run my own business but as soon as the everyones 18th birthdays rolled around they all wanted me to shoot their party and even now they come up to me when they see me in the clubs and ask me to take their photo. Also, say yes to every opportunity. I’ve done some gigs that I’ve absolutely hated and just did not want to do, but I did them anyway because every job leads to connections with other people.

So basically it’s going to be tough and it’s going to be tricky, but just don’t listen to what anyone says.  People will bully you because it’s something different and non-conventional  – it’s not a job like every other teenager who works at Mcdonalds or in retail. And they will doubt you and tell you that you won’t make it and that it’s not a sustainable career and its all a waste of money but just do it. At the end of the day, believe in yourself and if it’s something you really want to do,  just do it. 

Photography isn’t just Holly’s profession it’s also her passion, meaning she takes images wherever she goes – Image by Holly Williams

You can see more of Holly’s Pictures on her Instagram @HollWill Photography.

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