By Ritika Jain
Lifestyle and commercial photographer Holly Daughty is more than just a photographer. She’s a traveler, storyteller, entrepreneur and an infectious personality. She has owned her own studio, HD Photography, for eight years now and shoots everything from models on the beach and products to family photoshoots, weddings, birthdays and other festive occasions.
Holly is based in Atlanta but isn’t foreign to the picturesque coasts of California or Florida. Traveling is a significant aspect of her job, and she loves the spontaneity of discovering a good location to shoot at and finding beauty in her surroundings. She said her favorite place that she’s shot at is La Jolla beach in San Diego, California.
“In California you have beaches, deserts, inner city. We got to this location where there were boulders which had steps on them and you could climb up and pose and there are sea lions and everything is so beautiful. We went to this beach once and it wasn’t great looking so we kept driving for two hours and found this forest and shot there. It’s about going out and finding those hidden gems in places you didn’t expect.”
It is clear that Holly has a curious eye. Her work doesn’t solely entail getting the perfect shot, but also engaging with her clients and exploring different crevices of the Earth. As an Atlanta-native, the familiarity of the city doesn’t inspire Holly in terms of photoshoot locations. However, she has found ways to keep working and exercising her creative talents in the midst of the current global pandemic.
“I’ve been going out and shooting models in locations in Atlanta. I’ve also treated it like a mini-vacation. I live near my mom so we’ve been redecorating, putting new paint on the walls and doing family photoshoots.”
Holly then recounted an amusing story where she was doing a photoshoot with a family and had to maintain an appropriate distance from her subjects, rendering herself in the bushes equipped with her camera.
Holly has always been passionate about learning how to shoot everything. She never wanted to confine herself to a certain niche of photography, but rather expand her vision and continue learning how to do more. She said many people master themselves in one thing, whether that is weddings, portraits or birthdays, and while she doesn’t denounce it, she’s always been interested in dipping her toes in everything.
However, the photographer has her strong suits and weaknesses. She said fashion photoshoots are the most challenging to shoot, because the environment on set is serious and typically the models are focused, while she prefers to laugh and crack jokes. She has the most fun shooting on beaches in Miami or Los Angeles, reinforcing her love for the shore and sunlit weather.
Holly had a lot to say about the globe’s current affairs and how it has impacted her work. As she lives in Atlanta, she said she wasn’t aware of the severity of the impending outbreak until a few weeks in. She said she received mixed responses from local industry peers, some of which had more than 15 people over with no regard to social distancing, while others were hesitant to have more than two people over. But as Georgia was one of the first states to reopen after months of lockdown, she said a sense of normalcy has been reinstated. Nonetheless, she’s been taking things as they come and is ready to jump back into her work.
Holly’s story isn’t unique in her own family. She said her family has a long line of business owners, like her mom who is a hair stylist, who inspired her to go after her creative pursuits. As someone who has acclaimed considerable experience in the field, Holly offered her advice for aspiring photographers with great conviction.
“Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Stick with your gut, if you really want to do it then make it happen. I’ve seen many people say, ‘Photography’s a side thing, I’ll go work at Starbucks or do something else.’ If you want to do photography then do photography,” said Holly. Her perspective is realistic, as she reflected on her struggles when she first started out in high school and throughout her journey.
“I didn't like shooting or being behind the camera when I first started out and it wasn’t until one day I was shooting with this old man and thought, ‘Wow I really love this, this is what I want to do,’” said Holly. She also touched upon the times she struggled to put food on the table and wasn’t sure if she was going to make it. However, she decided to keep moving forward.
Holly’s steadfast determination has allowed her to live her dreams, shoot for big houses like Coca Cola and Amazon and create her own brand. She has accrued expertise in every nook and corner of photography and works strategically with a playful attitude and a love for what she does. As for her future aspirations, she said she hopes to travel further abroad for shoots in places like Europe. From our conversation, I could tell Holly doesn’t want to stay stagnant, but continue to challenge herself and experience new faces and settings. Expect no less from Holly Doughty.
Ritika Jain is an editorial writer who focuses on all things fashion, pop culture, and important social events. Follow her on Instagram @ritika_jain.