Hanna Hillier is a London Photographer and Art Director with an amazing portfolio covering fashion & beauty, music, celebrity and commercial work. Hanna’s talent is most evident when photographing women – she has an innate ability to portray strength and beauty in equal measures. Don’t just take my word for it, see for yourself…
Tell us about how you first got started in photography and what it was that drew you to specialise in fashion and beauty photography.
From the age of four I wanted to be a fashion designer – doing fashion sketches in crayon; throughout my teenage years that moved more towards painting – mainly abstract portraits and such. During my A-level Art we did a photography module, and I absolutely loved it. I dropped English and did Photography instead. I was terrible at it but I was in love and I worked my ass off. I went on to study Fashion Styling & Photography at the London College of Fashion, however I had to drop out after the first year due to health reasons. I then got a job at Next Model management, where I had an incredible insight into how the industry works, how to be professional, and how to work HARD.
I dropped English and did Photography instead. I was terrible at it but I was in love and I worked my ass off.
Your folio has an amazing mix of models, actors, celebrities and musicians – no doubt with varying experience being in front of a camera; how do you manage this?
I started shooting new faces on the weekends while I was working at Next Models so, from the beginning, I’ve always been good at directing/making people feel comfortable and giving basic tips and do’s & don’ts. Hands away from the face, chin down, relax the mouth and so forth!
Do you have a go-to team that you work with routinely? How does that dynamic work on set; are you the main source of concepts and direction for shoots or is it a more collaborative approach?
It completely depends on the job. If it’s a campaign then the client normally has full control over creative concept. I certainly have people I love working with, creative and incredibly talented that are also always on time, professional and friendly on set. I love working with people who are on your wavelength, so if you say, “I want a red glossy eyeshadow” – they know exactly what you are thinking.
I’m quite minimalist as I got into photography from the creative side rather than the technical side.
What equipment do you normally carry on a shoot?
I’m quite minimalist as I got into photography from the creative side rather than the technical side. Again, it depends on the job! Bowens flash heads, reflector, cameras, lenses & laptops.
Has social media had an impact on your work in terms of attracting new clients and building your business?
Hugely; it’s a great platform for that. I probably get about 70% of new clients from there. The main feedback I get is that people love how strong I make women look. My aim is to make my images beautiful, cinematic, sensual & chic, but keep it classy and cool. I’m hugely inspired by Guy Bourdin, Helmut Newton & Ellen von Unwerth.
What are the biggest challenges for you with building your photography career?
My work doesn’t really fit into a box. It’s not edgy, it’s not super commercial – it is sort of in-between. It is great campaign-wise as I shoot a lot of luxury brands, fine jewellery, accessories, lingerie & beauty. Some people interpret my work differently as well. Its great when somebody deeply understands your vision and can see exactly where you see yourself going. I have a couple of friends quite high up in industry who do; it makes me so happy discussing things with them as they totally get me and I don’t have to justify or explain myself to them.
What has been your most memorable moment to date?
Shooting with Jessica Alba a few weeks ago – she’s an incredible and truly inspiring woman. She followed me on Instagram nine months ago and it all went from there.
What are you currently working on and what is next for you?
I have so many exciting plans over the next couple of years, lots more editorial – hopefully involving more travel and so forth. I broke my ankle last June which was a total nightmare as I had just moved into a super expensive apartment! I spent the whole summer in my flat and I missed out on about three or four incredible jobs in Europe. My main aim is to not end up on crutches again anytime soon!!!
See more of Hanna’s work at:
All images copyright Hanna Hillier.