"One On One" with Courtney Holmes

11 January 2019

Get "One on One" with our newest "Ted's Master", Courtney Holmes!
Courtney is a family and portrait photographer/videographer from NSW. In addition to filming and photographing family life, Courtney is also a speaker, educator, and photography mentor.

"One On One" with Courtney Holmes"One On One" with Courtney Holmes

How did you become interested in photography?

I’ve always been involved in the creative arts in some form or fashion but after my son was born it was a lot harder to do gigs as a musician, and I really missed having a creative outlet.

The challenge for me was finding something that could work around this tiny human who demanded so much of my attention.

I started shooting with a borrowed beginner DSLR and was pretty much hooked from there.


What defines your photography style?

Photography and filmmaking is my therapy, it’s what pulled me out of the dark. It’s what keeps me sane and fills my heart. It’s how I show my love and where I feel most at home.

What defines my photography style is the concept of memory preservation for families. I believe in collaborating with my clients, to create work that is both fulfilling creatively for me, and fulfilling emotionally for them.

The result is work that is emotional, nostalgic, and authentic.

"One On One" with Courtney Holmes"One On One" with Courtney Holmes
"One On One" with Courtney Holmes"One On One" with Courtney Holmes

What do you think were some of the key elements to the development of your photography?

Learning how to work with light, and learning how to shoot in any given situation played an integral role in the development of my photography.

In addition to that, shooting video has made a huge impact to my work, and has made me a better photographer.

How important is post-processing to your works?

Well, I edit a lot of videos so it’s pretty important.

For my images, I try to keep it pretty consistent across all of my work so that’s the most important thing for me.

I don’t love editing though, so I try and spend as little time on it as possible. Most of the editing time I spend on my films are on the assembly/storytelling of them.

"One On One" with Courtney Holmes"One On One" with Courtney Holmes
"One On One" with Courtney Holmes"One On One" with Courtney Holmes

What inspires you?

Gosh how do I answer this one?!
One thing that inspires me is noticing the tiny nuances of a parent/child relationship that seem insignificant on the outside but mean everything to the parent, then reflecting that back to them. Being able to show something to a family that they otherwise wouldn’t see for themselves, and giving them this gift of reliving their memories is a feeling I’ll never tire of.

In a technical sense light inspires me the most. I love interesting light, and the minute I see it I want to pick up my camera. Anything Australiana also inspires me, because I didn’t grow up here I find it really fascinating and love photographing anything that represents Australia and its history/people/culture.

What are you currently working on?

I currently have 3 family films sitting on my hard drive waiting to be edited right now! I have plans for a personal project in 2019 about postnatal depression (something that’s very close to my heart) but the plans for that are very much in the early stages.


What is your proudest moment as a photographer?

Being invited to teach at CreativeLive was a full circle moment for me, because I remember watching their live streamed classes when I first started out as a photographer and never in a million years would I have thought that one day I’d be teaching there too.

"One On One" with Courtney Holmes"One On One" with Courtney Holmes
"One On One" with Courtney Holmes"One On One" with Courtney Holmes

How has social media helped with the success of your photography?

I think being able to communicate and share my work easily has been very very helpful. The most important thing I have to remind myself is that it’s about the quality of the people you’re reaching out to via social media and not necessarily the quantity.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the likes and follows, but it’s really not an indicator of success. I’ve got less than 5k followers on each platform, but I’m booked out a year in advance for family sessions (at $3k per session), and I know people with 20k followers that struggle to get bookings at a rate they want to earn. So it’s just about understanding how to use it in a way that brings in quality enquiries, rather than trying to gain a huge following.

What type of photography do you enjoy the most?

Creating your own personal work or client shoots? Both equally for me. Creating personal work makes me enjoy client work more and vice versa. 

What is the best advice you have ever received?

To not worry about what anyone else is doing and to develop your own voice as an artist.

What is something you wish you were better at?

Time management probably!


"One On One" with Courtney Holmes"One On One" with Courtney Holmes
"One On One" with Courtney Holmes"One On One" with Courtney Holmes

What’s your favourite photo that you’ve ever taken?

I took this photo (image on the left) during a client session in 2017 and I’ve loved it ever since.

I love what it represents, the quintessential aussie childhood. I love the layers and the way your eye moves through the frame. I love the decisive moment, and how everything came together without any influence from me - purely patience.

It’s still my favourite client photo ever.


Any big plans for the future?

I run an online school for photographers called Filming Life Academy, which is all about learning how to shoot video and make films - mostly for families but also for businesses, weddings, personal, etc.

This year we are going to have our first in person “In The Field” retreat in Sydney in October which will be really exciting and I’m looking forward to working hands on with students during those three days. In addition to that I’m speaking at ExposurePro with NZIPP right after the Iris Awards in June, and I’m speaking at The Family Narrative Australia in Brisbane in July.

I’ve got my client calendar locked in and fully booked for 2019 as well, so now it’s just a matter of getting through all of it over the next 12 months!

"One On One" with Courtney Holmes"One On One" with Courtney Holmes
"One On One" with Courtney Holmes"One On One" with Courtney Holmes

Any advice for the novice photographer?

Creativity is a practice, and through observing, playing, and experimenting with the same thing over and over, adding small variations each time you build the creative “muscle” in your brain.

When you feel like your work is lacking that creative spark or you’re frustrated because you can see what you want to create but just can’t quite get there - allow yourself room to experiment during each session that you do. That’s how you build a creatively fulfilling portfolio of work. It’s ok to do the same thing each time, and to have a framework to follow. But add a little variation each time. Experiment and play.

Be curious, always. And make it a priority to shoot and create work that you love BEFORE you start booking paid clients.

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