Behind The Lens With Oli Hillyer-Riley

Oli Hillyer-Riley Photography | Instagram

"I was lucky to spend much of my childhood outdoors and in the ocean, from a young age my dad taught me to surf, boogie and kayak"


Hey Oli, thanks for taking part in Behind The Lens! For those reading, tell us a little about yourself..

My name is Oli Hillyer-Riley, I’m 25 years old and currently based in London. I grew up in Bournemouth and was lucky to spend much of my childhood outdoors and in the ocean, from a young age my dad taught me to surf, boogie and kayak. As a keen waterman, and ‘sup master’ he has been a huge inspiration to me, and spurred my interest in photography, with likes of 360 Bodyboarding and Carve magazines also playing an important role. I remember buying the first GoPro at a young age, the one that was a disposable camera but had a housing for it. I thought the thing was great, just replaced it with those Boots disposables, GENIUS. Fast forward a decade and I found myself studying Commercial Photography at Bournemouth Arts University. After which I moved up to London where I now produce lifestyle and advertising work.

How would you describe your photography in 5 words?

Energetic, fun, considered, driven, real.

What are some of your passions that influence your photography style?

I have always been a sporty person in and out the water. I turned to skating and bmx at a young age when the swell wasn’t producing, it’s Bournemouth, you can’t expect much in terms of waves. I was always shooting my friends down the local skate park which turned into just documenting every day life. Surrounding myself with friends and sport has a big influence on my work, I’m a big believer in having other passions than just photography.

Do you have a favourite place to shoot?

I wouldn't say I have a favourite, anywhere near the coast is a plus but I am very fortunate to travel with my work and see some incredible places which I am grateful for. However Sri Lanka is close to my heart.

Have you any trips or exciting projects coming up?

Of course heading back to Sri Lanka has to be done within the year. At the moment there’s plans to do another surf trip with friends, maybe the Azore Islands which would be amazing. Apart from this just getting out of London to the west or south coast gives me my fill. 

What is your preferred equipment to shoot on? 

My go to is Canon, always has been. Currently shooting with a Canon 5DS and a selection of prime and zoom lens’s. I have my pocket camera which is a Sony A6000, it’s a great little point and shoot camera so much so I’m considering converting to Sony with the new A7ii mkii. I also have an old Miranda 35mm from my college days which has taken an absolute battering, this thing is falling apart, the limited restrictions of it and working with film makes you really consider the shot which I like.

What's the one thing you would you like viewers to take away from your work? 

A sense of enjoyment.

Who are some photographers that you admire and respect?

I have always admired and respected the work of Tim Hetherington, Don McCullin , Adam Hinton and Corey Wilson to name a few. There’s a lot of photographers, artists, creatives which I admire, anyone producing amazing work get’s me excited.

And what tips or advice would you give to someone wanting to get into photography?

Work your pants off! Don’t expect things to happen, go out there and make it happen. Surround yourself by like minded people and those you enjoy working with, relationships with people are key. Have fun in what you do and most of all do not give up!

And finally, if you could shoot with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Nelson Mandela. I think most of it would be sat down with him just talking about his life, few pictures would be taken.



Sunset swooning, Sri Lanka

Finding shelter in the Morrocan heat

On route through the Big Sur. Tempting but the seals, sharks and cold water will have to wait

Unwrapping for a susnet dip, Sri Lanka

When the swell doesn't come we make our own lines

Sunset in Bournemouth. Rare to get clean waves, but the wait is worth it

Tassy Swallow taking charge on the west coast

Photographer and friend Tom Cockram finding his spot on a very cold winter morning

The chase is on

An evening with Tassy is always fun. It's not that often you have both photographer and surfer push eachother going beyond your comfort zone

Free ride

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