SI Swimsuit Photographer Ben Watts Discusses His Brand and Creative Style

Where to find inspiration, tips for aspiring photographers and more.

Even if you don’t think you know much about photographer Ben Watts, you’ve definitely admired an image or two of his, and you’d likely recognize some of the items from his personal clothing line The Flower Shop.

Watts made his debut behind the camera for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit in 2008 when he photographed driver Danica Patrick in Singer Island, Fla. He has since worked with SI Swimsuit all over the world, including shoots in St. Lucia and Malta, and is the photographer behind three covers (Hannah Davis, 2015; Danielle Herrington, 2018; Alex Morgan, 2019).

Born in London, Watts attended the Sydney College of the Arts and began his photographic career in Australia, first working as a photography assistant, but quickly established himself as a notable photographer in his own right, shooting for Elle Australia and Vogue Australia. He moved to New York in the early 1990s to expand his career.

Watts sat down with SI Swimsuit to discuss his career highlights, tips for approaching a big shoot, and the creative style of his images. Here are some of the highlights:

On preparing for a big shoot:

“Someone with a plan is a good leader. Having said that, you never want to eliminate...the element of spontaneity.”

Ben Watts shooting Behind the Scenes in Malta, 2016 for SI Swimsuit.

Ben Watts shooting Behind the Scenes in Malta, 2016 for SI Swimsuit.

On his creative style:

“I have a thread of continuity that runs through my pictures. I call it the happy picture because my pictures are colorful...the energy that’s in the image is always optimistic, whether it’s the vibrancy of the color, [or] the smile on the model.”

Kate Bock was photographed by Ben Watts in Malta, 2016. Swimsuit by Solid & Striped.

On his on set energy:

“I always say with photography, it’s not a spectator sport. Occasionally I’ll ask people to dance or sing. If the crew’s going to be there then they’ve got to dance and sing too, and I do as well.”

On Launching The Flower Shop

“I wear enough clothes from other brands. Why should I be a walking billboard for someone else when I can do it for myself?”

On Finding Inspiration

“I’m inspired by so many different things. You look for inspiration in so many different ways. Catching the subway is inspiring, walking the streets, going for a long walk, expressions on people’s faces, how shop windows are put together. You walk through Time Square, that’s inspiring. You can get inspiration from anywhere just by keeping your eyes open.”

Ben Watts shooting Behind the Scenes in Malta, 2016 for SI Swimsuit.

Ben Watts shooting Behind the Scenes in Malta, 2016 for SI Swimsuit.

On changes in the photography industry:

“Things have changed very rapidly in the last five years. When things change, you have to change, or you remain the same. And if you remain the same, the same just doesn’t work anymore. You have to remain passionate, but you have to move with the times to stay contemporary.”

On his work ethic:

“Every day is important to me to do a good job this world right now, you’re remembered for your worst photo, not your best, and that’s what inspires me. As long as I’ve done the best out of what I could do that day, I’ve put the effort in, then that’s good enough for me. I’m very passionate about what I do, and how people interpret it is up to them.”

Watch the full interview here.

Danielle Herrington was photographed by Ben Watts in the Bahamas, 2018. Swimsuit by enèriS.

Mara Milam


Mara Milam is the managing digital producer at SI Swimsuit. The California based video and digital content producer joined the “swim team” in March of 2020, just as the pandemic was settling in. Mara is a lover of all things travel and wellness and is passionate about elevating the voices and stories of people often not heard.