Water Cooler Chats ... with Mira Zaki

Mira and I crossed paths about 6 months ago and despite being totally different in many ways, we connected - and talked on Skype for approximately 2 hours and 16 minutes (our call was scheduled for 30 minutes).

Mira is an amazing business and portrait photographer in the glamorous NYC, not to mention a stunning photojournalist.  More than that, she is a highly spiritual being, who brings all of her truth, intuition and undeniable passion to her craft. 

She's also incredibly patient with my own spiritually-challenged ways.  Mira's work is soul-led and timeless, with a strict policy against Photoshop.  Mira's passion is admirable, as it is enviable.  

What sparked your interest in photography?

I have been a conduit for storytelling through my camera. A polaroid camera found its way to me at age 8, and it was my easiest, most rewarding form of expression as a default visual person. I studied it from that point on to photography college and I hold a BA degree in Commercial/Advertising Photography.

When did you know it was a passion?

Immediately. Nothing inspires, excites, or moves me the way that photography does.

Tell me a bit about the evolution of your photography.

I didn’t quite understand photography as a career when I was young - I just knew that I loved to do it, I was good at it, and it made sense to me. I dedicated myself to the mastery of it throughout my years of schooling and eventually college, being a teacher’s assistant, winning contests. Then joining professional photographer’s organizations and being a board member of the largest one in America, participating in portfolio reviews to grow and learn, traveling and photographing everything I saw. To now sharing the intuitive side of my photography which is why my work has a certain quality of emotion and communication.

In the past year, I’ve focused on empowering women through my photography and helping to elevate them; this remains a focus for me. This year, I have my first written and published books on the agenda as well as some humanitarian photojournalism in Puerto Rico.

We hear a lot about “capturing business essence in photography” - what does that even mean?

Almost anyone can take a “good” snapshot, but it isn’t communicating much about the person or their business. Capturing someone’s essence is an actual skill that is acquired from being dedicated to the mastery of photography. All the components of a successful photograph require years of practice: composition, lighting, art direction, framing, colors, communicating without saying a word. A photograph that speaks and is evocative is the result of a master photographer.

When working with clients, you focus in on personality and spirituality.  Why is that a conscious direction that you go in and why do you think it is fundamental to your clients’ businesses?

This is simply how I’ve worked from my first moment, perhaps without knowing how to articulate it. This is a part of my personality and the way that I operate in the world. I’ve been on the spiritual and personal development path since the magical age of 8 when everything significant in my life happened.

As an intuitive and empath, I can literally feel other people’s emotions and thoughts, and being photographed can be one of the most vulnerable things we do as humans. I am empathetic to that, and create an environment that is supportive, and celebratory. I like to disrupt what is normal and what has “always been the way things are done”.

I’ve heard time and time again that clients, friends, colleagues had extremely uncomfortable or unfortunate experiences in being photographed, and with the photos afterwards that were never used, didn’t really look like them, and were ultimately an extreme disappointment and waste of money. I know that to be a successful business today, we as people are our brands. That is our modern, social media- based world!

It is non-negotiable today to have a strong brand, and in order to maintain a strong brand, you have to surround yourself with experts that can communicate the needs and message of your business in a way that will last you.

People hire people they know, like, and trust. Photography is the easiest, fastest way to engage and enroll clients in our default visual world.

Why do you think some photos come out without dynamics and “life behind the eyes” and what are the flow on effects of that experience and resulting images?

The first reason is that often times a photoshoot is a transaction, where no care or thought is given to the client or their business.

Another reason is that as technology becomes more accessible and affordable, and as it continues to be America’s favorite hobby, it is a mistake to think that because someone has a device that has the ability to take photos, that makes the person a photographer. Some can be average at their skill level and that works well for their audience. That's definitely not the only reason, but certainly why we can see a stark dilution in the mastery.

The effect on the images is that they last for a very short amount of time, they may only work for one purpose, and they will need to be replaced very quickly to be accurate; they can miss the mark with their audience if there’s no clear creative direction. Additionally, images that work for an immediate audience may not be able to withstand the demands of media requirements, high resolution files requested for websites, a larger, global audience, and they can deter people if there’s any confusion about who the person/business is and what they represent.

The root of all good professional photography instills trust into the audience, this can easily be absent in sub-par photoshoots.

What questions should everyone be asking their photographer, but are just not?

I encourage everyone to ask as many questions as possible to be empowered in the process of a photoshoot, and to be a true collaborator. These are my top questions:

  1. What is included? (styling for hair, make-up, wardrobe, clothes, accessories?)

  2. How many photos do you receive, when, and in what manner?

  3. What is the reshoot policy?

So often, the process of planning and hiring a photographer for a photoshoot is intense and involved, very little thought is given to what happens after the photoshoot, and what you will receive on the day of. It is important to think ahead, because these photos have a purpose and it's your responsibility to make sure that purpose is fulfilled.

Tell me a bit about your process/mindset during a photoshoot.

Photoshoot days are my most favorites! There’s so much possibility, magic, and creation that happens. I love watching my clients go from timid to empowered - it is truly the most humbling service of my lifetime.

As an intuitive and empath, I’m very attuned to the energy of the day, how things are going, when the energy is starting to sink and whether my client needs some water, food, or a break. I hire the utmost magical professionals to be on my team for photoshoots, so the experience is one that is uplifting, fun, celebratory, and where they have to do very little besides show up! I love to keep my sets upbeat, there’s music playing, there’s always food and drinks, it’s like a party!

No photoshoot should be without….
Art direction and music!

Three tips to having the best photoshoot ever:

  1. Meet your photographer BEFORE your photoshoot- energy doesn’t lie, and make sure that you feel comfortable with this person!

  2. Be open to the support, the direction the photoshoot will go, and trusting that you’ve hired professionals who will do their job!

  3. Have fun! It can get a little serious when you have so much to mark off your to-do list as a business owner or entrepreneur.

If you are ready for the magic of Mira Zaki Photography, head to www.mirazaki.com or get in touch at mira@mirazaki.com.  Oh and she has a great guide out on How to Have the Photoshoot of Your Life - check her out on Facebook @MiraZakiPhotography.