PLAN your shot — Think ahead about what you are trying to say. A truly stunning photo isn’t just visually pleasing, but says something (about the world, about you, about the subject).
As a part of my series about “5 Strategies To Take Stunning Photos” I had the pleasure of interviewing Mira Whiting. Mira is a portrait and event photographer and owner of Mira Whiting Photography. Mira was a finalist in the Click Voice 2020 competition and has been a finalist multiple years in the Boston A-List Best Photographer list, and has won the HulaFrog Most Loved Family Photographer award twice in a row. She lives in the Boston area with her husband, three children, and her cat.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/205eee11cee567731953a0c1d985ca32
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thanks so much for having me! I came to photography through a slightly silly route — when I was 12 years old, my friend had an older cousin we both adored who was really into photography — black and white portraiture in particular, and so we decided we wanted to do that too.
I soon found I was smitten — I loved the feeling of clicking the shutter at just the right moment to be able to tell a story about what was going on in my world. I loved being able to capture just the right expression that really said something about someone I loved. I never really put my camera down after that summer when I was 12.
I was primarily self-taught for a number of years, but had some amazing mentors along the way, especially one in particular through a summer program I participated in who really encouraged me to find my own voice through photography. Years passed, and I continued to enjoy photography as a serious hobby, documenting my own life and my family. As my friends started asking me to take their family photos for their holiday cards, I realized I could turn this passion I’d always had into a career that could help support my family. I launched my business shortly after my middle son’s first birthday. In the six years since, there have of course beens ups and downs, but I have no regrets — I feel so lucky to be able to follow my passion!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of the things I love the most about my career is that I get to meet all sorts of people and go all sorts of places — it’s never the same twice in a row. One of my absolute favorite projects really embodied all of that — on steroids! I was approached by the web developer who was doing a complete revamp of the website for the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition — I had previously worked with this developer on branding images for her own business, as well as family portraits, and she liked my style and approach to photography. She also knew that I had breastfed my three children and volunteered as a breastfeeding counselor, so I really knew the subject and had a passion for helping them to show breastfeeding in the best light.
They needed images of breastfeeding mothers to use throughout the site — they wanted to show incredible diversity among breastfeeding mothers, and with their permission, I set up a model call with the explicit goal of showing diversity on as many axes as possible — size, race, age, disability status, urban/rural and more.
Within 24 hours, I had 70 applications and I set out to schedule as many of them as possible. Some were right in my neighborhood, and some I traveled well over an hour to reach. I photographed them in their homes and on our subway system, at playgrounds and cafes. Basically, for a couple of months I lived in my car traveling around getting these images — but to me the most important part was hearing all their stories — for some they were still in the throes of nursing a newborn, some told me how proud they were they had persevered through struggles and were now happily nursing toddlers, and one mom with a prosthetic leg told me she wanted to participate to get the word out that that was no impediment to her breastfeeding journey, despite some discouragement she’d gotten early on.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One time, when I was just getting started, I was so thrilled I’d booked a shoot with an entrepreneur I really admired. I was so excited, in fact, that I ended up going on location ready to shoot — on the *wrong* day. Yes, I went a day early — and no one was the wiser. I had to laugh when I realized my mistake — because it really exemplified how much I love what I do.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Even more than gorgeous photos, I really focus on making my clients comfortable in front of the camera. I hear so much in initial inquiries, especially from girls and women, that they don’t feel “photogenic” (a word I have sworn to eradicate from my own vocabulary because it seems to just make people feel bad about themselves). I strive to have the experience of being in front of the camera be a good one and a comfortable one — I want people to walk away from a session with me (whether it’s branding, or a newborn session, a senior session or a family session) feeling good about themselves. I’ve got the technicalities of the photos in hand, but creating a positive experience is really paramount for my clients.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It’s ok to set boundaries — it can be hard in our line of work when so much happens on evenings and weekends. I set aside time each weekend that is just for spending time with my family — it helps keep me grounded, and I feel more connected. Before I started this, burnout was imminent, and I felt like my kids and husband and I were just ships passing in the night. I have implemented “office hours” in which I deal with emails, so unless it’s a true emergency, I’m not feeling like I have to constantly be checking my phone. I get back to people quickly… during those hours. Basically — it’s ok (preferable, even!) to really treat your business like a business!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I could not do this job without my husband’s support — he really believed in me through those first couple of years where I barely broke even. He encouraged me and is a true partner at home with the kids, protecting my work time and talking to them about how proud he is of my entrepreneurship and photography. My father has also been a huge support in my photography journey, encouraging me with buying my first SLR when I was in high school, and helping me seek out resources to always be learning more. The community I’ve found among other Boston-area photographers has also been a major support — both to have colleagues to “talk shop” with and for support through tough times (coronavirus, a difficult client situation, a website hack — it’s a lovely community that really comes together).
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
In the spirit of trying something new, I’ve decided to take on a “365” project for 2021 — really pushing myself to use my camera in a thoughtful way daily. I love the things I learn through projects like this that really propel me along my photography journey.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Each year, I partner with 1–2 non-profit organizations in the community to raise funds for the important work they do. Those partnerships take different forms — often I schedule a day of mini portrait sessions, with the fees going toward the organization I’ve partnered with, and this past spring, I participated in the #FrontStepsProject, photographing over 100 families and raising over 4,000 dollars for local food pantries.
Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”. Please provide an example for each.
- PLAN your shot — Think ahead about what you are trying to say. A truly stunning photo isn’t just visually pleasing, but says something (about the world, about you, about the subject).
- THINK about your light — Light is the most important tool in a photographer’s toolbox, no matter what gear you’re using. Is the light in your image helping you to tell your story, or is it interfering in some way?
- REFLECT on the images you take — Take the time to look at the images you’ve taken. What do you like about them, what do you not like? How can you do things differently next time to improve?
- THINK about your composition — How is your subject framed? What else is in the image? Does the framing you’ve chosen help tell the story you want to tell or is there clutter in the composition you could remove? Are all the important parts of your subject in the frame?
- PRACTICE daily — The best way to take stunning photos is the simplest: just practice. If you practice as much as you can and reflect on the images you’ve taken through that practice, you will improve!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement, it would be about self-acceptance. I work with so many lovely, accomplished people who tell me they feel they are ugly, and if I could eradicate that feeling for them, I would in a heartbeat. I am so inspired by the body-positive movement, and I wish that self-acceptance for everyone.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!