Behind the Scenes with Portrait Photographer Niki Aguirre

The incredible portrait work of Niki Aguirre is garnering much attention – and fast. She was kind enough to take a break from her hectic schedule and answer some questions for Photography Blogger below.

Niki Aguirre

Your presence on G+ is very substantial….how much time do you spend there talking shop with other photographers?

How does it compare – at least for you – to Facebook?

I see Facebook and Google+ as two different tools in my life. Google + has allowed me to develop relationships I would have never been able to otherwise. Google+ feels like school to me – logging in, saying hi to all my friends, engaging, learning, getting inspired. It’s an intellectual playground of bursting creativity. The generosity of knowledge is unmatched. I can write a status asking which lens to buy and get 30-40 elaborate responses within half an hour. I have never experienced that from a social network.

In addition to that Google+ is a very loving environment. I have been emotionally overwhelmed by other Google Plussers several times (in a good way). I recall when Eric Leslie was requesting photo themes and I rushed to write a post about Women Wednesday. The response and enthusiasm was incredible. You may know the Women Wednesday gals – Athena Carey, Christina Lawrie, Lee Daniels, Kerry Murphy and Teresa Stover who jumped right in along with many others to celebrate women every Wednesday on Google+. That aside when I started reading the contributions the awesomeness just poured in – so many Google Plussers were sharing images accompanied by incredibly intimate stories (Chris Friedli comes to mind, among many others).


Niki Aguirre

So now to Facebook, of which I do like, but for different reasons. Facebook interaction is mainly related to my family, close friends and local client base – relationships that must be continuously nurtured.

It’s been a yo-yo between the two networks and I try to spend equal amounts of time on each. Lately, I have been using Facebook a bit more since it’s where my models and clients live. Either way, I love both networks, and won’t be leaving one for the other anytime soon.


Apparently you’re also an actress, which is something I didn’t know! Do you think your background in that affects your images, and if so….in what way?

Absolutely. All my interests have impacted my photography – art, music and film acting. Music is incredibly important; I could not live without it. All my imagery is music inspired. It creates the mood. That mood leads me into the story and conflict of the character(s). I begin to hear, see, feel and know what they would do, how they would react and respond. My background in art is where the passion comes in, digital photography is just another medium to give birth to my vision. So all these influence what I do, if one was missing I simply could not create.

Niki Aguirre


It seems that a lot of your photos are the end result of much planning and quite a few people too…would you mind running through what a typical model shoot involves, from start to finish?

I actually do not spend a great deal of time in preparation, nor in shooting the image. I definitely put forth my improvisational skills in every work. I’m the type that hates rehearsal and would rather just go for it when the vision and emotion come to me.

One hour to 30 mins before my model shows up I begin listening to music – often soundtrack, favorite composers including Danny Elfman, Dmitri Shostakovich, Yann Tiersen and Thomas Newman to name a few.

As I listen images begin to develop in my mind and I see the story and conflict. I like to put it in terms of energy and how and where it’s flowing amongst the character(s).
I don’t set any solid idea before they show up because being with them changes all those elements based on their mood and what they bring with them emotionally. I definitely relate to my models as actors. I love the emotional playback between me and them as I direct them. Every image begins on this stage.

Niki Aguirre

Once they arrive I begin looking around for my setting, find it and do whatever comes to my mind right there and then. I typically give emotional direction first, then their pose. I  do that because I don’t want the “modeling” part to take over the character. I want a real reaction to the scene they’re being thrown into.

Creating the image takes about 20-30 mins depending on complexity.

Editing is where I will spend the majority of my time. I can be quite obsessed with how I want to express my image. Editing can last hours, especially since most of of my work involves photo manipulation. I think the longest I have ever spent on a single image is around six to seven hours of editing. I usually will finish the same day but every so often there are images I have to sleep on before completing.

As far as other people involved, I am fortunate enough to have my mother, brother and husband assist me when needed. In addition to that my mother designs and creates costumes for my characters when needed.


Out of all your travels….what is your favorite city to visit?

I haven’t traveled much as I would like (I’m still in the post-college-mounting-student-loans-pauper-state), but did have the good fortune to visit Russia while in college on scholarship. I was not yet a photographer when I went to Russia. That would have been something! I’d like to go back one day. We mainly lived in Moscow, and visited St. Petersburg. Between the two I’d say St. Petersburg (photographically speaking).


Speaking of favorites….what piece of gear must you absolutely have?

I guess I should technically say a tripod since I do a lot of composite work but I could always place the camera on a stool, so that being said I would choose a reflector. I love using God’s light and am truly a natural light photographer. I know how to use studio lights but I quite dislike them. Any chance I get to use natural light I do so.

To see more of Niki’s outstanding work and keep up to date on her adventures, you can circle her on Google+ or add her on Facebook. You can also subscribe to her website, where she posts interviews and helpful tutorials about her workflow. 

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Christopher nice article, very inspiring. I was pleased to find out that there are other photographers who get inspiration from music. Writing poetry influenced by that is far more easier, though.
Thank you.

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