Nino Muñoz on three big turning points in his career, his first shoot with Gisele, and the importance of having a great team

The magazine Up by Forbes recently profiled entertainment, portrait, and fashion photographer Nino Muñoz for its latest cover story. In his Q&A with editor Diana-Florina Cosmin, Nino touches on everything from three assignments that will stay with him forever to his early days riding his bike around New York City and shooting photos…


Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-1

The magazine’s profile of Nino Muñoz opens with one of his portraits of Jennifer Lopez.


Up: What is the one iconic image that you took with you, in your heart, from each of the places where you have lived: Chile, New York, Vancouver, and Los Angeles? And which one of these places do you consider home?

Nino Muñoz: The imagery that I’ve taken with me for Chile, Vancouver, and L.A. is the beach; for New York, it’s definitely the skyline. I consider them all home. I was born in Chile and grew up in Vancouver, where I have family and good friends. I began my career in New York and branched out to L.A. Now I live on both coasts, in L.A. and New York.


How difficult was it to make the switch between New York and Hollywood, and how did that happen?

Both shooting fashion photography and working in Hollywood happened really organically for me. For instance, the first Hollywood star I photographed was Leonardo DiCaprio. We were already friends, and one day he asked me if I would photograph him for publicity images for the movie Gangs of New York. The next day, I was on a private jet with Leo flying to L.A., where I spent the weekend photographing him.

As a fashion and celebrity photographer, I just go with where the work takes me. One minute, I’m in New York, the next I’m in L.A., then I’m flying to Europe, and then I get a job in South America. I never think of things as permanent, and I always go with the flow. The camera leads the way.


Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-2

Leonardo DiCaprio.

Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-3



One of your first professional assignments was shooting a fashion story for Vogue, with Gisele Bündchen. How did you go from young aspiring photographer to securing such an enviable job?

Gisele and I were already friends at the time we did the Vogue story together. She saw something in me, and she believed in me as a photographer.

At the beginning, I used to do a lot of reportage photography in New York City. I would grab my camera and ride around on my BMX bicycle and photograph people, so it felt natural to photograph Gisele.

Still, it was very scary because suddenly I was being flown to Paris to do a shoot for British Vogue. I thought, “How am I getting away with this? I’m just a guy who photographs people on the street.” I found confidence within by telling myself that it’s all the same thing; there’s no difference between photographing Gisele in Paris or someone I see on a street in New York.

Richard Avedon is one of the many photographers who influenced me in my journey as a photographer. Avedon was a photographer of people; he was able to capture their beauty and soul no matter who they were or where they came from, and that is why his work has always been such a huge inspiration to me.


Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-4

Cindy Crawford.

Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-5

Sam Rockwell.

Looking back on your career, what were the three moments that you would consider your big breaks?

Number 1: When Katie Grand, who was the editor of Pop magazine at the time, asked me to do a story on up-and-coming artists in New York City.
Number 2:  When I shot Gisele for British Vogue.
Number 3: When Wallpaper magazine sent me to do an international reportage shoot with local people in three different countries, including Greece, Chile, and Brazil.
And I have a number 4, because it all happened at the same time: Arena magazine started booking me to shoot covers. I had seven or eight covers in one year—including Leo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Beyonce, Daniel Craig, Kanye West, Keira Knightley, and Gisele.


You shot campaigns for major brands: Which one do you remember most fondly?

I think each of them has its place. It’s not the brand that I remember; it’s the experience.


You are known for having shot A-listers such as Scarlett Johansson. Have you ever been surprised by what someone is like in person versus their public image?

All of my experiences have been very positive! To be honest, I don’t go into my shoots with expectations about the talent, so I’m always pleasantly surprised—they are usually really great people to work with.


What does a normal week of your life look like in terms of work, travel, and family time?

There’s never a normal week. Being a photographer means nothing is the same, ever. One day I’m on a plane, the next day I’m on a beach, the next day I’m in winter, the next day I’m in summer. There’s always something different, which is great because it’s never boring! But that’s also one of the challenges because you have to find stability within the unpredictability. I practice yoga to ground myself—because I’m always in the air, which is the opposite of being grounded. I also ground myself by hanging out with my dogs. I have three, and I try to travel with them when I can.


Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-6

Julianne Moore.

Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-7

Jay Z and Kerry Washington.

Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-8

Miranda Kerr.


How easy is it for you to switch between concepts and styles—for example, from shooting some of the most beautiful women in the world, for Victoria’s Secret, to the challenge of capturing the true essence of a star such as Leo DiCaprio or Tom Cruise?

I wouldn’t say it’s fast or easy. Each shoot has its challenges. Depending on what the goal of the shoot is, I always prep before and discuss the vision with the team. I go into each shoot with a clear vision in mind of what we need to achieve.

How did you end up working with major television networks and music labels, and what are the fundamental differences of that part of your work as opposed to the rest of your portfolio?

It really was a natural progression because I work with many celebrities and musicians, photographing them for covers and editorial work for fashion magazines. What happens is that after I’ve done that kind of work with them, they might request me to shoot them for advertising assignments.

I definitely take a different approach in terms of lighting and composition when I’m shooting advertising for a movie, TV show, or a new album versus doing, for example, portraiture. The subject changes—yes, I’m photographing a talent, a person. But when it’s an advertising shoot, I am photographing them in their character for a role that is meant to represent an era or a fictional time and place. In this case hair, makeup, and styling aren’t necessarily what the talent would wear and represent in everyday life. When shooting an album cover, the focus is not only the musician or the band, it’s also their music, and so the goal here is to find a way to portray the artist.

On the other hand, when I do portraiture, my goal is to capture the essence of my subjects, to convey the realness, the person. It’s more intimate.


Apart from the technical abilities, what are the main skills that a good photographer must master nowadays in order to be appreciated, busy and deemed, excellent?
Having a team you know and trust is crucial, and recognizing who those people are is a skill. Being able to rely on amazing photo assistants, hair stylists, makeup artists, and stylists on your team is priceless because you can inspire each other, and this is how you create memorable photography. Photographers direct shoots, so they have to have people on the team who they trust will help achieve the vision.

Also, you have to be able to lead your team and capitalize on everyone’s strengths, as well as work well with a diverse range of people and personalities.


Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-9

Justin Timberlake and (right) a photo from a fashion shoot for Numéro.

Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-10

Michael Fassbender and (right) some of Nino’s many covers.


With the rise of Instagram and Facebook, every kid with a smartphone starts considering themselves a photographer. Is this a good or bad thing for the art of photography?

I think it’s a great thing that people are experimenting with different types of technology. Everybody has hidden talents, and it’s a cool and easy way for people to express themselves. I love photographs, and I enjoy seeing images taken by people who aren’t professionals; I’m inspired by what people say and share. At the same time, being a professional photographer definitely takes a lot more than just snapping shots with a camera.

If you were to choose three assignments/moments in your career that will stay in your heart and mind forever, which ones would they be?

Number 1: Being represented by Stockland Martel. As a photographer in New York, it was a dream to be represented by an agency that I looked up to and to be part of their roster.
Number 2: A personal shoot I did for one of my dearest and closest friends after she had given birth to her first baby. It was beautiful to capture such an intimate moment between her, her husband, and their child.
Number 3: When I photographed Gisele for The Face magazine. That was the first time I got to work with all of my friends, from the stylists to the makeup artists. I remembering thinking to myself, “I can’t believe this is happening. It’s a dream come true. Not only do I get to do what I love, but I get to work with my best friends.”

I feel like I’m just getting started, though. I just finished my first directing job—featuring Zoe Saldana for Stuart Weitzman—so I’m looking forward to a whole new adventure in directing. This is just the beginning.


Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-11

January Jones and Alicia Keys.

Nino Muñoz_Up_Romania-12

A photo from a fashion editorial and (right) Adrien Brody.

Nino Muñoz_Up_cover

Nino’s portrait of Scarlett Johansson on the cover of Up.



Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: