In Conversation With Fashion Photographer Muzi Sufi

WOW is an acronym for Women Only Wednesdays. The idea is to cover famous and lesser known women who belong to a diverse variety of professional backgrounds. From fashion, marketing, blogging, and engineering, to designing, cooking, science, and photography. What binds them are their stories of struggle and success.

Featuring Wonder Woman Muzi Sufi – The Fashion Photographer Defining Excellence

Muzi Sufi seems to be her own muse — or at least that’s what we think. Her photography is the perfect blend of dreamy soft hues, and artistic storytelling with great attention to detail. It was a treat to interview a fashion photographer like her, with a reputation that precedes her. She’s shot all over the world for the last 6 years, and juggled motherhood along with her ever busy work schedule. Whether you’re a fan the well dressed mother-daughter duo or travel, her photography or impeccable fashion sense, Muzi and her Instagram feed effortlessly carve a place in everyones hearts.  

Who is Muzi Sufi besides a photographer?

A wife, mother, daughter and sister. The most important thing in my life is my family, so they make up a majority of who I am. I also love good fashion, great friends and travelling everywhere. I’m expressive, emotional and driven. 

What was your childhood like?

Cairo, Egypt for the most part. A few other places in the middle east, the states, and London for a few years too. I had a perfect childhood – my parents are the best in the world and have given us the most incredible life and experiences. We kept moving around every few years and I’ve realised that the nomadic life has shaped me and my interests in so many ways. I have 3 sisters and a brother so it was always so much fun growing up with live-in friends – although at that time we may not have seen it that way. Academically, I was always a straight A student, I was the girl people wanted to sit next to during tests! (laughs)

How did you get into photography?

I really wanted to pick up a hobby – it was part boredom part fascination, and I had a camera lying around. 

Which lens is your favourite? Why?

I think I’m still biased to the 85mm f/1.2. It has the most gorgeous bokeh and is so sharp, and I love the frame from that focal length. Having said that, I also love shooting at 35mm (not fashion, but street and general things).

What photo editing program do you use? 

Adobe Photoshop for all work stuff, otherwise usually apps like VSCO for random Instagram stuff.

What is your favourite subject to photograph? 

People and travel.

What makes a good picture stand out from an average one? 

A few things. Sharpness means a great deal most of the time, so it is important what you choose to keep in focus and what you chose to keep off. Also there is a fine line between over editing and throwing on filters, or toning on photoshop – and I feel that’s what really makes or breaks it for me. I’ve seen such beautiful photography that is so easily ruined with filters and excess photoshop, so that’s probably the main factor for me. 

Whose work has influenced you the most? Name 3 photographers whose work you closely follow.

I wouldn’t really say I’ve been influenced by a particular photographer, because my actual style is very different from my favourite ones. But I’m forever in love with Gregory Crewdson, Annie Leibovitz, Tim Walker and Christian Schuller.

What kind of tools do you use for post processing?

Photoshop and a pen table.

Why did you choose to pursue photography as a career?

I became obsessed with achieving certain toning, particular techniques and, after hundreds of hours of practice, once I was able to replicate them perfectly, I realised I’m driven enough in the field to really want to do it all the time. 

What kind of gear do you use?

Canon girl. Canon 5D mark iii, telephoto and standard zoom lenses, and Profoto lighting.

How do you educate yourself to take better photos?

Never think you’re amazing. I’m not saying think of yourself as a bad photographer, but always allow some room for improvement in your own mind. That’s what makes you actually able to grow and learn – that goes for any career, to be honest. 

Did you go to school to study photography? How important is it to pursue a professional education in this field?

No – I have a business degree. You don’t have to have an academic education in the field, but you have to learn it. I’m self taught, with countless hours on photoshop trying and retrying different things. Video tutorials and online lessons help so much. Of course, you have to constantly be shooting. I would take pictures of random things and study what effect different settings were having and why daily for years. I think the most important thing is spending 1000 hours on photoshop (not an exaggeration) and mastering every type of post processing technique, and then physically shooting as well. Practice is everything.

What is the most difficult part of being a photographer for you?

I hate to say it but probably being a girl. It’s been a strong point on so many levels, but it’s also proven difficult at times in terms of being taken seriously by certain types of clients. The way I’ve been spoken to by some people in the industry just would never have been a thing if I were a guy. I also feel like I can’t get away with the kind of assertion that is required in this field to control situations. It would be received as “how dare she” coming from a girl, but “oh yes, of course, you’re right” when it’s coming from a male photographer. This may not be the case for all female photographers so I don’t want to generalise, but I’ve felt it quite a bit — especially initially, so that was difficult. 

What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer for you?

The archive of photos preserved forever! I love that I do this, I love doing it all the time, and I have countless memories forever saved on more than just my iPhone albums. Especially the pictures of family and travel. Another rewarding part is also being a girl! I know I’m contradicting myself a bit, but it feels great when I show up to a shoot and am able to bring an entirely different perspective to what a lot of clients are used to. And then obviously seeing the vision coming to life and going to print etc. It’s a great feeling honestly. 

What is your #1 piece of advice for all aspiring photographers?

Don’t copy. Try to be as original as you can in this digital age. Strive to constantly improve and actually learn every single thing you can – including small things like keyboard shortcuts on photoshop or camera techniques that are out of your style. Everything you learn can make you more efficient and quicker with delivery, and can help you deal with a situation where you’re asked to shoot something different from your usual style. 

How do you deal with work stress?

I don’t! I panic because I am inherently emotional, and when I have pending work I get actual anxiety and try to start working immediately. I’m the opposite of a procrastinator and I think that’s the best thing to be for a person like me because it leads to maximum efficiency. 

As a photographer, what is more important: your social media profile or a professional portfolio?

Social media definitely. Times have changed. Everyone views your Instagram now before they even know your full name so it is important to build a strong brand. I’ve actually placed all my work on my website which is also great to have, because it gives a more professional, high quality feel to your work. Plus, it’s all in one place. 

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