Q&A with multiple year Awards winner Nik Mirus

Photographer, Director and DOP

February 3, 2023

Q&A with multiple year Awards winner Nik Mirus

We were in touch with  multiple year Applied Arts Photography Awards winner Nik Mirus for a Q&A to discuss the industry's demands for motion and stills. As a photographer, director and DOP Nik has the scoop on the natural evolution and melding of these mediums in response to clients' requests. As he puts it "This (change) is no shock".

How does the photographer in you influence the director or vice versa?

As a photographer I have always enjoyed creating aesthetically clean and  graphic images with well crafted set design elements. Lighting also plays an integral role in my photography work. This approach to creating photographic images has influenced the way I approach directing projects. I often start by sketching out frames that I feel will hold their own as still images. As the process progresses and I begin storyboarding, I find ways to tie them together using transitions and add motion to them. The still image remains at the core of my motion projects, I just find ways to adapt them into moving images.   


These are the people in my neighbourhood by Nik Mirus

These are the people in my neighbourhood by Nik Mirus 2021 Applied Arts Photography Awards winner in the Photo-Illustration category.

Was it a steep learning curve to extend your vision from a still image to a moving one or vice versa?

Absolutely it’s been a learning curve! Creating photographs has its own challenges but there is a quiet simplicity to the still image. Once the photograph is taken, in a sense, that’s it!  Of course there is post production that happens, but once that process is completed the image is free to live on its own. Working on motion projects feels exponentially more complex. Learning about pacing, transitions, and technical issues has been challenging. Adding elements such as sound design or considering how to tell a story in a 15 second spot are concerns that I do not have to contend with when working as a photographer. This being said, I’ve been fortunate over the past few years as I have been working as a Director of Photography with some talented commercial directors in Montreal. This exposure has given me a better insight into the creative and technical processes involved when directing. No question, It’s helped with the transition and flatten the learning curve.

SNCF by Nik Mirus 2019 Applied Arts Photography Awards winner in the Motion Short category.

Can you share with us how the second medium, whether it be photography or motion, came into your creative tool box? 

To a certain degree, it has been out of necessity that motion has been added to my tool box. Over the past few years, I have found that clients have been requesting more and more motion assets. Whether it be looping gif images, cinematographs of longer live action motion sequences, there is more demand. I never consciously set out to be a director, it’s just kind of happening in a very natural and organic fashion. It has been a challenge but I am enjoying the process.

Are you wearing both hats at the same time on most of your projects? If so, how does that come together on set?

Yes, I often take on the role as Director of Photography when acting as Director. On a very basic level, I really love creating images. Framing up shots, building lighting setups and working out technical challenges is what I love about photography. I don’t consider myself a control freak, but this is one role that I feel reluctant to give up. This being said, it can be a lot to juggle when on set. Both roles are very demanding. Thankfully, I am supported with really strong technical teams which allow me to do both roles. Also, the scale of directing projects that I generally take on are small enough that I can manage wearing both hats. However, there will be a time when I will need to step aside and secede some of that control.

Club Palace by Nik Mirus 2019 Applied Arts Photography Awards winner in the Motion Long category.

Who or what is your source of inspiration?

I am surrounded by really creative people here in Montreal. There is a certain degree of commingling and exchange of ideas among us and I get inspired seeing these people’s work. It’s hard to stay idle when everyone around you is striving and pushing themselves to explore and to do compelling work. I want to contribute to that creative energy.  I also find inspiration in the act of being alone in the studio, testing and working thorough ideas. Personally, creativity and inspiration don’t just happen on its own. I need to work for it, even if it’s hard to find sometimes.

How has Applied Arts Awards helped grow your business?

I’ve always been a strong proponent of submitting work to awards such as Applied Arts. Being featured in AA over the years has given me a degree of confidence in my work and allowed me to reach an audience that is only accessible via the magazine. It’s not only been a great way to showcase my projects but also see the work of other creatives in the Canadian commercial arts world. There is also a certain level of credibility that one gains from being featured in the magazine. Getting your name out there is important when building a reputation. Applied Arts has helped me do this. 

What is the most challenging project you have worked on? What were your challenges?

A couple of years ago I worked as the DP on director Camille Boyer’s personal film “Open Season”. She created a story in which all the action took place in a miniature room and the protagonists were represented as miniature chairs. At a certain point in the film, the set rotates and begins to fill with water! The whole set was built on a system of rollers that the camera was mounted to. Light sources and background elements were also rigged to the rotating mechanism. Technically, it was a challenge to light and plan the shot sequences. The resets were difficult as access was limited…..It was loads of fun and the results were fantastic but at times it was very stressful. I don’t recommend trying to film a set that is essentially a rotating aquarium, particularly on a shoestring budget. 

Open Season by Nik Mirus 2022 Applied Arts Photography Awards winner in the Cinematography category.

What project are you most proud of? What was your creative process? 

Over the years there have been many projects that have made me proud. A few years back, I  was commissioned by the Walrus Magazine to do a series of photographers that focused on old medical paraphernalia rediscovered at Montreal’s  Royal Victoria Hospital. It was the first job where I felt like I was given full control and freedom to explore and do what I wanted to do. The editorial series developed into a larger project that the hospital exposed in one of the new medical buildings. I recently made a trip to the hospital with my young daughter and prints are still hanging after all these years. I’m proud that they have found a permanent home and can be enjoyed by so many people on a daily basis.    

What are the trends you are seeing in the industry and how do these impact motion/stills?

Perhaps it is because I am developing a larger motion based portfolio and this is having an influence on the request for photography based projects, but there is obviously a trend towards the moving image. This is no shock. Three years ago I would be asked to work on a stills based campaign and clients would request some small motion assets like gifs or cinematographs on the side. Today the initial briefs are mainly motion based projects and the still image feels like the add on. Ultimately, this has impacted the type of skills photographers need to develop.