You may remember Shaira Luna as the "gifted child" or "child genius" from that formula milk TV commercial in the nineties. For many years, she evaded the thought, but eventually came to embracing it as part of her journey. She shares that sometimes, when people meet her for the first time and begin to realize who she is, she already brings it up and even jokes about it. Quintessential Shaira, always giggling and in a cheery mood.
Fast forward to today, Shaira has established herself to be one of the most sought-after and brilliant fashion and celebrity photographers of her generation—a far cry from what she thought she was meant to be (a doctor)—with a distinct cinematic, dreamy aesthetic. From shooting the country's biggest names like Anne Curtis, Heart Evangelista, Bea Alonzo, and Judy Ann Santos, to shooting for top luxury brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, there's no denying that Shaira can photograph anything. If not working on commissioned shoots, she also keeps busy with her personal projects, which now includes vlogging. Her penchant for anything vintage and thrifting led her to sharing this—and more!—on her YouTube channel, which has already amassed 42.7k subscribers (as of this writing).
Aside from her love for photography, Shaira is a proud fashion girl. One thing the pandemic made her realize is that you don't have to wait for that next big event or occasion to dress up—it's now or never! Which is why she is all the more inspired to formulate outfits with pieces from her enviable closet. Ahead, seek style inspiration from Shaira and get to know this creative genius a little bit more.
A master at quirky styling, Shaira layers the Mahdia skirt set in Fiery Floral with a ribbon-tie long sleeve blouse.
How are you and what’s a day in your life like in the “new normal”?
I am very good, thank you. Well, I don’t think my routine has changed so much in the new normal except for all the testing and extra precautions. In general, it’s pretty much hectic as it was before. I still have to wake up super, super early. Our shoot call times, are always very early. We have 12-14 hour days which is normal. I really love working because everyday is a different kind of shoot. I don’t just do commercial or editorial. As you know, I’ll shoot anything. I have to research and study everyday. The day before the shoot, I review the pegs or I ask who we’re working with so I know what to expect during the shoot.
When I get home, I try to work on my YouTube and then I’m usually still working until the time I have to sleep because I have to export files. While I’m sleeping, my files are exporting, then when I wake up the next day, I transfer everything to the hard drives for delivery. So, I’m waiting for the delivery for pick up then I’m off to another shoot. Normal day in the life. Very action-packed.
Many know you as a successful fashion photographer and with your following or supporters, an influencer too (we watch your YouTube channel!). How has this affected your career in photography? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
For sure, they definitely intersect. The similar thing that connects the two is that they both grew organically. I don’t think I was born with an eye for fashion or photography. For sure, I fell in love with photography first. My sense of style evolved through photography and working with people. It opened my eyes to a different kind of art form which is dressing up, that is a discipline on its own. It’s icing on the cake that I get to do those things.
First of all, I didn’t expect my photography to be something I’d be doing like this now, so how much more me expecting to kind of hold the banner up high for thrifters. It kind of was a natural progression. I think my love for fashion really helps with my photography. Now when I shoot, I kind of can understand where it's coming from or what the intention was, or what stylists are leaning toward to. It’s really a learning process for me and I’m just glad the two inform each other. It’s super fun. I love learning about it everyday.
"I’m more comfortable in my own skin and it took a while. I’d say 80%, partly because of my dressing." The visionary plays with contrast by accessorizing the Abary dress with black pieces.
Share with us three valuable lessons you’ve learned that helped in building your career.
You don’t always have to have a plan. I don’t think I planned anything when I started my career. First of all, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was trying to figure out what I could do, not even what I wanted to do. I just took it day by day. For the longest time, I thought I was interested in something but apparently, that wasn’t the case. If I really followed it just to be able to follow a goal, I don’t know if I would have been as fulfilled or happy as I am now. It’s really being braver on taking risks and taking time because when I left school, everyone was expected to get their lives together. What’s the point of rushing and ending up with something half-baked? I just took my time and thankfully, it worked in my favor.
Be physically and mentally strong. You have to deal with different kinds of people and actual physical work. When I started, there weren’t really a lot of girls in the industry—just a lot of big guys with big cameras. They would always offer to help me or carry my stuff, and I understand where they’re coming from. It’s hard work! The hours are very long. You wake up early. Sometimes you don’t even get to eat on time. There are long hours of traveling and lots of equipment you have to carry. You have to be strong in both aspects. I think that’s one thing a lot of people overlook. You have to be healthy.
Just be good! Be a good, proper person and have respect for people you work with. I talk to everyone on set, from the maintenance guy to the assistants. It’s nice knowing what everyone does and what part they have initiated. It’s nice to get to know a little bit of everything.
With everything that you’re juggling, how do you achieve a work-life balance? Any tips that you can share to those who are struggling with this?
I’ve prepared myself to know that I don’t think it’s really achievable (work-life balance). It’s always going to be in favor of one at some point. I think the scales just tip in one direction sometimes, and another direction at times, and I think I’m okay with that. Well, of course, it’s different for everyone but I know at a point in time, it’s not balanced. If you can live with that and if you can work with that, it changes your perspective. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t achieve work-life balance.
What empowers you as a woman? On the flip side, how do you think are you empowering other women?
I think the fact that I’ve lasted this long in the industry, that was very much male-dominated, is empowering in itself for me. As a young, kind of small girl before, I guess some people thought that it was a passing thing or it was just a phase. That I won’t last long because of all the physical work. I kind of thrived on the work and I know people have seen that and younger girls too, that I’ve been shooting since 2006. They used to see my story in magazines or in the news when they were younger, and I get to work with these girls now. It kind of gives them hope that they can do anything.
You don’t have to be of a certain stature, or gender, or background to be able to do what you want to do. I know somehow, even a little bit, people have been empowered by my choices or my work and hopefully, it led them to something nice.
How do you keep yourself relevant in this day and age?
I try to be consistent. I just never stop producing work. It doesn’t matter who sees it or if people see it. For me it’s really the output that is consistent. Always show up for the job and always produce quality work. The relevant side of it is a bonus but I really just want the work to be there and I’m thankful that it’s considered relevant. Consistency is key. Whatever you’re shooting, you have to make it good and you have to be proud of it. You have to put the same effort in everything that you do.
I try to adjust and be flexible with different shoots. I try to adapt and not to get stuck it 2010, haha! I try to be aware with what’s happening in the industry and outside. Talking to people during shoots or whenever I work also helps. I am always forever curious!
The creative genius giving us retro vibes with the Issano dress (Style tip: like Shaira, you can also wear it the other way around and use the tie as a ribbon belt).
We know you love fashion too! Describe your personal style.
My personal style depends on what I’m shooting that day. Or what the set is that day. It’s hard to define, but vintage for sure. I would say it’s playful but not extravagant, and not too out there. I think it’s approachable, not intimidating. Still fun. There’s always an intention or story behind the clothes I put on.
I don’t really like rules. Not everything has to be perfect or else it will be boring.
Who are your greatest fashion inspirations?
Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine—more theatrical, fantasy kind of dressing. For everyday dressing, it’s bands from the 60s, 70s, and 90s. Alanis Morissette. I tend to gravitate towards musicians. I can relate to how they assemble an outfit because you have to be able to move or be comfortable, and still have identity.
Elton John! I have screenshots of his outfits in Rocketman. So if I need color references, those are always great things to look at.
Loving Shaira's tattoos against the polkadot print of the Priego shorts set!
What style lessons can you impart to others, especially those who haven’t found their personal style yet?
I think the great thing to know, in 2022, is that there are so many options. There’s no need to conform to a certain way of dressing, thanks largely to social media. We all have access to different stores and inspirations. The fact that people are more accepting and open is a great avenue for more people to start exploring their style or how they want to dress, or if they want to have a style at all.
If you are figuring out how to dress, just open your phone. You have access to so many styles and information, and people who are willing to help you out.
Top three fashion items you can’t live without?
Three only? No! Haha! High waist jeans with very big pockets. Crossbody bag—I use it for work and in general. Dr. Martens or boots—it’s the practical side of me. I can’t afford to slip when I’m shooting. I have to have good grip. A long-sleeved top to protect my tattoos. When you put them all together, it’s like an armor.
On her personal style: "It’s hard to define, but vintage for sure. I would say it’s playful but not extravagant, and not too out there. There’s always an intention or story behind the clothes I put on." Shaira wears the Carinthia set in Fiery Floral.
Shoots can get tiring so we know you should be in an outfit that’s as comfortable as possible. Do you have a go-to work look or do your outfits vary?
I have variations of a look. Overalls are the best—they are easy to slip on and off. They’re so functional. They are tough, so they are like protection. I like jumpsuits or boiler suits. Those with Chuck Taylor’s or my Dr. Martens.
Share a fashion memory you’d never forget.
A great fashion memory would be going to Bangkok for a Gucci press event. When I got to go and see the clothes up-close, I saw it as art. Something that you couldn’t pass off as materialistic or fleeting. It was so inspiring for me to be able to touch and feel the garments. To get a peek into the process behind creating these things.
Those three days for me for the Gucci show was eye-opening. It gave me a real appreciation for fashion. It’s not just there to be sold or be used as a status symbol. Every garment—no matter which fashion house, I guess—has come from research, years of archiving, developing textiles, techniques, and collaborations. That was a big moment for sure. After that, I think I saw fashion differently. Grabe yun! Naiyak ata ako. (It blew me away! I think I teared up.) I was transported to their archives. It was amazing!
"It takes a little bit of confidence, but it’s fun to dress up!" Shaira's take on wearing animal print featuring the Flow pants.