What does it take to be a great photographer? Jigs Arquiza finds out.

“IT DOESN'T really matter what kind of camera you have,” the striking 32-year-old photographer declares, “as long as you’ve got the basics of photography down pat: aperture, shutter speed, light theory and composition.”

In this day and age where everyone who has a digital single-lens reflex camera consider themselves a “photographer”, Katherine Mae Zialcita insists on perfection when it comes to picture-taking. It’s not just a matter of taking a whole series of shots and choosing which shot comes out best, she says.

Having started with film cameras, she recalls the time when she had to take photos carefully, lest she waste a lot of film. Describing how she used to save on developing costs, she shares with a laugh, “I would have contact prints developed first, then choose what shots came out fine. With digital cameras, you can just shoot and shoot and not worry about film.”

The managing director of Black+White Studio at St. Patrick’s Square near Redemptorist Church, Katya, as she is called by those close to her, practically lives and breathes photography. “I’ve been interested in photography since I was five years old.” she says, adding that her father was also interested in photography. “When my dad saw that I loved to take pictures, I became the family photographer!” Katya remembers fondly.

“When I started, photography was a form of art,” she says wistfully, “Now photography’s become too commercial. It’s become disappointing because it seems like people has lost their appreciation for good photographs.” She also considers the rampant use of photo-editing software as a major step backwards in her chosen field.

“With the software,” Katya cites a popular photo-editing program, “you can just edit and edit and nobody would come out the wiser.” As a way to preserve and uplift her craft, Katya holds photography workshops in her studio where she teaches, yes, aperture, depth of field, light sources and whatnot.

She loves photography like life itself, and through her art, Katya hopes to disprove the general opinion that you have to have a good-looking subject to take a good photograph. “It’s not how beautiful the subject is,” she insists, “but how you take the photo.”

During pictorials, jazz music can be heard coming out of Black+White Studio’s sound system. “I like listening to jazz,” naming her favorite musicians as Nina Simone, Billie Holliday and Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. “I’d love to have watched Nina Simone when she was still alive.” Katya adds.

While she’s pretty “hard-core” when it comes to photography, spending a lot of time at her studio, Katya still manages to spend a lot of time with her three-year-old daughter Zoe. Asked if she was a strict mom, she admits “I’m okay. I’m kind of strict, but I also want to teach my daughter to be independent. She’s the inspiration for everything that I do.” Katya confesses though, that “I also learn from my daughter.”

When she’s not taking photos or spending time with her daughter, she reads a lot, saying “It was Sweet Valley High when I was really young, then I graduated to Sidney Sheldon. After that, I became interested in biographies. I even started reading books about business, in order to better myself.”

As to Katya’s dreams, she says with a yearning so apparent, “I want to take even just one photograph that everyone would know. I want to have my own Mona Lisa.”