Behind the Lens with Tiffany Kokal

Photographer Tiffany Kokal finds her niche working with small local businesses.

Tiffany Kokal spends hours behind a camera, but photography hasn’t always been her full-time job. She has always had a deep love of art but was working as a dental assistant when the photography bug bit. Deciding not to ignore it, she set out to learn how to take breathtaking photos and has been capturing life in and around Lake Minnetonka ever since.

Now a well-established local photographer, Kokal got her start in the wedding business. “It was around seven years ago—all of my friends were getting married, and that’s kind of when the passion started,” she says. She was intrigued by the particular style of a photographer, Collin Hughes, whom one of her friends had booked for a wedding, and decided to ask him for some advice. “I just absolutely fell in love with his style and how he shot, so I reached out to him, asking what cameras he used, and then I had the guts to ask if I could shadow him during weddings,” she says. That proved to be a risk worth taking. For a year, Kokal accompanied Hughes to his shoots, learning—and eventually mastering—the art.

Kokal says this interactive approach fit her personality well. “I’m a hands-on learner. I’m not a bookworm, and technicality is not my strong point,” she says. “It’s just having an eye for it, and the photographer told me that. You don’t need to go to school for this, because you either have the eye for it or you don’t.”

Now, Kokal is a full-time photographer and launched her own studio, Kokal Photography, in 2012. Weddings still make up a large part of her business—and she has another busy season coming up as winter gives way to spring and summer—but she also shoots other subjects. “I love people, and I love homes,” she says. “I feel like the phase of life you’re in reflects what you’re passionate about, so right now, I want to shoot people in their homes with their families.”

Though Kokal does plenty of staged shoots, she says capturing dynamic, candid moments is what she loves best, especially among families. “I love the truth behind families,” she says. “Families can be so stressful, but at the same time, they’re real. The kids might be in a bad mood, which, of course, will be upsetting to you at the time, but I know that when families look back on photos in ten years, they’re going to remember exactly what mood they were in and how they behaved and why. … The photos are truly reflective of the family dynamic.”

A Lake Minnetonka native (she grew up in Mound and now lives in Deephaven with her husband Christopher and their young daughter, Ainsleigh), Kokal is also passionate about integrating her love of taking photos with her desire to help the community. She manages the Instagram account for Excelsior’s Water Street and is eager to find additional ways to support small businesses in the area. “I realized that’s how a community grows. You need businesses in order for people to make income in order for the world to go ’round,” she says. “My passion is for the community as a whole. Any way that I can take a picture to help someone sell a product that will help them support their families—that makes the world go around just as much.”