Pierre is a professional photographer based in Paris, France. Trained as a photojournalist, he focuses on editorial assignments and portraits both in France and abroad.
In this interview, Pierre shares some secrets about his work.
Don’t miss his PhotoDeck website, www.pierremorel.net!
I have been living in Europe, in Paris, for 5 years, that’s where my office and flat are located. I travel a lot, especially to the Alps region where I was born, where I have many clients and where I enjoy my main passion: extreme skiing. I also lived in Serbia in year 2012. I checked my shooting days for 2013: one third was abroad, one third in Paris and the last third in the Alps.
I think that my clients could better describe my style than I can. I know that with time, my main focus point is people, mostly people in their environment. I also enjoy showcasing the “Human comedy” and its absurdity. And I think that I like photographs that are well composed. I am very sensitive to composition, to balance. To the point that I sometimes reject images if the composition is lacking, which can be a problem in editorial where the information is most important.
I don’t consider personal and assignment work in fundamentally different ways, because I simply love shooting. Either personal or commissioned, it’s always photojournalism or portrait. Again, it’s the people side that interests me most.
If it’s not a news assignment, I take 48 to 72 hours before a first look at my photographs. I always empty my flash cards with LightRoom after a shoot. I also take a first backup to an external HD at the same time. And then I don’t edit the series before this time of rest and reflexion. For some personal series, I can sometimes take months before starting editing. For assignments, I always do a first editing once the images are imported. I keep the decent images and delete the poor ones. Then I edit by elimination (removing the worse) then by selects (giving 2-3 stars to the best ones). In parallel, I also spend a lot of time adding metadata and captioning. A photograph that is not indexed is a lost photograph.
The next steps are standard: raw conversion with presets, either personal or found on the Web, export and delivery via FTP, DVD or email. Then 2 backups on NAS systems with RAID disks, one at the office and another at home. I also always select a few images for my blog, friends and family, or social media. And since I’m often working on several projets at the same time, these steps overlap often. I still have to get better organized and efficient, especially on editing, which takes a lot of my time.
I’m an assignment photographer. 90% of my jobs are commissioned. My activity is half editorial (press) and half corporate. And I like it this way. I had last year about 40 clients. With the press, it’s mainly magazines, daily newspapers, and the Ski press. For corporate, public institutions, a few companies, entertainment shows and communication or event agencies. My clients are currently mostly French, but I’m working to expand internationally.
I got started March 2008 when my first photograph was published in a national weekly magazine and I was paid as a photojournalist. The next month I registered myself as an independent photographer. I was 20 and just out of a photojournalism school in Paris, the EMI-CFD.
I grew up with the Internet, so having a website and a blog to share what I do is completely natural to me. I can’t live without. It has become my main channel to promote and market myself. Since social media came up, I’ve been using Twitter, Facebook and more recently Instagram. Always to share and show what I do. I enjoy interacting with a community, spreading my images. It’s just a different kind of word-of-mouth. I like using images as a communication channel and leveraging each communication tool’s specificities. I don’t necessarily tell or show the same things on Facebook and Instagram.
I also use traditional tools, business cards, postcard mailings, and I’m working for next year on a 60-page Blurb book in magazine format to give out to photo editors.
Taking an accountant, 3 years ago. She is specialized in the photo business, a great pro. Each month, I get a detailed business report: billings, costs, profit, or upcoming taxes and mandatory charges. She has helped me stabilize my income and better manage my budget, identifying what worked and what didn’t. She’s also given me a lot of tax tips and helped me understand important details about my status. She has really allowed me to better estimate my work, my prices. With her I gained confidence in my business.
Sometimes it’s a mistake to accept work for which you’re not necessarily qualified, and then execute poorly or under too much stress. It happened for example when I accepted to make a video from A to Z. I should have said no, but I’m passionate and I accepted the job. I think the client was happy with the result, but I put myself under huge pressure, I had little skill or gear, and ultimately it was neither profitable nor enjoyable. One has to know when to delegate or say no. You can’t do anything, even if sometimes taking up challenges helps you progress.
It’s looking good, I also have a backup business that’s working well (weddings) if the rest falls apart. I do that only during the summer as a buffer. I think understand better and better our profession, I see so many ways to make money that it’s unlikely that I have to stop for economical reasons. There are still many things I am yet to try (exhibitions, print sales, books, project grants, etc…). It’s as many unplayed cards and there are many photographs I want to take. Actually I don’t have time to be pessimist. When you think positively, you free your spirit and dare more. I’m earning more and more, so let’s keep going!
Be eager to learn and get involved in your work. See it as a business, act like a pro and be efficient. Build a virtuous circule around you, meet people with energy or other creatives. Ask for decent pay and show your value. Don’t criticize others, but use them as emulation sources. Think about our profession’s future and stay up-to-date. Information is everywhere, just take it.
My challenges have to do with my situation as a freelancer: it’s about staying motivated day in day out, getting organized properly and managing to keep private and work life separate. It’s tough when your job is your passion, especially for a creative job. That’s why I rent an office, why I try to take vacations where I don’t answer emails, or why I turn off the computer and Internet every evening. I try to maintain other hobbies, to clear my head. The best of it is that it makes you even better and more efficient as a photographer.
For my professional site, I use PhotoDeck first of all for my portfolios, it’s my window. I show what I do best, at a glance, with a mosaic display on my frontpage, then in a more editorial way with assignments and personal projects shown as sequences, image by image.
I also host my archive, which is very well referenced in Google. I have also created a client area to deliver images but I don’t use it much yet. Lastly, my WordPress blog is well integrated design-wise with the site.
I also have another subscription for my wedding site: it’s perfect to share galeries with the grooms online, and to sell prints even if I’m still just testing that. The grooms and their guests can easily download photographs.
My PhotoDeck site has been online since the autumn 2013, it’s fairly recent and it keeps evolving. Updates and adjustments are easy and quick to make, it already generates a lot of visits, people come to check my news. My clients love it compared to my previous site. They can view it on their tablet or smartphone and that’s essential. They like the site’s simplicity, the fullscreen images, and the fact that it’s well referenced in Google.
The final argument in favour of PhotoDeck was the possibility to have a site in multiple languages. In my case, it’s French and English. Especially because in France we’re still too bad and reluctant with the English language, it’s important for me to keep a French version. PhotoDeck is one of the very few solutions that allow multilingual sites.
There are several of them: I would like images to appear even faster, or that they’d be preloaded. I would also really like a presentation mode with an horizontal scroll where all images would be preloaded and aligned one with the others. As a photojournalist it’s really important and I think it’s a good way to tell a story.