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Hi there,

it’s been nearly 1 year since I have posted my last article here. During that period, lots of things happened in my life: I shot many weddings and commercials, I was the official photographer for a Mauritian movie (to be released later in 2014), I took my first holidays in 4 years, my friend Thomas and I launched a foundation called “Fondation Marengo” which aims at preserving the Mauritian heritage, and I started to write 2 books about Mauritius (to be released in 2015 and 2016).

With everything going at a fast pace, new projects, ideas and opportunities flowing in without pause, it has been a quite tough period for me, always being busy and overbooked. In the end, it’s the whole creative process which is suffering – creativity needs time, I need time to be creative, and I’m happy I have decided to take the necessary time to write my books. Photography is a singular art, where creativity meets commercial pressure at every steps, where digital technology means instantaneity, where speed prevails over quality. I feel it’s time for me to be back to basic, to photographic roots, to feel closer to my subjects, to take time to admire and appreciate the present moment – in other words, CARPE DIEM !, and this will be my tribute to an actor I liked very much, Robin Williams.

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Despite it is not “fresh” news anymore since it happened in June 2012, I still wanted to share some images and thoughts here about my first conceptual fashion shoot.

The consultation I launched through a poll here on my blog gave birth to the definition of the selected theme: retro colonial. I discussed it with my wife and with a few friends (namely Julien and Jasbeer), and I finally decided to go for the “behind the scene” shoot of a movie on the colonial period. In every images of this concept, I had to integrate some anachronisms and some cinematographic elements (lights, clap, camera, film director on his chair …), as if it was a real movie. Obviously, I also shot some real “fashion” images and some portraits showing the great job of The House of Haute Couture Lionnet Fauzou, of the hairdresser Steeves Ramiah and the make-up artist Dominique Chan, and the great acting of my models. So this basically was my concept.

After having defined the concept and explained it to the fashion designers, I needed to clarify my thoughts about the “what will shoot exactly, what do I want to show in my images ?” It then became obvious to me that what I will show is the normal life of a normal colonial couple, in their wonderful house (Eureka in Moka). I started to picture in my mind the different scenes of life that I wanted to capture – the couple having a cup of tea inside, the couple reading books in the varangue, the couple walking in their park, the couple having a picnic in their garden, the couple playing badminton together, the couple having fun with arts (drawing, photographing), the couple dancing at twighlight  … It seemed to me that it would constitute a nice series of images, quite different the ones from the others.

So here they are … some of the images taken during this wonderful day:

Back to Marie Antoinette time DSC_8804w signed resized DSC_8851w signed resized DSC_8870w signed resized DSC_8960w signed resized DSC_8992w signed resized DSC_9001w signed resized DSC_9013w signed resized DSC_9038w signed resized DSC_9051w signed resized DSC_9078w signed resized DSC_9093w signed resized DSC_9135w1 signed resized DSC_9151w finale signed resized DSC_9160w signed resized

After disclosing those images, I simply would like to emphasize some facts and figures on the preparation of such a photo shoot. It seems to me that people should know more on all the work that lies behind a photo shoot. And here, I’m only talking for my part, the photographer’s part – hence this doesn’t include the work of the fashion designers, who did a fantastic job on the dress and the male costume.

So for me, this shoot represented:

– 5 full days of preparations – defining the concept and the outfit, finding the right place, the right people and the appropriate accessories (3 days were spent only to do shopping to find the best accessories !)

– more than 100 phone calls

– more than 50 different people, shops, partners … contacted and met

– 4 hours of actual photo shooting

– 3 hours of hairdressing and make-up

– some Rs 22,000 spent out of my pocket (this obviously doesn’t include the cost for the outfit, which has been offered to me due to my honorable mention for the fashion photography contest !)

– more than 18 people present on the photo shoot

As you can see, it looks more like a real movie production than just a photo shoot ! 😉 But all the efforts we put in it were really worthy, we had a wonderful day and so much fun.

In the end, as you can imagine, I would not have been able to do all this without a lot of help. Here is a list of all the people I would like to thank: my wife Diane and my kids Chloé and Simon, for their support, help and patience; my parents-in-law for helping me find a lot of accessories; Anais and Véronique Lionnet, and Fabien Fauzou for having created such wonderful fashion outfits, just like in my dreams; Jasbeer Kootbally for her great ideas and for her beautiful drawings; Ali Ghanti, for being the best photo assistant; Karen Nicolini for having found the 2 perfect models for this shoot; Courtney Horn and Vincent Jolivet, THE 2 perfect models, who acted exactly how I wanted; Steeves Ramiah, the hairdresser, for having crafted an amazing hair cut on Courtney; Dominique Chan, MUA, for the stunning make-up on the models; Jacques De Marroussem, owner of the Eureka House, for having allowed me to have the shoot in his absolutely awesome colonial house; The Mauritius Film Development Corporation, recommended by my friend Gonzalo Fanny, for lending me all the cinema equipment. And I surely miss some other people (sorry in advance for that) …

Être photographe est un véritable engagement.

La photographie, qui est l’art d’écrire avec la lumière, permet à celui qui déclenche l’obturateur de poser un œil particulier sur le monde et l’environnement qui l’entourent. Les photographes sont les témoins visuels de leur époque, et leurs images documentent la réalité, leur réalité. Elles sont un prolongement de leurs yeux, le reflet de ce qu’ils voient, de ce qu’ils vivent, de ce qu’ils ressentent. Comment alors rester insensible à ce qui se passe sous leurs yeux ?

Ainsi de nombreux photographes s’engagent dans diverses actions politiques et écologiques. Yann Arthus Bertrand pour son engagement écologique (“La Terre vue du ciel”), ou, plus proche de nous à Maurice, Jameel Peerally pour son engagement politique avec Azir Moris, sont deux exemples parmi des centaines d’autres.

Mon engagement personnel, pour mon pays d’adoption qu’est l’île Maurice, concerne la protection du patrimoine culturel, architectural et paysager. C’est un engagement qui vaut la peine parce que l’Ile Maurice recèle encore d’une grande variété d’endroits, de paysages, de vieilles traditions à protéger et à préserver. Mais il s’agit aussi d’un combat, car il faut se battre contre le pouvoir de l’argent (à tous les niveaux), contre une société qui dénigre son passé et son patrimoine coloniaux et contre une culture du mauvais goût et de l’uniformisation. Pourtant, il me semble qu’il y a une prise de conscience qui est en train de naître dans notre petite ile; de plus en plus de personnes s’insurgent contre le tout béton, contre les dizaines de projets d’hôtels, d’IRS qui défigurent Maurice à tout jamais, qui privent les Mauriciens de leur terre et dont l’argent ne bénéficie qu’à une poignée de personnes. Ces projets, bien souvent d’une laideur affligeante, sont de très grande ampleur et sont un désastre écologique: pollution des sols, pollution du lagon, création de plages artificielles, destructions des habitats naturels pour les espèces endémiques … sans parler de la pollution visuelle ! Que préfèrent les gens, Mauriciens ou touristes: se retrouver sur une plage déserte, façon Robinson Crusoë, avec un décor idyllique et sentir la nature; ou être sur la même plage, avec des transats par centaines, et pour seule perspective la dizaine d’hôtels en béton qui vient d’ouvrir !

Je pense qu’avant tout, il faut redonner aux Mauriciens le goût du beau, de l’esthétique, de l’authenticité, de l’harmonie. Quand je montre aux couples que j’accompagne une belle maison coloniale pour y faire des photos, ils sont tous éblouis par la beauté de l’architecture, l’espace dans les jardins, l’organisation des pièces, le fait qu’il y fasse frais sans air conditionné … Les photographes (je citerais ici Kunal Jankee, dont le film en stop motion sur les beautés cachées de Maurice,”Celestial Pearl”, est attendu par tout le monde) sont partie-prenante dans la rééducation de la population mauricienne; grâce à leurs images, les Mauriciens vont découvrir leur pays, leur patrimoine et le fait que tout est menacé de disparition. Alors, peut-être, souhaiteront-ils faire bouger les choses pour stopper ce massacre. Car après tout, en démocratie, c’est encore le peuple qui décide, non ?!

Pour terminer ce long article en français (désolé pour les non-francophones), je désire partager avec vous l’histoire d’une image forte, que j’ai faite très récemment dans une école de Rose Hill. On dit souvent qu’une image vaut mieux que cent discours; je pense que c’est partiellement vrai, car on peut faire dire ce qu’on veut à une image. Pour autant, une belle image authentique peut créer une émotion très vive ne pouvant être décrite par des mots.

L’école, donc, est une ancienne maison coloniale en bois, et elle n’est plus entretenue depuis longtemps – trous dans le sol, dans les murs, aménagements sommaires. Pour autant, cette école reste magnifique, on peut y sentir la vie et l’histoire des milliers d’écoliers qui sont passés par ses bancs. Le propriétaire du lieu, directeur de l’école, nous dit qu’elle sera vraisemblablement démolie pour être remplacée par une école en béton sans âme, mais plus pratique. Les quelques élèves sur place nous avouent à demi-mots qu’ils ne se sentent pas concernés et qu’ils préfèrent un bâtiment moderne. L’image qui suit prend alors une force incroyable à la connaissance de cette histoire et du devenir de cette petite école; il en émane une tristesse et une mélancolie qui procurent en moi des sentiments puissants: tantôt je n’arrive pas à regarder cette image tant je suis triste, tantôt mes yeux ne peuvent se détourner de l’écran tant l’image est belle et tant j’ai envie de “sauver” cette école !

Ecole coloniale à Rose Hill

Back in 1998, when I first visited Mauritius, I discovered that my wife-to-be’s mother was raised and lived in a colonial house in Port-Louis. When I saw the house, I told to myself: “one day, I’ll own a similar colonial house and I’ll live in it”. Never could I have imagined, that 14 years later, I would be thinking of a photography project around the colonial houses to try to save them !

Indeed, in less than 2 decades, hundreds of colonial houses and other old style houses have been demolished in Mauritius. 10 years ago, I bought a wonderful book called “Vivre à l’Ile Maurice – la vie en varangue” – in this book are photographed more than a hundred of houses; today in 2012, less than 50% of those houses are still here ! This is a reality, and this is a reality of NOW – from the few houses (6) I have visited last week-end, 1 has been destroyed in 2012, 1 is promised to be destroyed in 2013, and 2 are in such a bad shape that they could simply collapse at any time.

Most of those houses are privately owned by Mauritian families, but some of them are owned by the State. We can argue that the cost of maintenance for those houses is high, but if it is well done on a regular basis, it is not unacceptable … and anyway, this cost is still far less than the one of destroying the house and building something new in concrete. We can also argue that the colonial houses is more a “white people” patrimony which is not linked to a positive past for most of the Mauritian – but here again, this is the history of the island, its culture and architecture and it has to be protected – in Poland for instance, they have not destroyed the Auschwitz site where millions of people were murdered. After all, I think it is simply a matter of choice and of willingness, and I believe it has to come from the State – for instance, some houses should be classified as Mauritian national patrimony and thus cannot be destroyed, even if they are privately owned. In France, it’s the case for a lot of castles, houses, monuments … And I truly believe that this goes in a positive direction for tourism,which is one of the most important pillar of the Mauritian economy. If Mauritius destroys its cultural patrimony, it will lose a lot of interest. Well, at least, this is my opinion.

So that’s why, with a Mauritian friend, we have decided to gather old and new images in a photography project to try to raise the awareness of whoever is interested with history, culture, architecture … ; the awareness that we have to do something, and we have to do it now ! Because who knows what will have happened in a few years if we don’t do anything now. This project will maybe end up with a book, we’ll see. But for sure, I’ll keep you posted here and there about it ! 😉

Here are a few images that I recently took:

1. My family-in-law house in Port-Louis – if there is one colonial house that I want to save myself, it’s this one. It is currently the location of a Mauritian company.

Colonial house Port-Louis

Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis

2. A couple of houses in Moka – the first one is promised to demolition in 2013, while the second one is hosting an office (which is a good way to rehabilitation):

Colonial house Moka  Colonial house Moka   Colonial house Moka  Colonial house Moka  Colonial house Moka

3. A very pretty house on the verge to collapse – from the outside, it still looks nice, except the roof; but once inside, the wooden parts are all rotten and it’s dangerous to walk in it !

Mon repos - Mount  Mon repos - Mount  Mon Repos - Mount

4. This is not a typical colonial house, but an old convent built in 1864 by the English. This is owned by the State.

Couvent 1864 - Moulin à poudre  Couvent 1864 - Le Moulin à poudre  Couvent 1864 - Moulin à poudre  Couvent 1864 - Moulin à poudreCouvent 1864 - Moulin à poudre

5. Finally, to finish on a positive note, here are 3 excellent examples of how to develop cultural attractions for those precious architectural jewels:

– Eureka House in Moka: museum, restaurant, hosting place for events

Maison Eureka, Moka  Maison Eureka, Moka

– Château Labourdonnais: museum, restaurant, hosting place for events, famous for its mangoes

Château Labourdonnais  Château Labourdonnais

– Mogador: an exceptional colonial house dated 1888 transformed into a beach villa to rent

Mogador  Mogador

Dear friends, this post will be written in French and will deal with the House of Haute Couture Lionnet Fauzou, the fashion designers who designed, created and crafted the amazing outfits for my retro colonial fashion shoot. This shoot took place last Sunday, 24 June 2012 at Eureka House in Moka, Mauritius. It was a pure blast and I’ll share soon the images of my concept. But for now, I would like to give a tribute to the designers who understood my needs, working hard to get inspired by the 17th century outfits and creating a wonderful dress and a stunning male costume. In this post you’ll get insights on how they did and planned their work, and you’ll see some pictures I shot during the session. Hope you’ll all enjoy !

“La Maison de Haute Couture Lionnet & Fauzou a reproduit les tenues de Marie Antoinette et de Louis XIV pour le concept de Julien Venner. Les deux tenues leur ont prit 40hrs de travail environ pour la confection. Il a également fallu trois semaines pour faire des recherches sur cette époque en visionnant 3 films bien réussis tournant sur  cette époque c.-à-d. le 17eme  siècle (Marie-Antoinette, Madame de Pompadour et Madame de Barry). L’inspiration est aussi venue de l’étude du précieux livre «  Histoire de la couture », écrit par feu M. Pierre Laurent, le premier et unique couturier mauricien qui faisait de la Haute Couture et qui nous a laissé en héritage son savoir faire à travers Mme Véronique Lionnet, le mentor de la Maison de Haute Couture Lionnet & Fauzou.

 

 

Les films ont permit d’étudier les démarches des acteurs pour analyser la qualité des matières, leur poids et leurs effets, et les voir tourner pour observer chaque détail des tenues. Pour le costume masculin, il avait des manches finies par de large revers, le dos était cintré et avec une coupe à basque, le jabot (lavallière) était assorti aux poignets de la chemise en dentelle réalisée dans une matière légère en coton de soie. Pour le costume féminin, des détails tels que le corset avec des multiples baleines qui donnait une allure au buste de la femme, la jupe à crinoline, plusieurs couches de jupons et des petits détails de broderie sur le corsage et la jupe avec des galons en coton et en soie, ont été pris en compte. De petits nœuds et des perles ont également été ajoutés aux galons.

Les tenues ont été fabriquées avec beaucoup de précision et sur mesure, les coupes étant différentes de ce que l’on fait de nos jours.Beaucoup de travaux ont été faits à la main, telles que les finitions (ourlet fait main de la jupe qui mesure 6 mètres de circonférence), broderie de perle et dentelle.

Concernant les matières, il a fallu aller à la recherche de tissus semblables aux tissus de l’époque, comme le brocart avec ses motifs d’or en arabesque, bien que, déjà à l’époque, les tissus étaient très variés, allant du coton à la soie en passant par la laine et toute sortes de mélanges qui avaient pour nom basin, étamines, panne, taffetas etc. Pour les accessoires, plusieurs vieux magasins de fournitures ont été arpentés pour trouver les boutons de la veste de Vincent, les galons dorées, les perles et des boutons qui ont été spécialement recouvert dans le style de l’époque. Grâce au stock de Véronique Lionnet, qui fait de la haute couture depuis 25 ans, des dentelles très rares et qui ne se trouvent plus sur le marché local, ont été utilisées. Enfin, concernant les couleurs, c’est le bleu mignon, couleur tendance de l’époque, qui a été choisi – c’est une couleur facile à trouver sur le marché local de notre époque. Les 2 tenues ont été assorties pour faire de cette session photo une journée romantique à Eureka.

Anaïs Lionnet & Fabien Fauzou sont des stylistes et couturiers. Non seulement ils créent des tenues, mais ils reproduisent aussi des modèles à la demande de leurs clientèles.”

It’s been now a few months that I have opened my studio in Coromandel; however, due to a very busy agenda, I still haven’t been able to really start shooting in it. Also it still needs to be a bit renovated and better furnished, to properly welcome clients, models, make-up artists … Eventually, I have recently painted the shooting stage in green for a personal project which will combine 2 types of art – photography and animation. I’ll write more on this later on.

When launching my studio, I had in mind to widen my scope of photography to fashion and commercial photography. Recently, I put a first step into the small world of fashion in Mauritius … but not the studio. I took the opportunity of the first Fashion Photography Contest in Mauritius to gather a first small team around me to be able to submit nice images for the contest. This team was composed by Pawan Cavalli – fashion designer; Mélanie André – model; Valérie Lee – make-up artist; Nicolas Malachie – assistant. The shoes were provided by Bella Donna and jewels by Svarowski. Finally, I got some assistance from Sachin Sagar (he lend me some pieces of photographic equipment) and from East-Sider (which provided me with the male mannequin). Pawan designed and created an absolutely stunning dress, using the latest technology and materials, specially for this shoot. As usual, Valérie did an awesome make-up on Mélanie, who was the perfect model for the occasion. Finally, Nicolas’s assistance and help was extremely valuable, as I wouldn’t have been able to set-up all the lights without him. All this was put together in less than 10 days, and for free, which was quite improbable ! 😉 (the idea of the male mannequin even arose in my mind on the same morning as the shoot itself !)

To participate to this contest, I had to submit 2 fashion images before a certain date – and the last free date we all had was actually the day before the deadline. And on that day, the weather was quite grey, windy and rainy on the whole island ! I had decided to do the shoot at Cap Malheureux, the Northest point of the island. It rained almost the whole trip to there, and finally, the sun came out and we had a wonderful sunny afternoon ! Here are some images I took on that shoot:

After submitting my entries for the contest, I posted some images on my Facebook fan page. A few hours later, I got a message from Alexandra Weber Isaacs, who is promoting fashion in Mauritius through her nice and interesting blog. She wrote that my images were nice and pleasant to look at, and technically well realized, but that I missed some elements to compose some really excellent fashion images. Although I don’t deny it, as it was one of my first fashion shoot, it made me think of the definition of “fashion photography”. What is fashion photography really about ?

Alexandra’s definition is as such: “The principal aim of fashion photography is to combine two elements: the perfect presentation and display of a product and doing this in an original way that blends in and enhances a particular mood.” My opinion is that this definition isn’t fully complete as it missed an important piece of the subject: the model. To me, fashion photography is a kind of portrait photography for which the model wears some fashion items that are presented and displayed in an original way, respecting a certain concept and mood. To say it in another way, there is very little difference between fashion photography, portrait photography, modeling, glamour … Honestly, I am still not sure if I am shooting fashion images or just portraits of models, but to put this internal debate in my mind to an end, I got a part of the answer from contradictory comments on the same image – someone wrote that the mood, model and product did not work up to their combined potential and that it could have been better, stating that the male mannequin didn’t fit the mood or the location / on the same image, other people commented that this is one of the best concept image they have seen for a while and that it is a totally great and interesting concept, looking like a surrealist painting, Dali-style.

With this ambiguity in my mind, I came to the Fashion Photography Contest‘s final (I was selected among the 4 finalists) with the idea of building my own “fashion” style. Being a finalist of that contest meant to shoot 2 imposed concepts, with 2 models each. Dresses and outfits were specially designed for the occasion by La Maison de Haute Couture Lionnet Fauzou and by Sanjeet Boolell; models were provided by Mathis Models, directed by Karen Nicolini; make-up artists were Dominique Chan and Cédric Lanappe; shoes and accessories were provided by Bella Donna and the Mauritius Glass Gallery (which designed some amazing shoes in glass ! – see below). The day was really fun and tiring, it made me think of the TV show “Top Chef” for cookers – we had 2 imposed themes, on an imposed location (L’Aventure du Sucre) – although we could pick up whatever place we wanted inside the domain -, we got to know the models, the outfits and dresses and the accessories only a few minutes before starting the shoot. Finally we had a fixed limited time to complete the task, which was to create 2 fashion images by concept + 1 individual portrait of each model.

The first concept I had to shoot was about 2 queens: a dark/devil queen who wants to invade the territory of the white butterfly queen. The outfits were really amazing, the models acted very well. For this concept, I was inspired by the Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Kill Bill”, mainly the scenes in Japan with swords. On the field, I have looked for potential swords and found that sugar canes would perfectly fit both the place and the swords. Then I looked for a “grungy” place and found out an outdoor facade with a lot of textures, geometrical items, old stairs … Perfect for the mood I wanted to create. For all the below images, I wanted to convey a feeling of the strength of their fight, their anger and spirit of revenge ; I also wanted to experiment new angles, using the background for composing my images. To do so, I had to face some difficult elements, such as a strong and harsh sun (it was 11am), I had to climb on a not-so-stable ladder to find new angles, I used a fan to blow some air opposite to the existing wind … – it really looked like a “super-production” from the outside 😉

The second concept I had to shoot dealt with a soldier, coming back from the future to save his beloved princess who was imprisoned in a steel jail. For this shoot, I had to find futuristic inspirations in the locations and in the outfits, which were also really great. The huge engines of the sugar cane plant, the wheels, the wooden boat, the tubes, all in all formed a good set-up for picturing my tale. Because I have apprehended this shoot as a story in 4 steps (images), with the soldier cruising back through future, her beloved princess in her wheel jail (inspiration from “Modern Times”, Charlie Chaplin), the soldier climbing to deliver her and finally the start of their romance. Here I wanted to show the power of love in a futuristic place, using the great-but-difficult-to-deal-with background. It was very dark indeed and my challenge was both to keep as much ambient light as possible and darken all unnecessary disturbable elements. This second shoot was also very challenging for my team as we had to change lighting set-ups 5 times, at 5 different places … within 1 hour and 15 minutes !

Last but not least, I would like to thank a million times Ali Ghanti and my wife – they have assisted, helped and supported me during this whole long and hectic day. The work of an assistant is very interesting but also very demanding – you need to be proactive, to anticipate, but also to react very quickly; you need to suggest and propose improvements in lighting, posing, framing … Both Ali and Diane did that perfectly ! Thanks a lot again !

And wish me good luck for the results ! 🙂

In this blog post, I would like  to tackle a few tips to create nice portrait images. Portraiture is certainly the most common type of photography, as it is extremely vast – it goes from a simple casual portrait, to kids portraiture, family portraits, corporate portraits, weddings, fashion … Obviously, you will not apprehend your clients from the same angle and with the same techniques if it is fashion or corporate portraits. But the few tips I will give you should enhance your images … hopefully 🙂

1. Communication with your model – it seems obvious, but when you are beginning in photography, it is not natural at all to communicate and direct your subject, and it is far more comfortable to be hidden behind your camera. Photography here is more about psychology ! Very few model believe they are photogenic – actually every subject is photogenic. It is our role as photographers to make them feel comfortable, to position them, to find the best angles and techniques to make them look beautiful and be proud of their images. This, of course, cannot be learned in a book – it requires experience, self-confidence, good communication skills, empathy …

2. Find a dynamic in your pose – the whole dynamic of a pose is made by your subject’s body, this is what we call “body language”. Here, the key parts of your subject’s body are the shoulders, the arms and hands, and the legs (if you’re shooting a full body portrait).

– shoulders should be 2/3rd turned – shooting a portrait of someone’s shoulders looking straight at the camera will make him (her) look fatter, as their shoulders will take more place of the frame. Instead of having our client face square to the camera, we need them to do a 2/3 turn away from the camera. Having them turn away will give them a slimmer profile look in the camera and shave off those 10 extra pounds 🙂

– arms and hands should be occupied – keeping your arms and hands straight down your side is really not dynamic and gives the impression of not being comfortable or of being bored. Asking your model to put a hand in his (her) pocket or a hand on his (her) hip will create diagonal lines which will provide a dynamic composition. Also, except for some specific messages that you want to convey with your image, avoid having your model with crossed arms.

– with legs, you can play with the height of your model, being seated, kneed, or standing. Legs can be crossed, one straight one in diagonal … You can make them jump … Any movement would be good for your composition, always trying to avoid having your model planted like a tree 🙂

3. Find an expression in your model’s face – I believe that this is a critical point to make a good portrait. When I am looking at most fashion images nowadays, I really get bored. There’s nothing, not a smile, not a look in the eyes, the skin is so made-up and photoshopped … there is basically no personality in those images, as the model is not the key part of the image – it’s more his (her) clothes that are important (which, I believe, is crap – a model, with some personality and showing happiness to wear those clothes, will certainly give a much more powerful message to potential clients). Hence my point, a good photographer should always try to convey emotions through his (her) pictures – in a portrait, emotions and feelings are initiated by the eyes, the mouth, the global face expression and the body language.

– focus must be on the eyes – that’s the basic of a good portrait: if the focus is not on the eyes (i.e. the eyes are not sharp but out-of-focus), but on the nose for instance, then you lose considerable impact (moreover if you use wide aperture like f/1.4)

–  focus must be on the eyes, not on the chin ! – be careful at your angle, it is always better to take a portrait of someone from a higher point of view. From there, your model will rise his (her) eyes up to you, making them pop up while his (her) cheeks will look thiner. Shooting a portrait from a lower angle is good to create an impression of power … but not really appropriate for beauty shots (except if you want to put the emphasis on the model’s chin) 😉 Thus remember, chin down, eyes up !

– make your model smile – attention, not 1,2,3 … smiiiile ! But really smile, with a good joke for instance. I mean, people look really better when they do smile, don’t you think so ? A beautiful smile should drastically improve 90% of your “not-so-good” portraits.

– avoid systematic direct eyes contact with the camera – looking straight at the camera is natural, as your model is reacting with your, who is behind the camera. However, and except for some specific images (ID portraits, corporate portraits, advertising portraits where the eyes have to “talk and sell something” to the image viewer …), it is also important look at something else – the horizon for instance, providing a visionary message; or a couple who look at each other, full of love, is a far better image than the same couple looking straight at the camera with a “cheesy” smile ! 🙂

– light the face of your model – the role of a photographer is to find the best light for his (her) model. Light will create texture, shadows, depth … a whole atmosphere that will bring personality to the image. The photographer will then have to position his (her) model according to this light, may it be natural light or flash.

4. Overall composition of a portrait – the rules of third is important in portrait, as it is in almost all fields of photography. The key element of a portrait are the eyes, they should be placed on a force line or a force point, as shown here:

Also it is important to pay a careful attention to the background when making your model pose. In Mauritius for instance, you need to be careful of the boats on the sea, of the palm tree that can look like Indian feathers behind your model’s head 😉

5. Specific portraits:

– kids portraits – kids are a difficult subject, like animals 🙂 Indeed, they don’t obey and don’t pose as we would like them to. In order to succeed in kids portraiture, a photographer need to get familiar with the kid (talking with him (her), showing him (her) the camera or your flash …). I also use a little plastic mouse that makes some noise when pressing on it … just so that the kid will look in my direction when I would like him (her) to 🙂

– group portraiture – an important point here is to constitute an homogeneous group, and then to make them do something – talking, laughing … Also try different situations where they are comfortable, as 2 parents lying down in the garden with their kids for instance.

– corporate portraiture – first is to understand the needs of your client (what will the image be used to), then is to find the place where to make the portrait (if in your client’s office), considering light, environment, composition.

– fashion portraiture – for fashion, except if you are working on your own projects, you need to meet specific requirements from your client. Those requirements concern the model, the pose, the clothes, the attitude, even the type of lighting you will use. It is thus very important to assimilate all those requirements before starting the shoot, but it also doesn’t prevent you from knowing what to do to get a great image 🙂

I hope those few tips will help you, photographers to make your model better pose for you, and you models, to be aware of what is a photographer looking for when making you pose for him (her) 🙂

Dear friends, I’m sorry I have been so long since my last post here. Things are moving quite fast for Pixel in the Box and I have been very busy on new assignments and new projects.

Today, I would like to share with you the story tale of a profile studio portrait I did of a friend in January this year. Since I have a studio in Mauritius, I have been taken up a lot for outdoor contracts, so that I have not yet been really able to take profit of this great indoor asset. However, I have lots of idea of portraiture, and, earlier this year, I wanted to test some of them with a female model, my friend Khatleen.

What I really wanted to do with her was testing dramatic lighting conditions on her brown skin. Also, since she has a wonderful prominent haircut, I had the idea to show its volume in a profile image of Khatleen. For drama, I used a black background and a specific lighting set-up – I needed the light to hit only part of her face, creating deep shadows with a very shallow transition. However, the light still had to be quite soft to enlighten a black female beauty. Finally, I had to use a second light to lit her hairs to create a volume effect on them.

Here is the setting I used :

The model has to look straight away, let’s say at midday position – then, your main light, a large soft-box placed around 1 meter away of your model face has to be placed at 2 o’clock position. The second light is placed around 2 meters away of your model to hit her hairs – I used a snoot to only focus the light on them. And here it is, very simple isn’t it ? Everything lies in the position of your light sources – you can try to move them a bit for different effects.

The feelings I have each time I look at this image are the ones I would have when admiring an old statue of a black divinity of beauty or something like this … 😉

Depuis plusieurs semaines déjà, l’envie de prendre ces magnifiques flamboyants rouges vifs me taraudait. Il faut dire que cette année, ils sont particulièrement resplendissants. Où que l’on se trouve sur l’ile, ils égayent les paysages et forment un environnement coloriste incroyable. Imaginez, ce rouge vif dans un écrin de verdure, contrastant avec le bleu turquoise des lagons, le bleu azur du ciel et le sable blanc – vous avez là les 4 couleurs du drapeau mauricien: le rouge, le vert, le bleu et le jaune.

Ce matin donc, je me suis levé aux aurores dans l’espoir d’avoir une belle lumière et des routes sans trafic routier – je n’ai pas été déçu du voyage, 2 heures de photo dans un décor de rêve, à prendre toutes ces couleurs en pleine face.

Aussi, et comme aujourd’hui c’est la Saint Nicolas (c’est le 6 décembre, je sais, mais c’est aujourd’hui que la fête du St Nicolas fait son défilé dans les villes de l’Est de la France), je dédis cette bouffée de couleur, de soleil et de chaleur à mon petit frère Nicolas. En espérant que cela te plaise et te redonne l’envie de venir nous voir à Maurice 🙂 Avec toutes ces couleurs naturelles, j’ai également une pensée pour ma grand-mère, mamie Mauricette, qui a fêté ses 82 ans la semaine dernière.

Jul

After a bit more than one year that I am shooting portraits in Mauritius (mainly weddings, but others too), I have build up this list for you – 12 great if not the best locations to shoot portraits in Mauritius. This is not an exhaustive list as there are so many other great locations in Mauritius, but those 12 are among my favorite. Most of the pics here have been shot by me, but some also have been shot by my friend Khatleen Minerve, a Mauritian amateur photographer, just to prove that those locations are really nice and inspirational.

1. Port-Louis la Citadelle

La Citadelle of Port-Louis offers nice settings to shoot portraits. First, the views on the capital are amazing from there. The walls of the building itself are in old stones / bricks, displaying interesting perspectives. Finally, it’s easy to find bird’s eye views on your model, or in opposite some low-angle views. In summary, that’s a very interesting place for portraiture.

I know this is not a human portrait … but to me, it’s like a portrait of the sun (and it was taken from La Citadelle 😉 )

2. Cap Malheureux

Cap Malheureux is certainly one the most famous touristic spot in Mauritius, thanks to it’s charming little church with red roof close to the lagoon, with views on the North islands. This makes of this place THE romantic place of Mauritius, where a lot of couples want to get married. For us photographers, this is also a great place to shoot portraits (and not just landscapes), by including the church, the islands … in the composition of our images.

3. Pamplemousses Gardens

Pamplemousses gardens also are a touristic must-see in Mauritius. This is such a luxurious garden and there are so many wonderful places to take portraits … It also shows Mauritius from another point of view: the insides of the island which are luxurious green. Among my fave places in the garden are a beautiful alley with royal palmtrees, the pond with giant waterlilies, the castle of Pierre Poivre …

4. Labourdonnais Castle

Recently opened after a few years of restoration, Labourdonnais Castle  is now a very interesting museum, where you can also have a great lunch and stroll in their wonderful fruit tree garden. Labourdonnais is also very famous for its rhum and its fruit pastes. Labourdonnais castle is a typical colonial house, one of the few still standing in Mauritius, where we can make wonderful images.

5. Le Morne

Le Morne is a mountain on a peninsula in the south-western part of Mauritius. It is well known as it got its UNESCO patrimony status some years ago, as a symbol for the fight against slavery. It offers wonderful beaches with great views on the mountain, amazing panoramas of the island from its top and a great spot for kite-surfers. All in all, a fantastic place for portraiture !

6. The peer of Hilton Hotel in Wolmar

This will be the only hotel listed here, and, although it is not my favorite hotel to take wedding images, the Hilton Hotel in Wolmar has got without a doubt the most beautiful peer of Mauritius. Built in wood, with no boats to it, it is located in the western coast where sunsets are the greatest. It also offers splendid views on Le Morne and the whole West coast. A pure moment of romanticism.

7. La Roche qui Pleure

A quite unusual place to take portraits, La Roche qui Pleure is located in the Southern coast of Mauritius, where there are no coral reefs and thus no lagoon. The ocean there is very strong and crashes its huge waves against grey/black cliffs. This place is also very windy, which can help for portraiture (hairs, dress …) and for dramatic effects.

8. The beach at Pointe d’Esny

Without any doubts the most beautiful beach of Mauritius ! Not well-known, even by Mauritians themselves, as it is not an easy-to-access beach; but what a beach !! An incredibly blue and wide lagoon not far from Blue Bay, a long white sand beach, very few tourists, some small islands, wonderful mountains with evocative names in the backgrounds (Lion Mountain …): this is the best place for a shooting at the beach.

9. Ruins of Balaclava

For those who likes old stones in a luxurious natural garden, the ruins of Balaclava will be the perfect setting. There are some stairs, some “windows”, a water wheel … helping for nice compositions. Just above the ruins, the Chateau Mon Plaisir offers a nice colonial complement to the ruins. I like taking portraits there.

10. The rocky coast of Calodyne

In the North-East of Mauritius, close to Grand-Gaube, there are several beaches with dark rocks and vegetation growing up in the lagoon itself. The views on the North islands are wonderful from there (Gunner’s Coin, Snake island, Rond island …). Inserting a silhouette in this beautiful landscape makes great images; using the contrast of the dark rocks with the colorful or white dresses of your model is also very catchy.

11. The shady alley to Alexandra Falls

In Mauritius, I found quite a lot of great alleys for my portraiture. The one leading to Alexandra Falls is one of my preferred one. It looks like a tunnel of light, quite shady up to the end where you see the light arising. The perspectives are fantastic, the shady light very soft for your model, the colors very natural for the skin of your model (light green and brown from the trees). I really recommend this place.

12. The sugar cane fields (almost everywhere in Mauritius)

Most preferably when they are in flower, the sugar cane fields make wonderful foreground or background sceneries for portraiture. There are nice alleys in the fields, that disclose some interesting mountain profiles. The fields also appear like a wall of vegetation compared to the model – you can use that in your compositions. You can also ask your models to play a hiding game in the canes themselves … Depending on the light, you can get amazing effects when the flowers look like snow in contra-light. You can achieve lots of nice portraits in a sugar cane field !

I hope you appreciate that list and you will have some nice ideas for your portraits 🙂

Cheers !

All images are subject to copyrights and cannot be used without the written consent of their respective author, Julien Venner or Khatleen Minerve.

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