Wednesday, September 4, 2013 • 3:22 PM •
What does it take to be a successful fashion photographer in Montreal? What kind of skills are required in order to stand out and what to commit in terms of time and equipment? These are questions frequently asked by hobbyist photographers. Pier-Alexandre Gagné responds based on his own personal experience.
I encountered fashion/editorial photographer Pier about a year ago at around the same time when I was just beginning to delve into the business of fashion blogging. I have to say that we have both evolved considerably ever since our first shoot together. Although I have gotten to know and understand Pier’s tastes in photography, it is only recently that we decided to sit down and go into details about his art and the aspects of his work that separate him from the rest. It is clear that this emerging artist is of a separate league from many editorial photographers. Read on to find out how.
Daura: Alrighty, let’s get right down to why we’re here! So as we’ve seen time and time again, you have great Photoshop skills. How did you improve your photo editing over time? What learning sources would you recommend to other photographers?
Pier: To be completely honest, most of what I learned was through experimentation. In my desire to manipulate photos, I would learn something new with each new project. I think this is the best way to go when it comes to Photoshop – just make sure that you achieve something new and out of your comfort zone each and every time you produce a photo. This tool is limited only to your imagination. Of course, it’s important to understand the basics of photo retouching, by taking online courses or tutorials at the beginning, just to understand the basics. Then, just experiment with all the functions available to you. Break the rules to achieve what you want in an image.
After I gathered a ton of retouching skills, I passed a lot of time redoing old photos that I had taken when I first began photography. I really made an effort to perfect my old work. That`s why you`ll see me republishing the same shots in a completely different light. Through experimentation I learned how to edit, and I also got to understand light a lot better.
D: How long would you say it would take a starting photographer to get to your skill level?
P: It`s been four years since I started photography, and today my approach is more geared towards crazy or messed up retouching as opposed to just normal captures. In my journey to improve, I touched on a bit of everything – wildlife, landscapes, people…it`s better to touch on everything and find your voice than to aim for something at the start. This is what takes time – finding your own style. Learning the technical skills is not the hard part. It`s important that people see a photo and know that it`s been done by you and not by another photographer. It`s good to have a strong and bold message. So the time it takes you really depends on that.
D: You say that you found your voice in photography. Explain how you evolved as a photographer since you started.
Back in college I studied social sciences, and so I did some documentation with my camera. After that I did landscapes, portraits and clothes. I started doing fashion because it mixes a bit of everything together and is the most interesting and challenging to me. After publishing several photos of a certain style, I decided it was time to improve my technical skills. It was then that I really started to get into retouching photos. After gathering all my new skills, I had the strong urge to go back to what I had previously shot and use what I had learned to perfect those photos. What I do is attempt to see a photo more as a painting than as a real life photo.
D: More as a painting – no wonder you’ve produced such masterpieces! How much time would you say you contribute to one photo or one set of photos?
P: I spend about 2 hours for one photo, but I only start once I have the right inspiration for it. I don`t often do “series” for editorials. I think it sends a stronger message when I produce a one-off. This way it leaves more to the imagination of the viewer. He or she can fill in the blanks as to what is happening in the story the photo is trying to tell.
D: Now that we’ve talked photography skills, let’s talk business savvy. Would you say that in Montreal, it is as important to make connections in the fashion industry as it is to possess good photography skills, or will people recognize a good photographer, whether he/she is well-connected or not?