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How to make a great portrait, talk with Maxime Stange

Everyday we surf the web, searching for useful informations that can help us to master our professionals skills. In this interesting interview with the French fashion photographer Maxime Stange you will find, very useful tips on how to make a great portrait.
Maxime Stange www.maxime-stange.com
– Can you tell us when you understood that you wanted to be a photographer? 
Well, at the beginning I was doing Photography only for fun. I was “studying” Japanese at the time and publishing my pictures on my website, and then a local Photographer Agent called me to basically ask me if I wanted to work him. I was really surprised, because I never imagined to live of my photography. I came from a really wide field of study (IT – Marketing – English – Japanese) So because this “Japanese studies” were mostly for my personal culture and because I was 25 at the time, I decided to give it a try at “being a professional photographer”. After that, I was discovering so many great things I didn’t not imaging, I’m really glad that I did that choice back then.
Maxime Stange www.maxime-stange.com
– Can you share with us 3 useful rules to make a good portrait?
1. Be fast : Most of the time if you take 4 hours to make a good portrait, it means that your way of shooting isn’t efficient enough. Usually after the first hour, the subject starts to lose focus, and eventually it’s more and more hard to manage to get a good pictures. (Most of my portraits pictures of actor, singer, artists, on my website are made in less than 10 minutes because I usually don’t have much more time than that)
2. Be efficient : If you don’t have the time and on location, always have a few good “low gear light recipe” to work with. If the first one doesn’t work on the person whom you shot, quickly change to the other one. If you got time and gear, same advice, with stronger lights, but observe your subject discreetly to find out which angle works, and especially which doesn’t.
3. Be flexible : If you’re shooting an actor, singer, or whomever, they all have their mood because they work so hard. So, in case they don’t want to be here (which is most of the time), try to be as gentle as you can, as polite as you can. So most of the time they will make an effort for a minute or two if you are a gentle person. If you’re shooting fashion, then be directive and try to push on the current mood of the model, so you’ll get better result.
Maxime Stange www.maxime-stange.com
– Can you tell us about the beginning and what has been your artistic evolution? 
The beginning was pretty hard, even if I had some help with a coworker at the agency to learn stuff, I was working at night for my technique, and by day practicing it to see what I could change. When you are in it, it is really hard to see an evolution, you basically evolve every day without noticing it. So you take inspiration wherever you can find it. The problem is, you take inspiration from great masters, and sometimes you can’t see what you need to change even tough there’s a lot of things in your art that need to change. It’s kinda discouraging when you start out and you feel horrible most of the time, and this doesn’t really go away. At first, Portrait photography was my first focus, because I was in a city where fashion didn’t exist, and where there was absolutely no market for it, not even a good model agency. So I assisted a good portrait photographer for a few gig, then began a whole another education with books and online tutorials, then finally moved in Paris to begin a true carrier. I tried to assist few excellent photographer but never been able to, most of them are submerged with assistants, and I was the 20th in the line. So I eventually started without help and Paris been one the city for fashion photography, I started it then, 4 years ago.
© Maxime Stange
– From all your projects which is your favorite and why? 
Well, the project “Les Songes d’un Oiseau Noir” are kinda what I want to do in the next few years. But I want to take it really further than that. I really need to build sets, to create a universe for each shoot, kinda like Eugenio Recuenco is doing but with less talent 😉 and much less meanings. So I guess this is my most personal reflection of my liking in my photography.
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– What’s most important in a beauty project? Lights, model, retouching or colors? 
Everything is equally important. We have a say with a few friends : The best result you can achieve for an image is equal to the level of the less skilled person in the team. You can have a great model, a great make up artist, if you fail the retouch, the lights, the framing, it will suck. And this works for everything around it. You can compensate if you’re an immensely skilled photographer, but it’s not my case at this day.
– What part of the process excites you the most when you start a new project? 
To light it! I’m not much of a talker, I don’t really know, and didn’t really learn how to talk about art, inspiration. But when I start to imagine the lights of a set and picturing the story evolving in it, I really know why I do this job.
– Which books and blogs do you consider valuable for a fashion photographer? 
Blogs : Fashiongonerogue, Fashionising, Fashionography, Petapixel, the Scott Kelby blog, fstoppers… and much more!
Books/Magazine : Egoiste, Antidote, Love, Factice, Papercut, Lowe, and lot of others fashion magazine… It’s really hard to drop name like this. 🙂