French photographer, Patrice Michellon, talks about his switch to mirrorless cameras and shares how he combines Replichrome and the Fuji X Series cameras to make mirrorless magic.
Tell us about yourself, both personally and professionally. How long have you been making photos? How did you get started?
I'm French and German and I live in Paris, although I probably spend 1/3 of the year outside of France for business reasons (which have absolutely nothing to do with photography). I discovered photography with the introduction of digital cameras and only really started to take it more seriously in 2012. A friend of mine saw some of my pictures and asked me to shoot his wedding. Since then it's been like a drug; there's not a single day without thinking, reading, discovering and talking about photography.
I became an official Fujifilm X-Photographer in May 2015. I'm not a professional photographer, you could probably label me as a serious amateur, and I'm fine with that. There are a lot of people who dream about becoming professional photographers or who will only consider your work if you are one but I think that many underestimate what this job means in terms of sacrifices and workload just to be able to make a decent living from it. If you can afford to buy cameras and lenses in order to capture whatever you like without having to worry about being paid for your work, then enjoy it! It is a great position to be in.
What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
It will probably sound a bit easy, but I don't have any favorite subject. Since I'm not a professional photographer, I don't feel any pressure to be specialized in a specific area. Actually I just want my pictures to be genuine and I'm not necessarily interested in translating reality. If someone stops on one of my portraits or landscapes for more than a few seconds because they can't figure out what speaks to them, then I'm happy. In general I'm more interested in capturing concepts whilst being under time pressure.
Serious health issues sent me to hospital for several months in 2013 and 2014. I had plenty of time to think about what I'd like to do once I get a chance to walk again. "More photography" was on my list. I always wanted to shoot a series of black and white portraits but never found the time nor the courage to ask people to pose for me. I promised myself to do that as soon as I could walk again. I bought a hybrid camera, one lens and one flash as soon as I left the hospital. I reduced my workflow to the bare minimum. Eventually I shot the portraits and post-processed them all with Replichrome I. Each portrait was captured in offices, kitchens or living rooms with subjects having less than 10 minutes of available time. I never shot more than 2 to 5 takes. To my surprise 4 of my portraits were selected on 1x.com.
You are a member of the Fuji x100 Collective. Can you tell us about that and about your switch to mirrorless cameras?
The Collective and my switch to mirrorless cameras are linked. [Because of health issues,] carrying heavy gear with me is not an option anymore. I wanted a small camera with me all the time to document my family life and trips. I found the Fujifilm X100T to be the right balance between weight and picture quality. I shot with it for a few weeks and loved it. Since January 2015, I use the Fujifilm X-T1 and X100T exclusively. I have two lenses (the XF16-55mm f/2.8 and the new XF90mm f/2) and two adapters for the X100T (the WCL-X100 and the TCL-X100) which cover almost all my needs. The only real compromise with APS-C vs “full frame” is that you need faster lenses to get the same DOF as full-frame. So far I never found this to be a main concern for my work and the quality of the lenses Fujifilm came up with until now is amazing, despite the design challenges they face in order to produce fast and sharp lenses.
I started the Fujix100 Collective one afternoon in January 2015. I bought a domain name, designed a logo and put a splash screen online. Then I called Nicolas Cazard, told him I would start a collective, and asked him if he'd like to be part of it. The next thing was to tweet about it and the initiative generated quite a lot of interest. I received many submissions from amazing photographers and we had to choose 7. Some of them are professional photographers, others amateurs but they all have one thing in common; they are all immensely talented and I'm really honored that they accepted to join.
The Collective is the best thing which could happen to me. I got to meet with a lot of photographers from whom I learn every week (including many who are not part of the Collective). If you can join a community of photographers, don't hesitate. You'll be able to share, learn, and exchange. It is by far the best way to get a kick in the butt and improve.
Talk a little about your approach to post-processing. What are your preferred tools? How do you know when an image is “finished?”
I tried several software packages, plugins and presets over the past 4 years, but I only use a limited number of tools now. I don't have any issue with retouching, which is very different from manipulating pictures. Don't get me wrong, I like to nail the shot in-camera, but if I don't, technology becomes my best friend. Most of the work happens in Lightroom where I develop my RAW files. Replichrome I,II and III are almost always part of my workflow. I find the tweak tool provided with the sets to be perfect to edit quickly. My favorite film presets are Kodak Plus-X 125+, Fuji Pro 400H, Agfa Scala 200X, and Kodak Ektar 25. Bring on Fuji Neopan 1600 in one of your future sets and I'll be the happiest! Once I developed the picture in Lightroom I usually send it to Photoshop for fine tuning and sharpening. I use Nik Color Efex Pro if needed for color contrast. Most of the time I have a precise idea of what I want to achieve, so I don't spend too much time editing.