Name: Mickael Chavet
Role: Celebrity, fashion and entertainment photographer
Notable Works: Festival de Cannes, Mostra del Cinema, Tribeca Film Festival, amfAR Gala, Movies Premieres, Fashion Shows
A little bit more about Mickael Chavet
How did you become a fashion, celebrity and entertainment photographer?
Great first question! I can’t even remember where my passion for photography began. If my memory doesn’t fail me, I recall a photograph of myself, age 3, with a plastic camera toy around the neck. I guess that love for photography was always there from the get go… I repeatedly heard by friends and strangers looking at my pictures that I should be seriously contemplating doing it professionally. This idea kept growing until a point where I decided to give it a go. Being a movie aficionado from a young age, I was determined to get closer to this fascinating world that is cinema. I worked my ass off to showing my early (but curated) selection of photos to media outlets, of which one, Project Daybreak, was interested in me covering some major entertainment events. If you read this interview guys, I am grateful and for your trust and appreciation!
What was the first red carpet you photographed at?
Not technically counting as a red carpet event, but to me it totally counts as a major film festival out there, I started by covering the Trieste Film Festival. The first one that had a proper Opening Ceremony with talents arrivals, photocalls ahead of screenings and Q&A events held right after was the International Film Festival in Rotterdam. But as far as carpet with red color are involved, my very very first was the Locarno Film Festival. I have the fondest memories of this 2015 edition as I entered their photographic contest dedicated for the professional photographers and managed to win the top prize for a photo immortalizing movie director Catherine Corsini kissing her lead actress Cecile de France, with the logo of the festival in the background.
It must be so exciting to photograph at major film festivals like Cannes and TriBeCa! Likewise, there’s almost always a lot of pressure too! At such events, things move super fast and you probably capture millions of shots! Photographs are released almost immediately during an event. How do you choose which photos to share to the media within such a short space of time and do you edit the photos before marketing your images?
You’re totally right! Shooting at festivals like Tribeca, Venice or Cannes is not even fast, it’s hectic. Between shooting and editing you have to be super organized in your workflow. I myself now work for photo agencies that expect photos to be ready for customers (mostly magazines, daily newspapers and specialized websites) within minutes after the event is over. Most of the photographers covering these events are one-man operation, so they not only shoot but upload the thousands photo taken within the last hour or so on their laptop, maybe backing it up to an external hard drive, then select, quickly edit, caption and send their photos to their media, not forgetting to eventually recharge the batteries and getting ready for the next red carpet or party to shoot. Some of the biggest agency like Getty, Reuters or AFP have their camera wired, which means they shoot and their photo travels directly to one (or more !) editors which select, color correct, caption and boom, the photos are online. I heard that, at the Olympics, it only takes (and has to take!) 90 seconds from the moment a Getty Photographer releases the shutter until the photo is available online. This is mind-blowing.
As far as my selection is concerned, I do not have an editor working with me, so I do this job myself. I usually remember clearly which moments were pivotal and expect which photos I will be sending. 20-30 high quality photos sent within 30min after the event is over is my goal. Believe me, this is tough. Having in mind the photos I want to send, I need to make sure ultra-quickly those are perfectly exposed and tack sharp. If so, I go ahead and proceed with entering the relevant metadata according to the IPTC guidelines. In plain English this means headlining, captioning and adding tags to each selected photo so they can be easily accessed and found by media customers. This is compulsory otherwise your photos, even if wonderful, will be rejected by your agency. By the end of the day, instead of going to have dinner or sleep like a normal human being would do, I take some time to send up to another batch of the best 60-80 photos per event attended during the day to my agency. A typical day at the Cannes Film Festival starts with the first photocall around 9am ends with the last red carpet around midnight.
Can you share a memorable moment you’d had from one of the film festivals you’ve photographed at?!
I had the chance to be present at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and captured what is known in the profession as maybe the most beautiful « montée des marches » that ever happened in Cannes. On May 12th, Julia Roberts went barefoot on the Cannes Red Carpet…. From what I remember, it was her first-ever appearance in Cannes, she was there to attend the Money Monster world premiere. Sublime in a flowing black gown, displaying a radiant and serene smile, being so professional, taking her time posing and giving eye contact to as many photographers as possible, making her way floating on the red carpet to the sound of cameras clicking and flashing flashes. A sublime, unique and magical moment.
What camera do you typically use for red carpet photography?
Let me have a little aparté here. I see many photographers literally obsessed by their material, to a point where they themselves concede they make money just to be able to afford a new gear, whereas the latest camera body or lens. On the other hand, I am skeptical when I read « specialist » blogs affirming that a good photographer would be able to shoot even with the worst camera. That is simply not true. I’d love to see these experts shoot a basketball game with a point-and-shoot camera. Even your most performing smartphone won’t be of any help some events where speed is the essence. So, coming back to your question, I generally bring my Canon 5D Mark III along 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. I not only like but need the full frame sensor this camera offers, and the versatility of the zoom lens, which allows me to take group shots, full body single portraits but also tight headshots and details. I notice some colleagues bring along 2-3 camera bodies with various lens attached but I prefer being as light as possible so it’s less taxing on my body by the end of the day. The camera offers the possibility to capture up to 6 frames per second. This seems pale compared to the Canon 1DX Mark III and its 20 frames per second capability, but in my opinion, 3/6 frames per second is not only good enough for red carpet photography, it also limits the already super high number of shots captured during a single event, let alone a full shooting day. Limitations are generally considered a negative thing, but more often than not they can be liberating. Not having to carry and shoot with 3 different camera bodies and different lenses, not having to scroll through more photos than you already have allows me to act faster. Speed is the essence in entertainment photography.
A lot of your work is published in black and white (shoutout to your Instagram page !) Is there a reason you prefer this effect over colour ?
Thanks so much for the kind words 😉 And that’s another very cool question. My mother keeps on asking me that one. Actually I keep separated what I send to my agency, with a view for editorial purposes, which will almost always be published in color, to what I keep for my website or my @theinvisiblesilence instagram page.
I have a thing for black and white photography, pleading guilty as charged. I like the simplicity and sheer force of black and white. It has this artsy look and timeless quality. I was always drawn to the work of great photographers like Ansel Adams or Robert Cartier-Bresson. Annie Leibovitz has shot exquisite celebrity portraits in black and white. In an era where color is the norm, other than for aesthetics reasons, I feel black and white being a decision, a choice to be different. Look at it this way…at the beginning of the cinema, movies were in black and white, then came color. Those were technical reasons. But think about it, even recently, some amazing movie directors have chosen their film to be shot in black and white for aesthetic reasons, and are masterpieces: La Haine, American History X, Nebraska, Frances Ha, Cold War or again Roma. Don’t they look fabulous?
You often photograph at Cannes Film Festival which sees a lot of celebrities every year! Are there any celebs you’ve been starstruck by or can recall being lovely to photograph?!
Let me start with the loveliest of them all, whether inside or outside the red carpet : the great Jessica Chastain. She’s a not only a fantastic actress, very photogenic, she’s plain adorable. I have photographed ravishing supermodels like Naomie Campbell, Eva Herzigova, Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Doutzen Kroes or Elsa Hosk…so gorgeous you need not to loose your focus or your photos will be blur! About being starstruck, maybe the word is a bit heavy, I’d rather say I’m hyped to the max whenever I get the opportunity to photograph the legendary Robert De Niro.
Taking the perfect picture at the right moment, when you’re in a crowd of photographers looking over a busy red carpet must comes with some stress! How do you prepare yourself in capturing these fast-paced red carpet moments at the angles you want?
You use the word preparation and that is it. You need to be prepared. You need to keep an open mind and attitude as you cannot know in advance what is going to happen, but preparation is key. Making sure your lenses are clean, batteries are charged, memory cards not full and inside the camera, that you have your accreditation around the neck, wearing your bow-tie and black shoes in Cannes – Believe me, I made all these mistakes before entering the red carpet photography arena, thankfully – these are things you need to do and be sure about, but focusing on getting ready is already a good stress reliever. Arriving ahead to position yourself in your designated area, ahead enough of the event starting time, making sure you have the correct settings. The crowd aspect on high profile events is absolutely to take into account. More especially with the number of photographers in Cannes, meaning we are toe-to-toe or elbow-to-elbow with one another. I won’t be lying if I said when I started, being a rookie finding myself shooting alongside experienced photographers, it was a little bit of the intimidation game, being pushed while shooting or yelled at to be destabilized. I guess this happens in every working sector, as a rite of passage. It was important being confident in my abilities, respectful to others but not willing to concede ground, and at the end, things are not terrible even despite being competitors. There is always a way to shoot differently, and with experience, you get granted better position on the red carpet which makes your life easier as a photographer.
Camera equipment can get heavy and you have to arrive way before the talent does! Are you allowed tripods etc. In the photographers corner and does it get tiring when photographing a busy film festival?
Tiring you say??? It’s grueling (lol) Tripods are not allowed, due to space restrictions, and technically speaking neither are monopods… even if I spotted on some occasions one or two photographers sneaking those in. Even if it is more tiring to carry all that equipment by the end of the day, I really enjoy my camera to be hand-held and not attached to tripod/monopod. To get the best possible and more various shots, I value maneuverability over personal comfort.
Is there anything you can share that would surprise us about photographing on red carpets?
My passion for photography truly encompasses all genres, from portraits to landscapes, fashion of course, and I have a huge love affair for Sports Photography too – I should have been in Tokyo covering the Olympics right now. Sports Photography is fast-paced and exhibits some similarities with entertainment photography: timing is key as moments can be unique. Red carpet photography can be even more demanding though. Don’t blink or you will miss! Talents won’t come-back in front of you; once they’re gone…they’re gone and you won’t have another chance to make it up if you missed.
It won’t be a surprise for sure, but rest assured that this stress is an exhilarating one, and I am the happiest person doing this job. Before the event, the anticipation builds excitement. During the event, you’re in a Zen-like mental state of mind, feeling alive, in the moment. After the event, while selecting and editing photo, you feel like a gold digger looking for, sometimes finding gems that make you feel like a million bucks!
Photographing events where the most talented people on the planet converge, being taken care by the world’s best make-up artists, hairstylists and dressed by the best fashion designers is quite something.
Do you have any tips for photographers wanting to break into the industry? For an aspiring photographer looking to build their portfolio, what would be the best approach to attending public events as part of the media?
Try, fail, try again, keep at it, be resilient, start local then grow to a point you cannot be ignored any longer, know the industry and subjects you photograph to get an edge over your competition, practice so much you will make all possible errors before entering the big stage, accept you’ll still make mistakes anyway, be punctual, work hard, work harder, have fun, find a way to shoot standard shots as well as unique ones, don’t focus on pleasing anybody else than you, be kind to yourself and more especially to others.
And above all, put your heart into all your photographs.