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Interview with Fashion and High Jewelry Photographer Seb Michel

Most of us do not have the chance to see the high jewelry and watches produced by the premium brands. The only places we can see them are their premium photos in magazine ads. I talked with Seb Michel about fashion, high jewelry and watch photography.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Seb Michel

Seb Michel


by Melisa Kaya

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When it comes to precious watches and jewels, Switzerland always stands out. Thanks to their photographs, we can see these precious pieces as if they were in our hands. Seb Michel is a photographer specializing in fashion photography. On the other hand, he reveals his difference as a Swiss Made photographer who specializes in high-end jewelry and watches. I had a chance to talk with Seb Michel about fashion and high jewelry & watch photography.

Seb, before talking about photography, could you tell us about yourself? Who is Seb Michel?

I’m a 42 years old Swiss photographer, married and father of 2 kids. My daughter Mathilde is 9 years old and my son Maël is 6 years old.

We live in a beautiful area called la Riviera, in the French part of Switzerland, on the edge of the Leman Lake.

Vacheron Constantin - Photo by Seb Michel

Vacheron Constantin - Photo by Seb Michel

When did you get your first camera, and how did you decide to pursue a career in photography?

My father is a film director and I was immersed in the world of pictures at an early age. He gave me his Nikon Fm2 when I was 12 years old.

I started to shoot pictures and really liked it. I sometimes preferred doing pictures instead of going to school when I was around 16.

At 16, when I finished school, I wanted to be a graphic designer and to join an artistic school.

So I went to an admission appointment with an art teacher of this school, which told me that I was a bad drawer/painter. I was very sad and disappointed to hear that. He told me to show him 2 posters that were rolled in a tube and that I didn’t show him.

He looked carefully those 2 pictures that were my favorite ones. Then he told me not to worry, as I would be a great photographer from his point of view. He was in fact also a photography teacher. At this point, photography became obvious and decided to pursue a career to be a professional photographer.

Sur La Terre 70's - Photo by Seb Michel

Sur La Terre 70's - Photo by Seb Michel

How would you describe your photographic approach?

I like to create emotional and poetic stories with pictures. I like to take every project as a new opportunity to experiment something different.

I love the light, and for me, this is one of the main points. I use to work, control and play with the light as it’s the main thing.

Of course, when I work with models, then it’s also a question of emotion, of relation with the models. I need to create a contact very quickly, to find the way to catch the right emotion at the right instant.

This is something particular and magic to feel that an emotion has been captured.

L'Officiel High Jewelry - Photo by Seb Michel

L'Officiel High Jewelry - Photo by Seb Michel

How did you decide to establish your own studio? Could you tell us about Seb Michel Photography and your team?

I decided to establish my own studio in 2008 and to name it Seb Michel Photography. At this time, I started to get more important clients. I started also to work and to be represented by an agent, as well as to work on bigger productions, both in Switzerland and abroad.

So it was important for me to build my own studio, and to create it as a real working tool, to be able to manage all the process In-house, from the pre-production to the post-production. It’s great to manage the whole process inside the studio, and this is also the way clients like to work here.

I’m working with a small team, which can get much bigger when a big project starts. Daily, I work with a production assistant, a photo assistant, a retoucher and a back office manager. When a big production starts especially for advertising and fashion, the team gets bigger and I can work with an additional location scout, set designer, production manager etc... Also for beauty and fashion, I work with different artists, stylists, make-up artists, hair stylists, and models. Then the project gets bigger and is enhanced by the work of every artist. I take the role of an orchestra conductor, to get the best result with everyone’s work, to get as close as possible to the result I imagined.

L'Officiel High Jewelry - Photo by Seb Michel

L'Officiel High Jewelry - Photo by Seb Michel

You are specializing in beauty & fashion, high jewelry & watches, and advertising photography. How did living in Switzerland affect your photographic approach and areas of expertise?

Switzerland is a great place for such areas of expertise as the most important watches and Jewelry brands are based here. Swiss photographers are also known for their high precision which is required for those specific photographic areas.

Swiss Made is the worldwide reference for luxury brands, so working with a Swiss made photographer is maybe a guarantee of quality for them.

Chopard - Photo by Seb Michel

Chopard - Photo by Seb Michel

How did your interest in luxury photography begin? What is the most special aspect of luxury for you?

Luxury is the best playground for such photographic application, as clients are searching for visual emotional or impactive pictures.

No matter if I shoot stills, beauty or fashion pictures, I love to create emotional visuals.

What was the first commercial product that you photographed? If you were shooting the same photo right now, would the result be very different?

My first commercial shoot was for L’Oreal a long time ago, a campaign in Belgium for hair products. I shot hair beauty visuals. Yes, I guess the result would be different. Even if my approach didn’t change that much during the last 20 years, the photographic technique changed a lot when the digital transition arrived. The digital brought a new way of doing pictures, the equipment changed, the pictures became sharper, and the precision of every detail got more important as the professional digital backs resolution gets bigger every year. My photographic style also changed as I grew up. I was shooting fashion with more spectacular and stronger light than I do today. Now I like more simplicity, to get focused on the emotion rather than the light.

Harry Winston - Photo by Seb Michel

Harry Winston - Photo by Seb Michel

You have worked on numerous campaigns for many globally recognised luxury brands, such as Vacheron Constantin, Chopard, Harry Winston, Piaget, and Cartier. What kind of projects do you prefer to work on?

I prefer projects with high creative potential. Those give me the possibility to add my esthetic value. I also like to be booked for a whole campaign which includes stills, creative pictures, as well as the key visual with models. This offer the same vision and aesthetic consistency to the whole campaign.

Chopard - Photo by Seb Michel

Chopard - Photo by Seb Michel

You are working on photo shoots of precious high jewelry and watches. What kind of safety precautions taken for these products in your studio or outside? Do you need to take these preventions into account when preparing the concepts of photo shoots?

Yes, security precautions are very important, especially for High Jewelry shoots. This means there are armed security guards on the sets. For fashion shoots with multiple brands, every brand takes care of the security of their products, so there can be up to 10-12 persons just for security. The logistics for such shootings is important and there usually a person which is only managing the arrivals and departures of the products in very tight schedule conditions of a shooting day. There are also safety protocols I can’t talk about.

What are the key points that you pay attention to most before accepting a new project?

That the brief is in relation to the clients' budget.

That the brief is matching my photographic style and that I’m the right person to handle the project.

 Sur La Terre 70's - Photo by Seb Michel

Sur La Terre 70's - Photo by Seb Michel

In your projects, do you work on a previously defined concept or are you creating your own concept?

Both situations can happen, depending on the client and advertising agency. Sometimes the brief is very precise with very realistic layouts, then it’s a technical challenge to get as close as possible to the layouts.

Some clients ask me to provide a complete concept, this offers me the chance to put something more personal into the project.

When the energy of an art director and photographer go in the same direction, this pushes the project to a higher level. I also like when the clients ask me to take a part of the art direction process.

What type of services do you offer to your clients?

Photography, motion and art direction.

How can we look at your previous works?

Please feel free to visit my website

You will find a complete client list, as well as the latest projects.

Chopard - Photo by Seb Michel

Chopard - Photo by Seb Michel

What do you think about the effect of a good photograph in the buyer's decision?

A picture is a reflection of a brand, a vision of a product which can be magnificent by a good picture.

When a good photograph creates an emotional sensation, of course, it effects (often unconsciously) the buyer’s decision.

Is it possible for abroad clients to work with you for their products' photo shots?

Of course, I use to travel and I’ve been working on productions in China, Russia, South Africa, USA and of course all over Europe.

Which factors determine the project budget?

The shooting time necessary to realize the project (shooting days) the production costs (prep, organization, casting, bookings, technical fees, studio, catering, transport, accommodation etc..)

The post-production complexity (which type of post-production, compositing, color grading, skin texture to work on etc..) and the usage rights of the pictures.

L'Officiel Sand Beauty - Photo by Seb Michel

L'Officiel Sand Beauty - Photo by Seb Michel

What are your expectations from your clients for a successful collaboration?

To be demanding, as it wouldn’t be exciting without challenges. To be fair and realistic.

How do you protect the rights of your photographs in this online era?

The Copyright © is a worldwide author protection for photography. The Copyright © of a picture belongs to his author, whether it’s online or offline, whether the author is alive or dead.

Could your clients use the photographs in any publication, catalog, website, ad or other platforms in the future?

They can already if the invoice and conditions include an all media usage rights package.

What advice would you give to photographers who want to pursue a career in advertising photography?

Do it, it’s the best job ever. But it will be very tough for sure ! !

Photo by Seb Michel

Photo by Seb Michel

What is your favorite photograph that you have ever taken?

This picture. It was a high Jewelry shooting for a magazine. It was a multi-brand editorial shot for Christmas in 2008. All the highest High jewelry brands were on this set.

There was a lot of tension and we could feel it backstage as there were about 10 guards during the whole shoot. Some of them are staying close to me and the model, as they don’t stop checking at the jewelry piece.

Even with all these heavy disturbing tensions around us, we were very appeased with the model, like if we were in a bubble, and she gave me such amazing peaceful eyes at this moment. It was so beautiful and incredible compared to the environment!

What do you think about social media? How can our readers follow you?

It's a contemporary way to communicate, to show pictures. It can be dangerously addictive as well, but today it’s an unavoidable media to be seen.


What is next for you?

I’m experimenting new photographic technologies, which is very exciting. I’m developing new applications for specific types of photography.

Next year will be also an exhibition to celebrate 20 years of photography, so I’m already working on it.

Thank you Seb for this enjoyable interview.

For more information, please visit the website of Seb Michel