Have you ever wondered how it would feel to give up your day job and follow your passion, and make it work. I have been thinking about it a lot (more) lately. It is a combination of lack of motivation at work and feeling that I need more than this to nurture my soul. I am wondering more and more what it would be like to do something with this crafting obsession I have (or elsewhere). To find out more I have decided to interview those who just went for it.
This month I am talking to a talented stylist and photographer Carole Poirot who blogs at Mademoiselle Poirot. I have been following her blog for a long time, and saw her grow her blog into a real business, and I will even attend one of her workshops in London soon. And I cannot wait. I am really happy she has accepted to take part in my follow your passion series, and it is great to hear about her experience. Also, you may have noted that she has the best name ever - especially if you are as a fan of Hercule as I am.
How did you get involved in styling and photography (and food)? Did it all happen at the same time?
It’s been a very long process. I started to take photos as a teenager and have always “styled” (not that I knew at the time that this is what it was called, we called it “decorating”) room and arranged things again and again. It wasn’t until much later (and after many non-related jobs) that I was able to actually “articulate” what I really wanted to do. That’s when I started my blog and started to share photos etc. Food happened much later from fun in cooking and baking and it just took off from there.
When did you know you were ready to make the switch from 'regular work to make business out of your passion?
I was still working in my day job whilst at the same time working freelance. I wanted at least a little stability, so waited until I literally couldn’t do it all anymore, that’s when (in 2014) I made the jump into becoming a freelancer.
Have you always known you were going to be a props stylist and interiors photographer?
Deep down I think I did, but didn’t really have the courage to pursue it properly and it took me a long time to start taking what I’m doing a little more serious and pursue it in a professional manner without feeling like a total fraud.
When did you start taking bookings to style props and take pictures for clients?
Oh… I think around 4 or 5 years ago? It started with blogging assignments (for companies’ blogs) and companies asking to use some of my photos and grew into “proper” bookings from there.
What is your brand style - what sort of photography are you interested in?
I think my brand style is very much my personal style. Quite natural, mostly “de-saturated”, feminine without being overly girly, a little classic and somewhere between French and British. I hope I don’t sound totally confused.
Did you follow other photographer before finding your style?
I don’t think I’ve followed photographers as such, but I always knew when I saw a photograph that just made me go “wow”. In that sense, whatever makes me go “wow” is what I’m trying to create. Having said that, Steve McCurry is probably the one photographer I admire the most. His style, his subjects, the colours and light, he’s just an incredible talent.
What are the best locations for your style of photography?
Locations with natural light, natural elements like wood, textures like bricks or rough plaster and white, lots of white – though not the glossy kind.
How do you run the business side of Carole Poirot? Do you have external help (at this stage)?
I wish I did have external help, I’d probably be much better at answering emails and interview questions in a timely manner. But no, I don’t have any help at the moment. It’s all me and from setting appointments, prop sourcing, styling, shooting, post processing, to liaising with clients, writing blog posts, posting on social media and all that goes with it, it’s all my own doing. Apologies to anybody waiting for an email reply.
What are the challenges of running a business on your own?
Time. Always time. And the fact that I rarely get to bounce ideas around with someone else or voice all those self-doubts. I have to rely on myself for motivation and to pull myself up when I feel low and like I’m not doing a good enough job.
I’ve never been super goal focused, I’m (unfortunately) more of a dreamer. If I had a dream (ahem, goal) it’d be to have my work featured in Elle Decoration and work on a big campaign for the likes of H&M or House Doctor. Other than that, I’m actually pretty grateful for where I am right now as I don’t think it’s a given to start from scratch at middle age and manage to make it work. I don’t think it is, anyway.
What would your advice be to people who want to become photographer? Self-employed?
Train your eye. You can learn all the technical stuff, but training your eye to really see (does that make sense?) takes time and doesn’t come easy to everybody. Don’t call yourself a photographer because you take some shots for your blog, people won’t take you seriously (yes, it’s a conversation I’ve had with many photographers). As for self-employment? It’s not for everybody. If you need the (emotional) security of a monthly wage then you will need to be honest about it because the weeks when there’s no money coming in can be tough and emotionally draining.
What do you do to make your workplace an enriching and inspiring place to be?Well, currently (until we get the office sorted) my workplace is our dining table, so I can always look at my books on the shelves. That’s pretty much as inspiring as it currently gets.
What sort of things are inspiring your right now? Where do you typically look for inspiration?
What inspires me constantly changes. A month ago I would have said Instagram is inspiring, now I’m finding myself getting a little bored with it as so much of it is the same and not about creativity but about chasing ‘likes’ and posting pictures that will generate those rather than creative or original content. That doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily any better at posting anything more creative… Right now the changing season inspires me (sunshine in London, yes!), the fact that I got rid of most of my wardrobe has given me a new kind of outlook, having found a studio space to hold workshops inspires me to share knowledge, the prospect of a little traveling, and of course there are always books and magazines. Oh, and Pinterest.
When do you feel the most creative? How do you further your photography skills?
I generally feel the most creative when I don’t “have” to be, when I have some spare time. Not helpful when deadlines are looming! To further my photography skills, I basically keep my mind open to constant learning whether that’s from other photographers, YouTube (yes, it can be a great source!) or photography forums. I’m completely self-taught and will annoy other photographers with endless questions, though that has become less over time.
How do you know which pictures will resonate with people/with clients?
I generally have a chat with my clients beforehand to figure out what it is they’re looking for. I also ask which images from my website spoke most to them. That usually gives me a pretty good idea which pictures will resonate with them. As for “my” (i.e. blog etc.) pictures, they have to first and foremost resonate with myself, if somebody else then happens to also like them it’s a bonus. If you had the time to find creativity in some other activities, which would it be?
I’d love to paint and draw again. It’s been a long time since I had a blank canvas and some oil paints in front of me and I do miss it a little.I can see that there is a strong styling community - especially on IG now - how important is it for you?
It’s nice that this community is there, but at the end of the day it’s social media and not to be confused with face-to-face communities, friendships and people we personally know and interact with. On the other hand, I have met some fantastic people through these online communities which I would never have met otherwise, so in that sense I’m grateful for and it is important to me for the contacts outside of it. I think I’m getting into a muddle now…