Meet the Member: Alice Prenat, Portrait Photographer and Founder, PORTRAIT MADAME & PORTRAIT EXECUTIVE

Member news | September 16, 2019

In our latest Meet the Member feature, we spoke with Alice Prenat, Portrait Photographer and Founder at PORTRAIT MADAME & PORTRAIT EXECUTIVE.

Dedicated exclusively to portrait photography, Alice Prenat, is among the most promising French photographers in Europe. After her talent got discovered by the internationally known portrait photographer Sue Brycem, she succeeded in extensively expanding her boutique portrait studio and her 2 brands in Paris and New York City: PORTRAIT MADAME & PORTRAIT EXECUTIVE.

Keep reading to learn more about Alice’s expertise, how she manages to take stunning and authentic portraits, as well as her expatriation to the US.


FACC: In addition to serving as an important communications tool, both internally and externally, what message can a headshot convey about the professional featured? Strength, openness, assertiveness, kindness? Do you discuss with your clients beforehand to help mold this perception?

AP: At the end of the day, everyone wants to look good, happy and confident, in short: their absolute best selves on an executive or personal branding portrait. As a portrait photographer that’s what I do.

It’s not about me or my style here: I entirely tailor the session to what my client wants to convey in terms of messaging and energy. I recommend and guide all the way to choose the adequate location, the backgrounds, the type of lights, of moods, outfits, colors and finally: the body language and expression. These last two elements are my obsession as a portrait photographer.

You are right, through a portrait you can channel many feelings like strength, openness, assertiveness etc… But, for most of the people (me included), being in front of the camera is a real exercise and not the most comfortable one. For some it’s even worse than going to the dentist! But I have been exclusively trained and made it my mission to create a 'no judgement - comfort' zone for my client to feel truly good and safe and forget about the camera. And it works.

When a client tells me (they all warn me) "you know, I am definitely not photogenic, you are going to have a challenge!" My usual answer is that "the least photogenic you feel before your session, the happier I get because I already know how positively transformative the experience will be. You will walk out of that studio feeling fully capable of being comfortable in front of a camera and proud of the images we created and indirectly very proud of … yourself." 

I do discuss with each and every one of my clients before their individual session to really understand who they are, what energy they want to share, in which moment of their career/life they are in and how to support their projects and ambitions with the strong images they need. I don’t do portraits, just to do portraits: I build the images that convey who you are and who you want to be.

FACC: What approach do you use to help make your clients who are “camera shy” at ease?

AP: I LOVE that quote: “A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it” Edward Steichen. So true. "On EITHER side of it” so, good news for the ones who will read that quote: feeling at ease in front of a camera is mostly the job of the photographer. 

This is my mission to make sure the energy in the room is really welcoming, warm, relaxed and above all non-judgmental. We are all on the same team. That’s my job to guide the person I photograph into flattering poses and lead the shoot to have them naturally give great expressions.

A small trick that you can keep in mind in case you are facing a photographer who ‘leaves you hanging’ alone in front of his/her camera: BREATHE. That’s the first thing we forget to do when we are in an uncomfortable situation. Roll your shoulders, shakes your hands/arms, relax your jaw, breath and already that will feel better. 

FACC: When preparing for a photo shoot, how can executives ensure an authentic representation of themselves that is also aligned with the image of their company? Is formal necessarily better?

AP: In the case of a corporate shoot, we are ‘restricted’ to photograph an entire team in the same settings for all. The good news is that we still have 2 level of ‘customization’ in that type of shoot:

The value and energy of the organization as a whole: I usually discuss with the communication team / Marketing team / Management team about the value of their company, the energy they want to convey through the team, etc. Depending on that, I will tailor the set: location, background/backdrop, type of light used, framing. We also discuss about the dress code mainly in terms like: casual / Business casual / Full business.

Each person: There are many ways to ensure you are represented in your truest self : with the colors of the outfits you will wear, the type of outfits you will wear, and also accessories like jewels, scarves, ties, glasses, make-up and hair. I provide a guide to help each one with that. And your photographer should then make sure the body language and expression really match who you are and how you want to be perceived. And that differs for each person: some of us are super smiley naturally, some other feels more relaxed and comfortable not smiling and that’s totally fine!

FACC: When did you decide to expand your business internationally? Can you tell us more about the steps you took to officially launch in New York? Do you have any advice for other independent and French entrepreneurs?

AP: The seeds were planted in my brain since the first time I visited NYC 5 years ago, but at that time I was in a very different time of my life as I was holding a marketing position in one of the biggest medical device companies. You can now guess that through those latest 5 years I have made a 360 degree turn in terms of career choice and I am now very happily set to be for a portrait photographer for the rest of my life!

A year and a half ago, having successfully launched my portrait studio in Paris for almost 2 years, I decided to make that big NYC dream a reality. I came very regularly, started to network, started to build my relationships and my NYC portfolio. Then I found a beautiful studio and obtained my O1 visa at the start of this year, which allowed me to officially launch. Along that path, I was honored to be assigned as the NYC Associate photographer of the LA based, internationally known portrait photographer Sue Bryce. 

I have 3 pieces of advice for French entrepreneurs wanting to expand in the US:

- Come often at first to study your market, its players and start creating your network before fully jumping in. Networking is everything.

- Don’t choose your lawyer only based on his/her fees but also on the feeling you have with that person. Building a file for a visa is a gruesome and long task. You better get along with the person who will support you along the way. I paid mine higher than average price, but I am beyond thankful to her for the way she excelled in supporting me. I would recommend her without hesitation.

- If that’s your truest dream to expand in the US, never give up. It’s not a straight line but you will always find a way. And read the book ‘Obstacle is the way’ by Ryan Holiday ;-)

FACC: As a photographer, can you share any of the most rewarding or challenging projects you have had the opportunity to work on?

AP: I don’t have one specific rewarding project in mind because I enjoy my reward very regularly during that 'split of a second moment' when I show someone a great portrait of themselves and it triggers a deep feeling of being seen, being acknowledged, feeling capable and feeling proud of the person they are becoming. 

I love that portraiture can be an amazing self-esteem booster and self-love tool. And remember, 'you cannot pour from an empty cup, so better start to be good with yourself first: a portrait session is a true, completely under-estimated self-acceptance & self-care moment.

Recently though, I have had a moment of deep pride as one of my images received a silver merit in an international competition. It’s not my first silver but this one was very special: It’s an image I created during a personal photoshoot for my other portrait brand of Magali Saby, a young woman who have been in a wheelchair her entire life. I wanted to create an image where she could fully express and show the world her strength, never-ending hope and courage. You can see that image on the website.

FACC: What drew you to the FACC network and what do you hope to gain this year as a member?

AP: I left Paris not because the city is too beautiful, but because sometimes Parisians can be a bit heavy to deal with (I still enjoy working there one week per month and love my clients there!). The NYC energy is fantastic and the truth is, at first I was not even considering any French networks as I thought it would remind me too much of Paris… but what a surprise when I started to discover the French community here : what an amazing crowd, so dynamic and willing to create, share, help and grow ! That’s what appealed me to become a FACC member and so far, I have enjoyed it a lot! 

Interested in connecting with Alice? Log into the FACC Member Directory to send her a message.

Recently, the FACC-NY team had the pleaseure of discovering Alice's work for ourselves during a headshot session. Alice's warm demeaner instantly put us at ease and the edited photos offer an elevated, cohesive image of our team. Stay tuned for more information about each of our departments and respective roles, in the meantime you can view Alice's work on display on many of our Linkedin profiles.