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Photographer interview: Sébastien Mérion

I’m thrilled to start the interview series with a talented french photographer from New Caledonia. He has not one but two stunning photo websites (for both his personal work and his stock imagery).

Let’s dive right in!

Hello Sébastien, glad to have you here as the first interview on the blog! Tell the readers a little bit about yourself and your photography background.

I live in New Caledonia, a French island in the Pacific ocean.

I am in the photography business here for 15 years! Photography started as a hobby, my first skills and studies were graphic design. While I was working for many years in an advertising agency, I started selling my stock images about New Caledonia. I have now launched my own publishing company where I can use my photography and graphic design skills to create Souvenirs products for tourists such as calendars, art prints, stationery…

At what point in your career did you start using a website and what was that experience like?

As my archive got bigger and bigger I decided to have my images online. I had my first stock image website launched in 2007 then I moved to a better solution with PhotoShelter in 2010.

Beside that I also have a corporate website that presents my assignment work and services. My clients are professionals looking for imagery of New Caledonia, they search through my archive easily and send me requests by email.

My photos are sold as Right Managed as our market here is very small.


What are all the components of your online presence now?

I try to use as much as I can my blog, Twitter, Facebook Page and update my stock image website as much as I can but I must admit that it is very hard for me to find time to use all those tools, I am just too busy.


I remember working with you on building your two sites based on your incredible designs, it was a great experience. What effects did the websites have on your business so far?

My client requests are always on tight deadlines, they can easily search through my archive and send me requests by email when they don’t find what they need. We all save time this way. Although few of my clients actually buy online, they usually prefer asking for high resolution and use normal invoice for offline payment.

Time to time I get requests from France and other countries to publish my images in magazines or they even ask for an assignment.


Why did you feel the need to separate the two sites?

I wanted 2 brands and separate my photography services and my stock imagery. It was also a strategy regarding SEO, I was able to work on specific keywords for each website, people looking for a “photographer in New Caledonia” is different than searching “pictures of New Caledonia”.

But in the future, I would like to update my website with PhotoShelter for a more convenient way to update and display my work on any device.


One of your sites, uses a business name. What value does that bring and why not under a personal name too?

My actual business company name is Tikiwaka and local people here already know the name. In the future, I could even sell pictures from other photographers through my stock image website if I want to.


Why did you decide to make the sites bi-lingual? How did that work out for you?

As New Caledonia is a French island, the large majority of my clients speak french, and french people are known for their very bad English! So we really needed to translate it in french as much as we could.

You did a good job on that Alex, as PhotoShelter is not developed for multi-languages unfortunately. For example, we couldn’t translate the Buying part of the website, the Right Managed section to calculate price, etc… that is probably why my French-speaking clients usually don’t buy online.


I see you wrote specific prices for prints on your site and no mention of prices for your list of services. What are your thoughts on posting prices online?

It’s simple, I just preferred clients to write me and discuss, then send a quotation based on what they need.


You offer both services and products on your site. Most people obviously start out with just services, so how did you transition to also offering products and how did you come up with them?

Unfortunately, sales of my art prints are very little, there’s surely room for improvement there. I think I should have a specific website all in French to sell more. Also, the market is very small here.


Also noticed you offer free (stunning) wallpapers on the blog. How has this helped your business in the long run? Why do you do it?

I have done this for many years now, I first started in 2005 before I was actually a pro photographer. I used to have a blog about New Caledonia, where I could show my photos, my trips around the island, it was a very famous blog about New Caledonia and I had about a thousand visitors a day and a quite large community. I had more readers than the official tourism website of New Caledonia!

My readers really enjoy my wallpaper each month. I don’t always have time to offer it every month, but I try to. People write me when I forget and ask for it!

I think it is a good way to promote my work and it is even more important now since my new business of selling Souvenirs and gifts of New Caledonia. Those readers are potential clients for my products. By the way, I would like to use it as a more marketing tool by collecting emails from people that download it. I am sure you can help me with that!


What do you think are the qualities of an effective website?

Great design and coding!


In your experience, what mistakes are people usually making on their photography sites?

Too much blabla, I mean too much text that no one will read! That is the mistake I did actually!

I will change this in a future update. I think the most important for a photographer is to display his/her work, visitors are looking for that. Of course, you need some text for SEO too.

When your work is spread out into multiple domains (like in your case), how do you manage to promote them all? How do you find the right balance?

I must admit that I am not always able to manage all my websites, Facebook pages, twitter, newsletter… too much work for one guy! I have already so much to deal with in real everyday life! I would need a community manager for that.


What website metrics do you track?

I have a account to track my visits on each of my websites.


What role does your blog play in your business?

It makes my presence on the internet more alive I think.

People notice the new content (or want to download my free monthly wallpaper), so it creates a reason for them to keep coming back to the blog from time to time.

The sidebar there has some links to my recent projects, images, social media accounts etc. Not to mention that the blog also offers more text for search engines.


Thanks a lot for all the insightful answers, it was a pleasure having you on ForegroundWeb. Once again, where can people get in touch with you if needed? (stock images of New Caledonia) (personal services & portfolio website)
Twitter: @sebastienmerion

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