How Felix Renaud Shot Personal Project: Section Fumeur

When photographer Felix Renaud first discovered photography, a world of possibilities opened to him. With his background of drawing and cinema, he is drawn towards treating his images as if they were drawn from a film or inspired by a painting. He enjoys creating the ambiance and characters for his images.

Such a powerful set of tools that Felix brings to the table through that perspective on his work. It's one thing to take a picture or to capture something on film but it's an entirely different beast to bring those shots to life and to truly tell a story. It's the difference between content and art. It's the difference between noise and substance. Felix brings a broad perspective to his work and I think that gives him a leg up on the competition before he even picks up the camera.

As most photographers would agree, general commercial contracts are usually very specific and offer a limited level of creativity to adequately meet the needs of the clients. Right when he first started photography, Renaud have put a lot of emphasis on personal projects. To experiment, to try new techniques, to explore new themes, to develop his artistic vision, but especially to have fun! It's really critical to find that balance between satisfying the commercial needs of our career and personal lives while also carving out time to fulfill our artistic needs. There is no shame in traditional commercial work but there is no excuse to put your personal aspirations and visions on the backburner indefinitely.

Section Fumeur (French for Smoke break) is a personal project showing in glamorous and colored images the patheticness of smoking. The people smoking around Renaud gave him the idea of the concept for the series. Smoking can seem to be very glamorous. The smoke, the action. It can give style and elegance despite the fact that we all know that it’s very harmful to health. By harmful I mean it's killing you, but details. Its for the art! Renaud wanted to create ambiances that were both mysterious and glamorous, while featuring caricatured characters. In order to cast the right talents for this project, he first started with solidifying the characters that he had in his head. From there, he started contacting people around him. In the 4 models, only the waitress is an actress. She was the first model that he photographed for the series and her acting really helped set the tone for the series.

Renaud has always loved to photography and create his picture on locations, there is just something much more cinematic in a real place. A nice and fitting location, automatically gives more depth to the concept or the story. The whole project was shot over 4 half days, each day for each image.

The most challenging part of the shoot was finding the time to do the project and managing the schedule of all the talented people on the team. Everything else was simply pure fun! Several people had told him that the idea itself  was rather cliché or that they have already seen other series of people smoking. Yet Renaud had the images in mind and he knew that it would be incredibly interesting visually. Another proof to always trust your guts, an important lesson to keep in mind.

When editing the images in post, he also kept in mind to remain faithful to the color palette that he had initially imposed himself. This helped him come up with a series that was visually well connected.

Equipment List

Canon 5Ds

Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Smoke machine

Alienbees strobes

Color gels

Lighting Setup


Photo/Retouch: Félix Renaud
Assistant: Marc-André Renaud / Dina McRange/Thibaut Ketterer / Cédric Beaudin/Philippe Archambault
Make-Up: Virginie Bachand
Stylism: Catherine Perron


Waitress - Nathalie Coupal
Janitor - René-Charles Arseneau
Mother - Molly Superfine Rivera
Old man - Max Houle

All images used with permission of Felix Renaud.

Log in or register to post comments


Jeff Walsh's picture

incredible work

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Great to see the work, and all the BTS that went into the project!

Steve Molder's picture

Enjoyed looking through his work and the BTS. Love that cinematic lighting!

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

Smokings bad mmmkay.

Paris Parcell's picture

Very creative concept and well-executed. The waitress-actress has a great look and she would be interesting subject in a different photo shoot.