On Friday, January 31, we arrived at the Élysée Palace in Paris to photograph the French President François Hollande for TIME’s cover. We prepared four different set ups: A black background, a white background and two locations within the palace that would make for strong environmental shots. The key on a shoot like this is to be really well prepared. My crew moves like a ballet, so the portrait session kind of has this flow.
When the president walked in, he was pressed for time. After initial introductions, I normally don’t interact much, so the relationship is between the subject and the camera. This gives me a much more authentic picture.
We only had seven minutes to make the two different studio portraits, one of those ended up on the cover of TIME International. I was also able to sneak in the two environmental pictures, which both ran in the magazine.
There are different ways to get a good portrait. There are a lot of photographers who have a much different approach. But my subjects often don’t have time to get used to the fact that they’re being photographed. Which probably adds some immediacy.
Marco Grob is a contract photographer for TIME. He previously photographed major figures from the civil rights movement for One Dream, TIME’s multimedia commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. View more of his work for TIME here or on his website
This piece is presented as told to LightBox reporter Richard Conway