Roberto Valenzuela is an acclaimed Canon Explorer of Light who specialises in wedding photography. He has snagged over 100 international wedding and portrait photography awards, including three 1st placings.
He is also hailed by Junebug Weddings as one of the “Top 50 Wedding Photographers in the World”.
We sat down with Roberto and got him to share with us his advice and tips on wedding photography, plus, some of the best experiences he had as a wedding photographer.
What are some of the important things for couples to know when shooting with a wedding photographer?
There are a lot of elements to a wedding and they require a different skill set.
You'd want to choose a photographer that has achieved a good technical and artistic virtuosity in all of the different parts of a wedding, not just one or two.
I think it’s imperative to do your homework. Recommendations can be bought, but reputations must be earned.
The wedding photographers that are well connected with coordinators, venues or bridal packages might not be the best choice for you.
Someone that is showcasing only hero shots of the couple might not be very good at capturing the story of the other critical parts of the wedding; such as the bride getting ready.
As far as shooting with a wedding photographer, couples need to relax and naturally engage with their partner. The more engagement the better!
I always recommend for couples to not simply rely on the photographer to capture their energy and candid expressions, but to play an active role in giving the photographer more chances to nail great photos with beautiful and candid moments.
Photography goes both ways. The couple and the photographer both need to put energy into it, or the photos will end up suffering.
I cannot emphasize enough that photography goes both ways.
What do you normally look out for when shooting couples to create beautiful portraits?
When photographing couples, I am less concerned with the landscape, and more focused on a strong and genuine connection between the couple, that, and beautiful lighting.
My goal is for the loving energy between the couple to be the star of the show.
Good posing is important as well. This means that the couple not only look as flattering as possible, but it also means that there are very few distractions from the couple’s energy or moment captured.
So, it is very important to understand posing to avoid distractions to make sure that they look their best.
Last but definitely not least, is glowing light. Creating magical and flattering light is what sets the mood of the portraits.
All three elements are necessary for a great portrait.
What are the most important factors that wedding photographers have to note?
To me, wedding photography goes far beyond the hero shot of the bride with her 20-foot veil magically floating in the air in front of a famous monument or structure under a baroque sky.
Those types of photos are amazing, but they are not sustainable.
Because it is unrealistic that you will have a high-end gown with a 20-foot veil and the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop at every wedding you photograph.
If your reputation as an artist depends on these types of photos, you might get into trouble when you can’t deliver.
But what you can always deliver regardless of the type of dress, venue, or weather, is outstanding visual storytelling.
If you work hard and become a master storyteller through your camera, you will always be able to use that skill set to tell the most beautiful wedding stories for your clients to treasure for the rest of their lives.
With the Canon EOS R, I can do things that was not previously possible to enhance my storytelling.
For the first time, I can engage with my clients without the camera blocking my face while the camera’s Face and Eye AF technology tracks their face perfectly while I, unbeknown to the clients, take their photos.
When people don’t know you are taking their photo, you can better capture the true essence of their relationship.
Behind the scenes
We're sure you've flown to plenty of places to shoot weddings. In your opinion, which has been most romantic country for pre-wedding shoots?
Hmmm…That’s a good one. If I had to choose, I would have to go with Gleann Cholm Cille. It's a small village located at a remote part of Ulster, Ireland. The word magical would be an understatement.
I photographed an American politician’s wedding there because his family came from that village. This made it extra special; that they had so many strong roots there, and it was not just another pretty place.
But I would say that the whole place looked like a Hollywood set. It could not have been more beautiful!
Which is your favorite wedding picture and why?
If I had to choose one photo that changed everything for me, would be the photo I took in Sarasota, Florida with the Canon 5D Mark III.
This photo has to be one of my all-time favorite wedding photographs in my career.
It was taken late in the evening as the wedding came to an end at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. Due to a hurricane passing by the area, it had been raining all day.
To take advantage of the rain, I asked the Rolls Royce driver if he could park the car in front of the tree. I then asked my assistant to stand in front of the grid of the car with two Canon 600EXRT flash units.
One flash unit was used to backlight the couple, and the second was pointed towards the car headlights.
Illuminating the headlights would give the viewer the perception that this photograph was lit by the car’s lights. However, the car was not even on.
When everything was set, I then asked the bride and groom to run out quickly and lift her up.
It took us a couple of tries to get it right and we got a little wet, but the photograph is magical, and it will last forever!
Roberto's latest book Wedding Storyteller, Volume 1: Elevating the Approach to Photographing Wedding Stories is now out. For more information about his work, head over to https://www.robertovalenzuela.com/.