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Ask Anything with Roberto Valenzuela: His Best Wedding Photography Tips

roberto valenzuela's best wedding photography tips

As the photography industry constantly changes, it requires you to stay up-to-date with your skills. Whether you are just starting out in photography, or have been in business forever, there are always opportunities for you to learn new wedding photography tips.

In our Live Q+A: Ask Anything with Roberto Valenzuela, we opened up the chats to photographers from all over the world. Throughout the Q+A, photographers had the opportunity to ask ShootDotEdit Wedding Pro, Roberto Valenzuela, anything.

Wedding Photography Tips

Roberto Valenzuela is a wedding and fine art photographer based in Beverly Hills, CA. He is a 70-time international award-winning photographer. With a keen eye for what a strong image is composed of, he has served as a judge in several image critiques and competitions, including ones held at WPPI, PPA, and European photography competitions. As a best-selling author, Canon Explorer of Light, and world-traveling educator, Roberto has plenty of wedding photography tips to share. Here are the top tips from our Live Q+A.

bridal portraits wedding photography

Image by Roberto Valenzuela

Photography Posing

What is the most common mistake you see photographers make in their posing?

The most common mistake with posing is thinking you may not need to learn it. Many photographers just let the clients move and then they hope that with enough movement, they will get the coverage. You will be surprised if you invest a bit of time in proper training in posing, you can still let your clients move. This time, you will be trained to know what some of the pitfalls of their movements before they move to that position.

The reason why I love teaching posing so much is because it has changed my career from just another photographer in L.A., shooting natural light on the beach, to someone whose clients feel like I have a grasp on what I am doing, that I am a professional, experienced, and skilled photographer. Also, that if I need to use my skill to create a more flattering look, I can do so. The biggest mistake photographers make in the industry is thinking that it isn’t their style to pose, or they do not need to learn it because that is not what they do.

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Out of all the skills you can learn in photography, I honestly believe posing is the one that is the most misunderstood. Posing is not contorting your clients’ bodies into a mold you memorize. That is not posing. A photographer who knows posing well can let people be themselves. The only difference between a photographer who is skilled in posing and one who is not is you have a much greater quantity of flattering images because you are injecting skill into your subject’s movement, rather than putting it all on them. If you are going to shoot weddings, please take 5 minutes to learn about posing. When you understand how people move naturally on their own, you can correct natural pitfalls like slouching or unnatural interaction.

Related: Why is lighting and posing so important for your wedding photography?

Photography Gear

What is your favorite lens for taking portraits?

If I’m in a place where I want to show context in the scene, such as a beautiful place or the bride’s house (and it’s clean), I choose a 50mm lens. Usually the 50mm 1.2. I usually try to shoot people with an aperture of 1.2 to 2.0 at the maximum. I usually don’t go past that, unless I’m shooting 2 people together. If I’m shooting the bride and groom together, I’m shooting more than 2.0. For the bride alone, it’s 2.0. If I’m shooting the wedding party and want to feature the groom, I’ll probably use 2.0, and then I let the groom be in focus and the rest fall out of focus slightly.

If I choose not to show context, say it’s a messy house or an unideal location, I take a 50mm lens off and put on my 70mm-200mm on. I shoot at 70mm-200mm as much as I can to remove the scene. I don’t do it by cropping very tight on the face. If you are going to shoot with a 70mm-200mm lens, back up and let the photo breath.

What gear do you suggest to bring along to a shoot?

You can create all the lighting you need with one reflector and one flash. Of course, you have to be able to trigger that flash. My setup is I have a camera, my transmitter on top of the camera. I have the Profoto reflector, sun silver, white, large. It has handles and it is sturdy. It is high quality and gives you great results. With this reflector and an off-camera flash, you can do a lot.

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Learn Posing From the Pros

When you go to a photo shoot outdoors, it doesn’t matter where you go, the sun always comes from above (unless you’re shooting at dusk). The sun hits the bone and creates dark shadowing under the eyes. If you stand in front of a road or green grass in a park, now you have dark eyes and green light. I can assure you that if you want to separate yourself from most photographers who are natural light photographers, adding light that travels horizontally into your subject’s face and using the diffuser to make it soft will help your images go a long way. It takes about 10 minutes to learn this technique. If you do not have an assistant with you, you can always use a light stand and bounce it against a wall to create similar soft light.

Related: What are the best cameras to shoot weddings in 2017? 

Which MagMod product do you suggest?

They have a starter kit, which is the kit I use. I love having a bunch of choices, but remember, if you’re in portraits or weddings, choices can slow you down. I suggest you get to know a few things really well with your MagMod basic kit and master putting it on and knowing when you need it and use it and what look you will get. When you become familiar with your kit, you can try the special effects on more causal shoots. You can shine the flash through a design and create stripes or stars of light. You can create different graphics with lights and shadows. You woudln’t do that with clients when you are experimenting.

MagMod also has a diffuser panel. It softens the light. Lights from a flash are harsh and don’t have a good shape. If you ever take a flash and you photograph a clean wall, it creates rectangular lines and shapes. You could see the lines left on your subject if you use that. When you put the diffuser panel on, it cleans out the lines and shapes. I also use a ¼ CTO. You will create more cold shadows and warmer highlights and your photo out of camera looks beautiful. A ½ CTO can make them look more orange, so you have to be careful.

Those are just some of the expert wedding photography tips Roberto shared during our Live Q+A. Learn more from Roberto about how to create memorable imagery for your clients every time with his book, Wedding Storyteller: Volume 1! And, get insider tips about Roberto’s best photography lighting tips when you download our free Guide: Lighting for Wedding Photographers!

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