Beverly Hills, California-based wedding photographer Roberto Valenzuela has many talents. Not only is he a world-renowned photographer, a Canon Explorer of Light and an in-demand teacher and presenter, but professional concert classical guitarist and instructional photo book author are also on his résumé (he’s written for Rangefinder, too—check out 8 No-Fail Posing Tips for Every Shoot)!
At WPPI, Valenzuela will be teaching the platform class “Let the Light Do the Talking” on Tuesday, March 8 from 8:30-10 a.m., where he’ll explain how to understand your surroundings, then manipulate and beautify light with minimal equipment. To get a little more background on this multi-talented guy, we asked Valenzuela to let down his guard and answer ten random questions.
1. If you had to shoot with one lens for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?
If I had to choose one lens, I would have to say the 200mm f/2.0 from Canon. Even though its focal length will restrict me, I can’t get enough of the creamy nature of this lens. Not to mention how sharp it is at all apertures. It’s pretty amazing!
2. What’s one thing you’d change about yourself?
I wish I was less timid. In the public eye, people only see the performer in me, but in reality, I’m actually timid. I don’t know how to change that or even if I should try.
3. If not a wedding photographer, what would you be doing?
I would probably be involved in something artistic of some sort. Perhaps a chef. I think food and photography are actually more alike than meets the eye. I need to express myself artistically or I die of boredom. It’s an innate need to do something that sparks my creative juices.
4. What bands did you listen to in high school?
Music and I have a strange relationship. I pretty much listened to classical music throughout high school and I still do today. I don’t know much about current pop culture, and quite frankly, I don’t care. I love listening to Bach, Chopin and classical guitar composers.
5. What’s your secret talent?
I don’t know if it’s much of a secret, but I used to be a professional concert classical and flamenco guitarist. I don’t play anymore, but I can still doodle if I have to. One of these days, I’ll get back into it seriously.
6. What’s your favorite WPPI moment?
One of the reasons why I make it a priority to attend WPPI every year is to get some perspective on the unbelievable skill that’s out there worldwide. I love how it makes me feel like I’m back at the starting line. Nothing fuels my passion more than that! The WPPI 16×20 Print Competition is always my favorite part of the show. Watching the judges discuss an image is invaluable for any photographer’s growth.
7. Looking back, what would you have done differently starting out as a photographer?
I would have loved to realize that to be successful in this industry, it’s not equipment that will get you there, but what’s engraved in your brain. True education requires 100 percent commitment and focus. YouTube videos do not qualify as “quality” photography education. They are interesting and provide food for thought, but to learn, you must get under the hood and get your hands dirty yourself. I would have invested in private workshops from the very beginning.
8. What happened in the last dream you remember having?
I was teaching a class about Economic Theory to a bunch of horses sitting in an amphitheater. I have no idea what that means. The horses would speak only in horse language to each other, but they could all understand my English.
9. What’s one photography trend you wish would stop?
I respect all kinds of photographic styles, but if I had to stop one, I would choose spot coloring. I believe photographers should concentrate in taking great photographs organically, and not rely on Photoshop tricks to make something out of nothing.
10. If you could ask one person (anyone) one thing, who would it be and what would you ask?
I would have liked to ask Steve Jobs what it was like for him to change the world.