I must say that I have read and seen work from a significant number of photographers, however none have struck me as Roberto Valenzuela has. (http://www.robertovalenzuela.com/). I think I owe this mostly to his amazin life story, style and friendly teaching capabilities.
Roberto does not simply describe himself as a photographer, but (and he truly is) also an educator of Photography. Recently he has also been made a Canon Explorer of Light (which is to say he has been recognized by Canon as a master in the art of photography). He holds 3 degrees (related to marketing) and was an acoustic guitar player before he ventured into photography!
I have never met Roberto Valenzuela physically, however having seen most of his videos on Creative Live (I do suggest you take a look at the classes in this page), followed his youtube videos, read his books (and I have also pre-ordered his new book Picture Perfect Lighting shipping in February) I can say that I do know him.
As he himself admits, Roberto was up to 10 years ago a crappy photographer. I dare make this statement as he himself admits this when showing his early shots in a video lesson. He says that photography is not about talent - 'forget talent'. Photography is about deliberate practice, improvement and exercise. He taught me that even when I do not have my camera with me I can exercise photography via mental exercises.
In his two published books he describes in depth two important subject - locations and posing, and dedicates a book for each. His next book, as one can expect is on lighting, which is also such a base for photography. He fragments and describes the subject so well making it so easy to comprehend and assimilate his ideas.
For locations, he goes to describe the 'gift of locations'. Each location has some 'gift' which we as photographers should be looking for when selecting the place (background) to shoot a couple or a portrait. In summary he uses the below 7x3 table:
Infact as soon as I arrive to a wedding /engagement or photoshoot location, I will immediately commence to search for the above mentioned features. These by themselves give us so much to look for that a location can be reused multiple times. In his book he goes on to delve on how each of these elements can be used to the photographers advantage.
For poses. Roberto says that most photographers struggle on this aspect and just have a hit and miss approach. He therefore does not try to give the photographer a predefined set of poses, though he does give the below classification of different generic possibilities:
Instead Roberto points out the errors which a photographer should look for when analyzing a pose. The following is a table which very well summarizes the things to look for:
On each of these topics, he describes through his experience what should and should not be done. I will just illustrate the first point - the spine. Roberto indicates that the Spine should never be slouched but always straight and any tilting has to be made through the upper tract of the neck. Furthermore, if we are to pose a female, Roberto suggests to leave an S-shape at the back to induce more feminism in the shot.
However apart from all these great tips that I have learned through his book, one great lesson was the importance of injection of emotion in each photo. Roberto is in no way worried if for a few seconds acts as a fool, provided he can have an eternal moment framed. Infact through his videos one would immediately notice that when shooting, Roberto is constantly communicating with the person being photographed, with the intent of evoking smiles or laughter. It is incredible what a difference this can make in the final shots.
Thanks Roberto for sharing your knowledge with us.