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Podcast Episode 19: This is Rocio Vega

So excited to have the fantastic Rocio Vega on the Podcast for Episode 19 today! Based in Spain, Rocio was one of our top photographers of 2019, and has won six awards from us, including 3 Story Awards, which is an awesome feat. She shares so much today, including:

  • whether there really is a quiet season at all,
  • her experiences and views on talking at conferences,
  • having conversations with herself,
  • being empathetic and the importance of that,
  • why she watches hands (and it’s not linked to coronavirus),
  • her childhood and how she got into photography,
  • how learning what you don’t want to do is so important too,
  • not shooting what everyone else shoots,
  • one of her favourite current Netfix series and why she recommends watching it especially if you’ve got kids,
  • her ideal days,
  • being in a relationship with a fellow (brilliant!) wedding photographer (Franck Boutonnet),
  • how moments are like waves and searching for the peak,
  • how our own feelings and emotions have an impact on what we shoot and show,
  • shooting a lot and taking advantage of the tools at our disposal,
  • the concept and industry of wedding photography,
  • moments over couple-imagery,
  • staying true to yourself,
  • adding variety to your inspiration diet,
  • her specific approach and tips regarding flash,
  • her top tips for improving your documentary skills,
  • and much more…

There are all the usual ways of listening to our Rocio Vega interview, including in this post (where there’s also a full transcript), iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube.

Alan Law

Hey, Rocio How you doing?

Rocio Vega

Hello, Alan. Fine. Thank you.

Alan Law

Good. Good stuff. Thank you for talking to me.

Rocio Vega

Oh, thanks for asking.

Alan Law

Oh, it’s an honour to be speaking to you, it really is. How’s things with you? You’re in Spain at the moment?

Rocio Vega

Yes, I’m staying. I’m actually home. So it’s it’s good. And today it’s a sunny day. It’s rare, but it’s good.

Alan Law

Rare? Isn’t it always sunny in Spain, no?.

Rocio Vega

I know everybody thinks that but it depends on where you live. You know, and I live in the, in the north. Northwest Actually, I live near the mountains. So actually from my window, I can see the snow in the in the mountain, and it rains a lot. So it’s a really beautiful place because it’s green. But so far we have I have been here for two weeks and it’s been raining every day. So it’s nice.

Alan Law

That’s good. It’s a sunny day in Britain at the moment as well. And that’s rare. So that’s all good. And how you doing at the moment? Is it the kind of quiet season for you at the moment, I guess as it is for all of us

Rocio Vega

is is there a quiet season? Honestly, it’s like, I always have so many things to do. Like, okay, all my weddings are delivered, everything is done. That was in December. I took some free days in January because I have a special visit from my family. But still, you know, you always are, you’re always doing something. And now it’s been two weeks, like really productive weeks. I’m doing a lot of keynotes, PDFs and information and gathering this and doing that and making this better and my website and, you know, it’s thousands of things. So, so yes, it’s quiet but busy.

Alan Law

You do sound busy. Yeah, ’cause you recently announced a couple of workshops as well, didn’t you? Is it in Rotterdam and Madrid? So are you preparing for those and things.

Rocio Vega

Yes. So I’m preparing exactly. I’m preparing for those. I have the workshop Madrid and workshop in Rotterdam. So and I’m putting in new information. And I have to do actually I have to do it twice because I have to do everything in English and then everything in Spanish. And most of my material is in English. So I’m translating everything to Spanish. And so it takes time. Yeah.

Rocio Vega

Alan Law

You must enjoy your workshops. You’ve done quite a lot of them now when you are speaking at conferences. I guess you enjoy them. Do you still get nervous about doing them?

Rocio Vega

Oh, yes. But you know, like, it’s I like to think it’s not nervous, but it’s excitement. Right? So always before you give a speech, you’re nervous. You’re excited about it. I always try to to feel the ambience and I want to give you know, so it’s a big responsibility for me. I think that being a speaker, it’s a it’s a huge responsibility. So I take it as that and I like to be prepared and everything so you’re always nervous. But once you do the first step and you start, it’s like if I double myself, so it’s like I get out of my body. And sometimes I even have conversations with my two me’s in my head, you know? It happened to me the first time I gave a speech in Spanish because I always most of the time I give it an English and so I’m used to, to talk in English to say the things my way in English. If I make a mistake, I’m okay because you know, I’m not an English speaker. So everyone is good with that. And, but in Spanish, it was in FDF in Sevilla. And it was super funny because for one week, I was with Luis Garvan. We were hanging around all the time. And for me the Mexican accent. Super contagious. Super, super contagious. I grew up watching Mexican TV. So for me, it’s natural. And then I was speaking in Spanish, but with a Mexican accent. So inside myself was like, Oh my God, Rocio, you’re speaking Mexican. I was like, Yes, I know, shut up. Let me go on. And I see at the end, some people were like, Oh, we thought you were Colombian. But in my head, I have a mix of things. Like Colombian Spanish or Spanish from Spain. When I’m with a Mexican or somebody else I tended to… I’m a really empathic person. So I’ve learned that when you’re empathic, you, you try to unconsciously you speak like the other person speaks, you know, because that way you are like in the same channel. And so for example, if I’m with a Spanish speaker, but that is not native and they speak a weird Spanish. If I am with them more than three days I will start speaking that weird Spanish

Alan Law

Do you think that helps you bond with your clients as well and the people you’re photographing, you know at a wedding?

Rocio Vega

Oh, yes, of course. Yeah, yeah, it’s all about empathy. It’s like, but it’s things that you do unconsciously. And you mirror ways of expression, how you move your hands, how to sit down and, and also the speaking part, and some things you can do consciously. But most of the things you can do it consciously like for five minutes, but then afterwards you just forget about it. So and I think I am really empathic person. Like, when I’m with someone that wants to cry, but cannot cry. I cry for them.

Alan Law

Oh that really is empathic!

Rocio Vega

Oh, yeah. You have to learn to accept it. And to learn that you’re crying…? But that it that does doesn’t belong to you? I don’t know if you get that…?

Alan Law

Yeah, no, I know what you mean but I guess that high level of empathy must really help with capturing moments it’s so integral.

Rocio Vega

Yeah, yeah, I think it’s a great tool I have I feel blessed because I have this ability. And it’s amazing because I can see when I can feel not see I can feel when somebody is getting emotional when someone wants to cry, and they don’t allow themselves, I feel it. So I think that helps me, especially to predict that that a big emotion is going to happen? I also I observe so I see the hands and with the hands people speak a lot, you know, so I’m always looking at the hands like so. So when people are moving, their hands are touching or doing some weird things. I know they’re getting emotional so I get ready. So when if they cry, I am ready for it? Because I can feel it.

Alan Law

That’s cool. Have you always been empathic, empathetic, empathic ‘s not a word… empathetic? Like Have you always been like growing up as a kid? Or is this something that’s happened to you from being a photographer?

Rocio Vega

Oh, I think I’ve been always like this. Now I’m more conscious about it. I was not conscious about it before. And I read a lot about it. And I, it’s like, everything in life. It’s like a muscle. So if you train yourself, if you know you have an ability, and you don’t use it, it is there. But if you use it consciously and you work on it, it becomes an amazing tool. So yes, I think I started working on myself. Well, actually, when my when my son was born 11 years ago, and it’s been a long journey. I’ve done a lot of things and read a lot of things. And therapies and things and blah, blah, blah. But all these grew up in me in many ways. And one of the ways it’s also empathy.

Alan Law

Well, that’s, that’s cool. And you can see it in your work, you know, in the moments you capture. You were born in Colombia, I think and then you went to Spain to study cinematography. Is that right?

Rocio Vega

Yes. When I was 20 years old,

Alan Law

What were you like as a kid? And how did you get into weddings then?

Rocio Vega

Oh, my God. So, you know, like, I just gave a speech about this. I I can tell you exactly. The thing is that I don’t think that I only know one photographer, wedding photographer that dreamt to be a wedding photographer when he was a kid. Like actually, it’s not common to dream to be a wedding photographer when you’re a kid. So actually, when I was a kid, I was dreamed to be a flight attendant. Because I wanted to travel all around the world, right? But then, you know, you you grow up and and when I was like eight years old, my aunt my favourite aunt was taking photograph classes. And so she had the camera and I was like, instantly attracted to it. And she will lend me her camera and she was just explaining to me, you know, like the old cameras there was the this stick with a little ball, and then the other stick that moved. And she told me you just have to align both of them and that’s it. And she will lend me her camera to do little things. So, so since I was little I was really close to photography and but I wanted to be to be an economist, because I loved math. So that’s actually at the end. I was all the time doing photography and taking photography classes, and so I left everything for photography. Because at some point I realised that was not that was not my thing. You know, I started University. So I studied for two years, political science, oh my god. And economics and I was doing two careers. And in order to do this, you have like two years of trial and you have to have a really high grades so that they accept you in both curriculums you know, so I was for these two years and I had like 443 over five in my grades, and, and then I receive this, this letter that allows me that tells me that I am good to do that to the two programmes. But the day I received that letter, I remember so much I was in the stairs in the university in university in Los Andes, is one of the best universities in South America in Colombia. And I remember reading this letter, and I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel joy. I didn’t feel it in my chest, you know? And that was the moment when I realised, oh my god, I cannot do this in my life. I cannot do something that I’m not thrilling about. So that was the exact moment when I decided that I was going to stop all that and I wanted to do photography.

Alan Law

Wow, that’s quite a moment. So then, how did you go from that realisation to really getting into photography then?

Rocio Vega

So then I started thinking, What do I do? I wanted to study in Columbia, but my family was not very happy with the idea I was doing all these things just for photography. And you know, like in South America back then in Colombia, being an artist and photography was like, what, what are you going to do of your life and and then so I started I wanted to go to the United States, but it was too expensive. So then I wanted to go to Australia. But it was too far away that I wanted to go to Italy but I had to learn Italian Super Mega fast. So it was like, Okay, let’s go to Spain. I ended up in Spain, you know,

Alan Law

Right. Okay, what was it quite easy to just go to Spain and start going to university there?

Rocio Vega

Well, you know, like everything at the beginning it’s really hard but I managed… my family accepted my grandmother was the one helping me out she said, “if young people want to, to fly, let them fly” because she made a lot of questions to me. And she made a lot of prepositions, you know, like, keep on studying and just do aside photography. And I was like, nope, or you can keep on studying and when you finished, then you do photography. And I told her I don’t want to be 40 years old. look back and see that I’ve wasted my life doing something I don’t like. And then she was she was like, okay, you’re right. So you just have to do it. And so I had to do it. My mom was helping me just like paying something but then I had to work. So I arrived to Spain and I was a English teacher.

Alan Law

Oh were you? Wow, that’s cool.

Rocio Vega

Yes, English has helped me so much.

Alan Law

And did you know anybody in Spain when you moved over, did you have any family or anything?

Rocio Vega

A far cousin from my mom living in Spain, so she welcomed me in her home for one month. And that helped a lot.

Alan Law

Okay. Cool. Wow. So you were teaching English and I can hear your English is great. That’s so cool.

Rocio Vega

Thank you.

Alan Law

And then you were studying cinematography. So then how did you get into weddings in the end then?

Rocio Vega

So I studied cinematography because it was like, in my mind was like, Oh, just studying photography. It’s like two weak. So first year I did cinematography and lighting and so to be a director of photography and it was just amazing. But then the second year was going to be like for TV and I was like, Oh no, that’s not my thing. So I changed. And I went to EFTI. This is the best photography school in Spain. And I studied photography, like general photography, for one year. And when we were hearing this classes, a guy came, and he offered a job for the Saturdays for weddings. So you know, I was paying my own things and I was like, Okay, cool. I will do that. I hated every single Saturday of those.

Alan Law

Oh really.

Rocio Vega

But I learned what I didn’t like and what I didn’t want to do. So that was a really good thing. Because you know, you arrive there at eight in the morning and they will tell you you go to this place and this place and you do this. And you are lucky if they give you two weddings because sometimes you are just doing one part of one wedding and the other part of another wedding so that was great because at the end you work the same amount of hours but you charge double. But you have like really restricted things you know actually started by doing the video. It was such a big camera you cannot imagine like big big cameras in your shoulder and then with the big batteries for the lighting and all these things. It was awful. But it was everything really staged you know, like look at the flowers look at me put your face like this with the tree blah blah blah you know. It was horrible. I hated it.

But then I moved from Madrid to Zamora. It’s a small city. And so I said okay, I want to work on photography and the only thing I know how to do, and how to earn money could be weddings, so that’s how I started but so at that point, I I knew what I didn’t want to do, but I didn’t know what to do. So? That’s how it started. It’s almost eighteen years ago, you know?

Alan Law

Wow, that’s a long time. I guess I think that was probably really good, you started really from the beginning though, knowing what you didn’t want to do. That is almost as important as knowing what you want to do.

Rocio Vega

Yes, I think it’s really important to know what you don’t want. Yeah.

Rocio Vega

Alan Law

Then how did you get your very first paid wedding? You’re, you know, of your own. How did that happen?

Rocio Vega

So when I arrived to Zamora, I went to all the photographers there. Nobody wanted to hire me.

Alan Law

Their loss, their loss! Look at them now, but they’re regretting that.

Rocio Vega

Oh, my God, I think so. And then I, I met a girl, she had a store and we bonded really well. And we were talking, and I talked about this, and she said, Oh, I have a friend that is getting married and they don’t want a photographer because they don’t like the pictures. So I said, Okay, so I can do it. You know, and so the first year I shot four weddings like this? And then after that, I think I shot like, 20 afterward and then 30 and then it was just in business, you know,

Alan Law

Right. Yeah. Wow, was a quick rise then really?

Rocio Vega

Yes, things were quite different back then. Really, really different.

Alan Law

What do you mean in a less competitive way or…?

Rocio Vega

Wow. So it was easier to be different. Because, you know, like, everything was local. There was no internet thing, or at least I didn’t know about this. And people in Zamora, it’s a really small city, they didn’t know about this. All that I knew was what photographers who are doing in this city, so everyone goes to the same street, it’s a beautiful street, Old Street, but every single couple that got married in Zamora has the same picture. I knew I didn’t, I didn’t want that. So what I did is I went out, you know, out the city I went of the city, I was doing with sunflowers, and with the yellow fields and all these things. So I started doing something different. And after two, three years of doing this, other photographers started doing this as well because people were asking for this. So I was like, Oh no, I need to change again. So I came back to the city. And I started shooting pictures in like a street photography in the other streets of Zamora that were really nice, but not it was not this iconic Street. And then somebody started doing that. And so it was it was always pushing me to not be comfortable in my zone, you know?

Alan Law

Mmm. I think that’s so important. It’s great you’ve been like that from the beginning as well and being different and not doing what everyone else is doing. And that’s so important these days as well to be yourself and do what you want to do. It’s such a competitive market.

Rocio Vega

Oh Yes. Now and you know, like the business has changed a lot and people changed a lot and the weddings have changed. You know, like before. They were just getting married then that’s it, but now they are looking for the lights. They’re looking for the details. There are people and that changes also the budget, you know, because before the most important thing was like photos, the restaurant and the church or wherever they were going to do the ceremony. But now their budget divides in many other things. And now also like, with globalisation and all these associations and everything on internet, there’s a lot of amazing photographers. And it’s not that there were not back there back then. But it was easier to stand out from the crowd. Now to stand out of the crowd, you have to do a lot of things.

Alan Law

That’s so true, it is different. It is different. Cool, let’s change tack slightly. If you had 24 hours, totally to yourself to do whatever you wish, and money’s no object. What would you do?

Rocio Vega

Oh, that’s a tough question.

Alan Law

I like the tough ones.

Rocio Vega

Depends on, like, I have like, ideal days and I do those. So it’s good sometimes if I’m alone, so let’s say I don’t have my kid I’m alone completely. I would be home. And I will be home all day and just my sofa, my dog and just walking around or watching Netflix. I’m a Netflix-holic.

Alan Law

Oh that’s cool, what your favourite…? What are you watching at the moment?

Rocio Vega

Oh, I just finished watching Sex Education.

Alan Law

Oh, is it good? Is it good, yeah?

Rocio Vega

It’s really really really, really good. I mean, in many in many ways, because I started watching it just to get ready to what’s coming up because my son is 11 years old. So the first season I watch it like that, and I liked it, but the second season is is just really amazing. And the lighting is it’s so good. And then and the composition and the frames and the storytelling and the stories that they’re there. It’s just amazing.

Alan Law

Oh that’s cool. I was just gonna say my dad only last week said he’s just started to watch it. He’s in his late 70’s. And when he was telling me, my mom was jus, like, shaking her head. But yeah, he’s really enjoying it. So I should check it out. That’s cool.

Rocio Vega

Do you have kids?

Alan Law

I do. Yes. But they’re very young. They’re only five and eight.

Rocio Vega

Okay, but good to watch it.

Alan Law

Yeah, oh okay…!

Rocio Vega

You know, because it’s a saying that life changes so much that you know, like, I I’m, I’m young, I feel young. But the things that happen around me in the kids and the teenagers, it’s a different, complete new world. So I think watching things like this help you to open your mind and to see how world is evolving. And what is happening and in relationships and all these things, so it’s interesting. So that was one of my my ideal days another day would be that with my son. I love to spend time with him and we do Doggy Days.

Alan Law

You do what day sorry…?

Rocio Vega

Doggy Days. So, a Doggy Day means we don’t go out at all just to take out my dog to pee. And we watch movies together or series and we play, we love to play table games and read and just lay down together in the sofa, that’s our favourite day. And then my third type of favourite day would be just being with Franck, in Franck’s wooden house in the middle of the mountains.

Alan Law

Oh does he have a wooden house? I didn’t know that. That sounds lovely.

Rocio Vega

You didn’t know that? Oh my god. That’s paradise.

Alan Law

Oh, really, ah…. I was gonna ask you about Franck because, you know, we heard from him on a previous episode and about how you work together, so it’s only fair that you have your side as well. I love the Amsterdam story, for instance. What’s it like being in a relationship with a fellow wedding photographer?

Rocio Vega

Oh, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t describe it like that. Because I’m not in a relationship with a fellow wedding photographer. I’m in a relationship with the most amazing man of the world.

Alan Law

Ah yeah, of course. I couldn’t really ask it like that. But yeah.

Rocio Vega

I know. I’m just joking. It’s a good thing it’s a podcast because I’m red like a tomato.

So, so first of all, like being in a relationship with a… it’s a person that I admire a lot, in many ways. So in the aspect of professionally speaking, it’s amazing because this is the first time I’m with somebody that challenges me professionally, you know, photographic speaking. And it’s amazing because my photography has grown up so much this past three years and a half, because he pushes me so much. And he takes out the best of me. And I love that and I love the way also when we share ideas, it’s like, I have an idea I tell him and then suddenly he does that idea exponentially, you know. And so we grow up each other and I know his photography has now some of my influence and my photography, for sure has his influence. And that is beautiful to experiment and to see and to feel so that, professionally speaking, it has been really nice. And then, like in personal speaking, it’s just amazing because we both have the same values for life and, and dreams type of dreams, you know. So we both love to travel. We both love our children. We both have partial time with our kids. So that thing it’s really nice because we’re on the same page.

Alan Law

Oh, that’s so important, isn’t it?

Rocio Vega

Oh, yes. And it’s someone that also challenges me intellectually, spiritually and personally. And that is really amazing.

Alan Law

Ah, it sounds great. It’s lovely hearing both of you talk about each other. I feel very lucky. I think that’s so lovely. Honestly, it really is.

Rocio Vega

Yeah, like, just like ‘pop’ all the time. Like really, really in love. I think we’re a really good match. I’m really happy I found him in my life.

Alan Law

Oh, that’s awesome.And honestly, from hearing both of you talk about each other, it sounds like you’re both so happy. So that’s great. That’s awesome. So, what’s it like actually shooting together? You know, on the same day? Because people say it’s nice to shoot a wedding with a close friend, but I mean to shoot a wedding with someone that you love must be even, I guess even more special really.

Rocio Vega

So the good thing is that we are a good team. So as I told you before, we exponential our own ideas. So it’s really nice. There are some hard moments especially because sometimes when we are working and when Franck is in the working wedding mode, he’s not a human being.

Alan Law

Oh, really, okay.

Rocio Vega

He’s, he’s like a robot. And people that have worked with him understand what I say he never stops and he doesn’t understand tiredness or, or hungry or whatever, you know. So one day, I tell you a story when we were in a wedding in Bali, okay, we started at 4:30am Okay. It was a long day, but you know, like they make a lot of makeup and all these things. We had to go by car super far away and come back, so it was a long day. And I remember it was 7pm we were already back at the venue, and they were having the cocktail. And I was starving, like, really I need to eat, you know, I say Franck can not eat at all or eat it all. He can do whatever, you know, like he could eat all day and he eats a lot and you’re like, Oh my god, how can you put all that into that little body? But then suddenly, he can not eat at all in one day, and he’s Okay, you know, but I need to eat. I was like Franck, I’m really, I’m tired. I’m starving. And he was like, Oh, really? How come? And I’m like, you know, it’s 7:30pm we’ve been working since 4:30am, we just had a quick sandwich. We haven’t stopped working and I need to eat. The good thing is that he’s okay with it. You know? So he’s like, okay, just go rest. There’s the food there. Just sit down, and I keep working, but then you feel bad because he’s, he doesn’t stop working and you’re eating you know. But the little secret is that at the end of the day, when you’re in the party, and it happened in the first wedding we shot together. We were not a couple back then. And he was working all day, blah, blah, blah. We’re running all around. And then suddenly in the party, I’m a super party at weddings, taking pictures person, okay, so I’m doing all my stuff and suddenly I’m like, Oh my god, where’s Franck? He disappeared. Okay. And I’m starting searching for him. And then if you want to look, if Franck is not there, you just have to go to the dessert table. Just sitting down with this big plate, full of all the little desserts and eating like a little kid like if he was a little kid that just stole these things. So now I’m doing a series of pictures of when Franck steals kids desserts at weddings.

Alan Law

I look forward to see that body of work. That sounds good.

Rocio Vega

Yeah, it’s super funny, because he just transformed himself, you know? So, and going back to the question, so it’s really pleasant to work with him. But sometimes it’s hard because he’s really pushing really pushy. So he would, he would come to you and say, Okay, let me see. And you give him your camera and bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, he will look and he’s like, no, work harder. Stay here. So at the beginning was most likely like this. So with him, I learned to stay longer, just to look up for a picture. And then sometimes he’s working so hard, and he’s so pushy, and I remember this past year. We were in Miami, and we were working together, but and he was just like, super pushy and he was pushing me blah, blah, blah. And I got mad, you know, I was like, Oh my god, you know, let me be. But then I, I always when I get into these mood I try and I don’t always make it but I try to step back and have a conversation with myself and say, Okay, so what makes you mad? Because he’s really working really hard. And he’s pushing you and he’s, he wants us to you to be better, you know? And then I say, Yes, of course. So I’m getting mad because I’m getting mad with myself because I’m lazy. And then I was like, okay, so I cannot get mad with him because he’s such a hard worker and he’s doing the best he can, you know? So then you just say, okay, you just let him do and you do your thing, you know, and you learn from it. From him. Yes.

Rocio Vega

Alan Law

Oh, that’s cool. I love hearing those stories, about you working together. That’s awesome. That’s cool. I’ve read something that you wrote recently about moments being like waves and you’re, you’re searching for the highest, the highest peak of the moment. Can you tell us about that?

Rocio Vega

Yes. Okay. So you know, like a moment, it’s, it’s not just one thing. It’s a complete action. And the action has like the previous of the action and all the action evolving and doing so let’s say two people are going to hug, okay? So they walk to each other, or one person walks to the other, and then the hug appears and they say something and then suddenly, maybe they look to each other and they hug again. And then they look to each other and then they go. So the whole moment, it’s all this. If I only take one picture, and I’m just…I take a snapshot of something that happened, but I don’t know if that’s the bestest snapshot I can take. So if I am there in the whole moment, so in my conference, I say, there’s a definition I love in romance, said a moment, it’s what happens in one minute and 40 seconds. Okay? So it’s not that you have to stay there one minute and 40 seconds, sometimes it’s five minutes. Sometimes it’s just 30 seconds. And, you know, but the thing is that if you stay from the beginning till the end, and each picture that you do, it’s just trying to get better than before when because first you react and you do one picture. And then you say, Oh, god, there’s this stick out of the head. So what if I just switch a little bit to the left and then a little bit down and then you know, and you work on it, and you let the moment evolve in front of you and you take all these pictures. Then afterwards, when everything is calm, and you’re in your computer, you can see how this moment has different… it’s like a wave goes up and down, up and down. And then you can be able to choose the highest peak, the highest expression of that moment. And it also depends on your mood. You can change your idea with time.

Let me tell you like in this Miami wedding Okay, there’s this picture, I have it in my best of it’s how I start Okay, I start with this, showing all the moment okay so that if you’re curious you can see that, you can go to search for my best of here. And at the beginning I have this, I have all the pictures I show all the pictures of this hug with the bride and her father, okay. And actually at the beginning, at this moment, this wedding was in May. And when I selected this picture, I was in Colombia had to go to Colombia because my father almost died. And he was he was really really badly and I went to Colombia had just to go like, from Thursday to Saturday I flew to Columbia, and I took my computer and I did the selection of this wedding, okay. And the first picture I selected for them, it’s one picture, they are looking to each other but they’re crying. The bride is crying. And then now that some months have passed by, and I was doing my best of, and I had this idea to show the whole moment. I realised I didn’t select the best picture I would select, because now things are going better. My dad is doing better and I’m more happy about it. And I realised there was another picture that she was crying but she was happy. Smiling. So now my selection is that, my highest peak now is that and that also relates on what I say it’s like depending on how you are and what you’re doing and dealing with in your life, your photography is going to change.

Alan Law

Wow, that’s so interesting, isn’t it to think how us as a photographer, our mood on the day or even as you’re saying how you’re feeling afterwards in the kind-of editing phase, can can affect what we show or what we think is important. It’s very interesting.

Rocio Vega

Yeah, yeah. And you know, you don’t do it consciously because I just selected a picture and I love that picture. But afterwards, I was, I was looking at it, I was like, Wow, now, I think that smiling, it’s better. And now I selected this picture, you know, just because I did the exercise for my Best Of, because I had this idea to show it like that, you know?

Alan Law

No, that’s cool. That’s really interesting. And I love what you’re saying about, you know, the moment being like waves and the highest peak and shooting from the beginning through to the end and trying different things and always trying to get a better image and I think that is vital as well. And I remember early in my career, you know, people are questioning photographers who shoot, you know, 7-8000 frames or more, but it’s like, you know, I don’t know how many you shoot, I shoot a lot, but I want to try as you’re saying, you know, to to make each frame better than the last one.

Rocio Vega

You know like this past year I gave a conference in non wedding photographer, a conference, okay. Okay, so photo journalists conference. So when I said I show one example I shoot 741 pictures. Just to take one picture, okay, and I don’t shoot, I don’t shoot high blat-blat-blat, no I shoot picture by picture, okay? They were like, Oh my god, they were making counts and they were saying me like, I don’t know how many rolls of film they said it was. And they were just like, oh my god, you shot like 20 rolls of films just to take one picture. And they were just like, blown away. But you know, like, I think when you have the tools, you have to take advantage of them. Right now we can do that. And I’m happy to do that. I’m happy to have a digital camera. As I said, I don’t shoot… I think if you shoot like in the burst mode, you don’t think. It’s uncontrolled. It’s like if you grab a… I don’t know how to say it in English. But if you go shoot by shoot, you can really perfection and really try to dig in the moment and afterwards select what’s best, you know.

Alan Law

Totally, I 100% agree with that. And you have more options at the end, to choose which is the best as well. It’s not, it’s not a badge of honour to say you only shoot a wedding in like 1000 frames at all. You know, I don’t see it like that.

Rocio Vega

Yeah, I think I’m around six to 8000. It depends on the wedding, depends on how many things happens, but more or less, yes, would be that on average.

Alan Law

Yeah, no, I’m the same as you and I totally agree with that approach, definitely. Um, what do you think about the overall concept of wedding photography then? I think that was interesting you spoke at a non wedding photography conference. What do you think about it?

Rocio Vega

So, I think I think the industry of wedding photography has evolved a lot, it has changed a lot. I’ve been here for 18 years almost. And it has changed quite a lot. And I’m not sure the world outside knows exactly what is happening in the wedding industry, you know, so we actually, you know, Franck is a photojournalist as well. And sometimes we go to events or we are in places that it’s not wedding photographers, it’s just photojournalists and other types of photographers and you’re having conversations with them and, okay, and you you’re a photographer, oh, yes, I’m, so what do you do? I’m a wedding photographer, and you can see it in their faces. Like, it’s like if I say I clean bathrooms, right? So because they have this idea of wedding photography, that, that, like when I started back then, like what we did for wedding photography was smooth your face. Look at the flowers, look at me. Put your hand in your cheek, blah, blah, blah and these things, you know. Yeah. But actually, I think wedding photography is one of the most complete photography’s in the world.

But there’s one thing I wanted to, to remark about this, that it’s like, we as wedding photographers are also guilty of this image that the world has about us. So what do I mean? You go to Instagram, and you search for wedding photographers, okay? And then you look at their Instagrams, and most of the pictures are just couple pictures. So true, you know, and actually, I know that if I upload a couple picture that is going to have more engagement, more likes blah, blah, blah, it’s going to reach more people than if I upload a moment picture. But, me, a couple picture, it’s a couple picture, you can do that any day, you know, it’s like, we can just go now right now you put your wedding dress or you just dress, whatever and we go to the mountains and we do a nice epic picture. That could be any moment. But the wedding, it’s special. It’s… a lot of people are there, they’re never gonna be in a place to be all together ever again, ever again. And it’s a moment where everyone is more open to emotions and to show and to share emotions. So me as a wedding photographer, me, Rocio Vega, I feel responsible of capturing these emotions and these connections. And I decided to show this in my work. I can do an epic couple picture. I’m not as good as other photographers doing that. But it’s not what interests me. What interests me is I’m drawn for the relationships. And that’s what… because for me, that’s, those are the important pictures.

Alan Law

I couldn’t agree with you more.

Rocio Vega

Yes, but if you search in Google wedding photography, you’re gonna look at a lot of couple pictures.

Alan Law

Mm hmm. So true. And that was one of the reasons of starting This is Reportage, as well, trying to kind of push back against that and trying to make it you know, say hi, people we know it’s more about the moments. That’s what weddings are about. It’s not about going up onto a mountain.

Rocio Vega

But what’s it called…an elopement? Yes. Go to people, your photographer and maybe someone else and you just get married in the middle of the mountains in a beautiful place. And you do an elopement. That’s, that’s totally fine. But that is an elopement. If you’re doing a wedding and you’re inviting all these people, and you’re putting all this money and all this effort into one day, it’s not about a couple picture. It’s about the family gathering and friends gathering.

Alan Law

Yeah, it’s tricky. But also, as you say, I also understand it from the others point of view. It’s tricky for photographers who… you were saying, if you put a portrait up, you know, you’re probably going to get more like and more engagements, which means then their business is getting seen by more people. So it’s, I understand it’s tricky for photographers who obviously want to increase their reach and its businesses. So they’re torn between putting portraits up and getting more interactivity or maybe putting a great moment up and then…it’s tricky, isn’t it?

Rocio Vega

It’s really tricky, and it’s a tough decision to make. You know, I was also in a conference, I hear many photographers, and sometimes they go to conferences that have many styles of wedding photographers. There was this, this girl, she’s super, she has a really nice business, and she was saying that nobody wants to see the moments of others people’s lives. So she only post pictures of couples. Oh, wow. But she’s right, you know, so she has a huge Instagram. She has a lot of likes and it works for her. So I think we just, as the beginning of my journey, as I told you, 20 years ago, when I decided to be a photographer, I think what, what I have to do, or what I try to do is to be aligned with myself. To be true to what I feel, you know. And right now, in this moment of my life, I am true to moments and connections and that’s what I’m searching for so I put that out in the world and, and cross my fingers. And I hope that people that are drawn into the same things come to me. I know it’s harder, I cannot say the contrary, because I would be lying. And it’s harder and harder to book weddings and all these things, you know, but at least I know that hundred percent of the weddings that I have. It’s just a client that I love, that I know I have this connection because they are looking for this. So that work is working for them. It feels so right.

Alan Law

Yeah. And that’s what makes you happy. It’s pointless doing work that you don’t have the heart in, you know, that’s one of the reasons why we work for ourselves, isn’t it, is to do the things that we love. So there’s no point doing what we don’t enjoy, really.

Rocio Vega

Exactly. But you know, like everyone has its own different reasons and its own economy and its own things. You just have to find your own way and to do…but at least to be true to yourself. But for some people maybe it’s really important to have a an amazing business and have 30 weddings a year. I couldn’t do 30 weddings a year. I couldn’t handle it. I could not handle it like, emotionally handle it. Because I give myself a lot to it, you know? And I wouldn’t like it anymore. I, I’ve been there. I shot like 34 weddings in a year with 34 engagements and with all these things, and I don’t want that. I know, I’ve been there. And I don’t want that.

Alan Law

Mmm. That’s cool. That’s cool. You know what you want. And as you were saying, Yeah, people are in this business for all different types of reasons. And there is no right or wrong. We all have our different wants and the parts that we really enjoy. So it just got to do what we want, really.

Rocio Vega

Yeah, yeah, I think so. I think that’s the most important thing and and everyone does their best. And I think everyone should do their best to do what is good for them, you know, because what is good for me? It’s not good for you.

Rocio Vega

Alan Law

Yeah. Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all doing exactly the same as well?

Rocio Vega

Yes. But you know, like, exactly, so that this is also the edge one of the edges of wedding photography is that there’s a lot of the same. You know, like we live a day that it’s quite the same everywhere. You know, like, the bride gets ready. They say yes. There are hugs. They eat and there’s a party most likely, okay. No matter where you go. So what do you find different? So that’s why I believe like connecting a personal level makes it different. And when you’ve been shooting weddings for so long, if I shooot always the same, it would get boring for me. So that’s why that’s my approach. But then you go outside in the world and wedding photographers, and because of the contest, and all these things, photography has evolved a lot. There’s amazing photographers like here in Spain in the last seven years. Wow, it’s amazing how the level of photography cuts right up, you know, but then you can you can see tendencies. Like, sometimes you see a picture and you know, this is from Netherlands. You know, this is from Spain, you know, like, we have this signature, and it’s because we tend, consciously or unconsciously, we tend to go with the group and then we tend to go in the same space, you know, and visually speaking, we tend to copy you know, so that is also hard to deal with. And so I always struggle with this, and I try to to please myself, to feel comfortable with my pictures.

Alan Law

Do you look at a lot of other wedding photographers’ work or do you purposely not do that or…?

Rocio Vega

Not especially neither one thing or another? Like before many years ago, I was looking a lot to wedding photographers now I, I don’t but it’s almost impossible not to see others photographers’ work. But because every time there’s the This is Reportage or Fearless awards and everything, I take a look at it because it’s so amazing and inspiring. And you will be dumb if you close your eyes to that. But I’m not in search of that all the time. And I think inspiration comes from many, many places. Yeah, I love this thing. Do you know Monica Munoz?

Alan Law

I don’t know, no.

Rocio Vega

Oh, you have to know her. She’s amazing. She’s from Chile, but now she lives in, in Berlin. Okay. And once in a conference she said, “If you eat weddings, you poo weddings.” So just have to add variety to your diet, you know?

Alan Law

That makes sense.

Rocio Vega

Yes. So we really I love to go to exhibitions. So whenever I travel in whatever city I am at with, if I’m with Franck or alone, we will always say look, what are the exhibitions right now? Okay, so I look at the list and I just try to go to the one that I think it’s going to please me more. Sometimes it’s just a theatre or sometimes it’s just an exhibition, classic exhibition. Sometimes it’s a modern thing and, you know, whatever. So I try to keep in touch looking on all these things. And also Franck every Christmas he gives me a really nice photobook. Oh, that’s nice because you see other type of photography and more classical photography maybe, or documentary approach or whatever and I love to see also documentary photo journalists.

Alan Law

Right okay. Yeah.

Rocio Vega

It’s a big inspiration.

Alan Law

I think it’s really good idea to have that kind of variety and inspiration you know, variety is the spice of life and I think for me is you know, with running This is Reportage, while I can be so kind of weddings, you know, because I’m seeing this wedding photography all the time. Which you know, obviously I love it, but I think that variety, what you’re saying there, yeah does really resonate. I think that’s so true. I need to be more like that, I think.

Rocio Vega

Yes. Because you know, like, even if you do it or you don’t. Everything that you do in your in your daily life, it’s gonna have an impact in what you produce. Okay? And what we produce is photography, wedding photography. Okay? So if I watch silly videos all the time, or if I watch bad TV shows all the time, that’s what I’m going to have in my energy in the back of my mind and everything is going to smell like that. I listened to your podcast, the interview you did with Fabio Mirulla. And he was saying he was he’s watching cartoons, and Anime, and all these things. And his pictures, if you see them, he’s so funny, you know, and what he looks in his daily life. It’s what he’s producing. And his weddings are exactly the same. Like, I could go to that wedding actually, we’re going to try to go together to a wedding this year.

Alan Law

Yeah, that’d be awesome.

Rocio Vega

Yeah, because when you go with another photographer, it’s like, oh my god, we were in the same place…?

Alan Law

And the work is so different. Yeah.

Rocio Vega

Yes. So which means that we all see in a different way because we’re open to things or not. It’s like when your wife gets pregnant, or when you want to have a kid, before that you don’t even notice a pregnant woman. But when you’re trying to have a baby, everybody’s pregnant, the woman from crossing the street and you’re like, wow, oh my god, baby boom around me or whatever, you know, and it’s only because in your mind, you somehow you’re focusing on that, and that was there all the time, but you didn’t see it because there’s so many things happening around us. That if we were hundred percent aware of everything around us, our brain would collapse. So it’s a saving mode, it’s a safe mode, our brain does and we just hide things for ourselves. And this is in the good and in the bad way. So that’s why if we are open and we are searching for something we can find it, if it was futile search for something you might not find it you know. And so if you are looking for art if you are looking Netflix again, butin a way like, like really nice shows that for me, they have to be like at least interesting or good lighting and good composition. Sometimes I watch like trashy things just to unplug from everything also. But I try to balance all these things, because I want the things to be in the back of my mind to be as quality, high quality as possible.

Alan Law

I think that’s great advice. It really is, Rocio. Let’s change tack again, slightly. Still about photography. But I think one of your many strengths, I think, is your use of flash in your documentary work. You know, can you tell us about that, your approach to flash, how you make it work for you?

Rocio Vega

Okay. Yes. You know, like I started using flash off camera, like long, long time ago, I think it was like it back in 2012. So that was long, long, long ago I used it. And then I stopped using it. And then I was like, like, entering this whole documentary approach and moments and all these things. So I had this dilemma inside of me, like the feeling that if I was a photojournalist in wedding, I couldn’t touch anything and I couldn’t… and putting light was definitely like touching the scene, you know? So I was really struggling and sometimes you just go and this available light, it’s just shitty. It’s not good. And that is not going to help my photography. But I was struggling inside of me. And as I told you, we go with Franck to many places and things and we went to Arles.

Okay, so in this little town, every year they do a photo exhibition all over the city. It’s really amazing. And it’s arts and photojournalism and all these things. And it’s really, it’s really nice, you know, and there, I met this photo journalist, Alex Majoli. And he was there and he gave a little speech and we were able to make questions, you know, and he uses flash in his documentary photography. It’s just amazing. His work is just, I Love it you know and when you see this pictures printed so big and you see the flash you’re like oh my god I feel so stupid you know because I’m struggling to put the flash and blah blah blah and he’s doing this in photojournalism. These are pictures that are changing the world you know, a wedding is just a wedding, there’s no war going to start because I took out a bottle of water or I moved something. You know what I mean? So well that helped me a lot. And since that moment, I started like, taking my flash everywhere and just put it in and if I need it, I use it. If I don’t need it, I don’t use it. You know, and, and after that I had a wedding. It was an outside wedding. They were going to be in the shadow blah, blah, blah. And that was two years ago. And suddenly, like the bride dressing white, she’s white and his skin was more dark and he was in the shadow. She was in the only spot of light that came in, you know? And my flashes were in my car. And I was like, oh my god. So this is never gonna happen to me ever again. So I always put my flash if I need it, I use it if I don’t need it. It is there.

Alan Law

That’s cool, yeah. It’s great. And it works beautifully.

Rocio Vega

Oh, thank you. And I think a flash really, if you use it wisely, you can use it to enhance and to tell better stories, you know. So that’s, that’s my approach to it. It’s just a tool.

Rocio Vega

Alan Law

Totally. Yeah. And you’re not changing the moments. You’re not posing people just by using flash at all. So…

Rocio Vega

No, no, no, no, no, no, no. So what I say it’s like, I have a documentary approach, but with an artistic view, which means like before everything starts, like when I get to the getting ready, even if it’s a house, a hotel or whatever. If it’s a house, I would go in every single room of the house. And I will let them know what I think it’s best. Okay? And I tell them in advance this so I will just tell the bride Oh, would you mind please getting dressed here. And if I have to take out the bottle of water or the horrible painting that it’s in the back because it’s not her’s ,it’s in a hotel room and no taste or whatever, I take it out, you know, but after that, I don’t touch anything. I’m not going to tell her look here, do this, kiss again… or can you repeat that. I’m not going to touch anything. But before in advance, I’m going to make decisions that will help me to clean my picture and to be better. If I can change in advance some things of the venue like, I arrive and they’re placing the bride and the groom for this outdoor ceremony. If I can move something, I will. I will tell them The person that is doing it oh, you know, here there’s going to be the sun and the shadow. Can you please do it here or whatever if I can, but if I cannot I will deal with it the best that I can. And this is when my flash comes really handy. And well, not a bare flash. I never use a naked flush.

Alan Law

Are you like a Magmod Ambassador, aren’t you…?

Rocio Vega

Yes, yes, yes. But I don’t say this because I’m a Magmod Ambassador. I’ve been using Magmod I think since 2013. Since the year they released it, I’ve been using it you know. And I’m a Magmod lover because it is easy, and it plays with the light really nicely. So I have my favourite tools. And I love the way it spreads light. And it really helps me.

Alan Law

Yeah, that’s cool. And it looks great in your work as well. Do you eat the canapes by the way? Do you eat the canapes?

Rocio Vega

Oh, yes. Sometimes, yes.

Alan Law

I thought with you talking about food earlier that you would be up for having a canape or two!

Rocio Vega

Yes, I drink Coca Cola like if it’s a wedding day, I really need my Coca Cola is my drink and Franck is always saying drink water drink water. I’m like I drink a Coca Cola. I want to keep up you know? I don’t drink it on my daily basis.

Alan Law

Okay, but on the weddings’s it’s good. Yeah, definitely. I love coke. I’m only allowed real coke at Christmas in my house.

Rocio Vega

And the canapes, not always because I’m really I’m really picky. I eat really normal things. So most of the time canapes are more fancy. And it’s weird and I don’t want to do a weird face or, you know, like, I don’t like a lot of fish or strong things. But if I see something that I like, Yes, I would eat and I talked about this with my couples before you know

Alan Law

Ah OK yeah.

Rocio Vega

Yes, ’cause I shoot around 12-15 hours. I need to eat.

Alan Law

Oh yep, definitely I totally relate to that. Oh Rocio, I think we’ve just got time for one more question. It’s gone so quickly, it’s gone so quickly.

Rocio Vega

Oh my god, do I speak more than Franck?

Alan Law

You’ve been brilliant. You’ve been so good, I’ve loved it. What would be your top tips to help someone become better at the documentary side specifically?

Rocio Vega

Okay, Top Tips. First, and I think the most important thing is connect with yourself. Work on yourself. You know, like, work on your emotions and know yourself better. Because the more you know yourself, the more you are able to face your emotions, you’re going to be able to see the emotions in others. Okay, so for me, empathy is a huge thing. And as I said, it’s something you can work on. And at first you have to be empathic with yourself and to be empathic with yourself, you have to accept yourself and to see dig inside. Okay? So that would be one tip. Another tip is stay true to yourself. So it’s also a bit the same you know, like listen to yourself, and work on on your, on your skills, technical skills. You can always, always learn photography is just amazing. You never end, you know. You’re never fulfilled you can always learn. And the more you listen to other photographers, the more you go to conferences or to workshops, the more you learn, even if it’s what not to do,

Alan Law

Which can be just as important.

Rocio Vega

Yes, you know, because sometimes you’re like, Oh, I don’t like this photography. I don’t want to see it or I don’t feel attracted to it. But if I have the opportunity to listen to this person, why not? Because he might teach me something it thinks I don’t see in a different way. And sometimes you can learn what not to do or what, what not to do for you because it doesn’t work for you. You know what I mean? It’s not that the person is doing right or wrong. It’s not about judging. It’s about learning and learning what works for you, and how do you feel and how it aligns with yourself. So yes, I encourage to keep on learning, to go to conferences to go to workshops. And to read to look at art to select really well what your diet.

Alan Law

Right, yeah, what you’re putting in that makes sense.

Rocio Vega

Yes.

Alan Law

Oh, Rocio, I think honestly, thank you so much for all your time and your great stories and great advice. That was awesome.

Rocio Vega

Thank you. I’m sorry, I talk a lot. Oh!

Alan Law

You didn’t, you speak just perfectly. It was great. So interesting. I loved it. I really loved it. And if anyone’s listening, you know, while they’re running or editing, head to Thisisreportage.com and I’ll include lots of Rocio’s work and links to her website as well.

Rocio Vega

Oh, one last thing, because you just said running. Keep fit. It’s so important to be in good shape, you know, because when you’re tired, you don’t think the same. So that’s my last advice. Keep in shape.

Alan Law

Yeah, but that is so important, isn’t it? Maybe not run as much as Franck runs though.

Rocio Vega

Oh that’s impossible, I told you, he’s not human.

Alan Law

That’s funny! Rocio, honestly, thank you so much. And I hope I get to meet you one day that’d be lovely.

Rocio Vega

Yes, I think we might meet maybe in London this year late, maybe.

Alan Law

Oh, that’d be cool. That’d be great. I would honestly love that; that’d be awesome.

Rocio Vega

Yes. Thank you very much.

Alan Law

Thank you. Thanks for your time and that was just brilliant. Thank you. See you later.

Rocio Vega

See you

***********************************************************

Rocio was great – so open, and so sharing – thank you, Rocio!

See more of her work over on her website, here on her TiR profile, or on her most recent ‘Best Of‘ (that she refers to in the podcast episode).

Collection 14 Deadline is very soon: Submit by 23:59 GMT on 24th March 2020. Not yet a member of This is Reportage? Head over here to see all the benefits of membership (including 60 Reportage Award and 18 Story Award entries per year) and join us.

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