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Podcast Episode 21: This is Valter Antunes

Delighted to be bringing you the fab Valter Antunes for episode 21 of the This is Reportage Podcast! Valter is one of the very best wedding photographers in Portugal, and was ranked joint-second in our Top Photographers of 2019 with a remarkable haul of 12 Awards – including 4 Story Awards – during 2019. Stick with us today, as Valter talks about:

  • watching everything on Netflix,
  • how moments are always happening and how we should be finding them,
  • how he’s been a musician all his life,
  • how he transitioned to becoming a photographer,
  • his past busking life in London,
  • what makes him happy,
  • the work/life balance of being a wedding photographer and Dad,
  • time vs money,
  • why he switched from Canon to Sony,
  • his favourite lens,
  • how he gets his incredibly intimate captures of brides (and why he’s known by quite a few photograhers in Portugal as ‘the naked bride photographer’),
  • what’s been the most effective marketing tool(s) for him,
  • his specific Instagram tips,
  • what album he would take on a desert island,
  • how he misses being a kid and his childhood,
  • moving from Portugal to London when he was 12/13,
  • the story behind one of his specific Reportage Awards (the bride giving the finger),
  • his tips for improving our documentary work,
  • the importance of sleep,
  • why he always shoots with a second,
  • his fear of cats,
  • his nerves about talking at Inspiration Conference,
  • thinking about the future,
  • and more…

Listen on Spotify, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, YouTube, or below in this post (with a full transcript, too):

Alan Law

Hi Valter, how are you?

Valter Antunes

Hello. Alan, how are you?

Alan Law

I’m really good. Thanks. Yeah, great. All good. How are you?

Valter Antunes

I’m fine. I’m fine. Thank you.

Alan Law

Cool. Thanks for joining us all the way… you’re in Portugal, aren’t you?

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I am. Thanks for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Alan Law

It’s awesome to talk to you. What are you up to at the moment? It’s the quiet season, I guess.

Valter Antunes

Yeah. So I’ve got all my work done from last season. And I’m just relaxing and watching movies and you know, just staying on sofa all day.

Alan Law

That sounds ood, man. You gotta have a break; you’re busy man normally, so it’s good…

Valter Antunes

Yeah, did quite a lot of weddings last year. And this year I’m gonna do a bit less because, you know, it was just too much. So I’ve decided that this year, I’m going to just, you know, calm down for a bit.

Valter Antunes

Alan Law

I think that’s good. Good idea. Yeah. Have you watched any good movies recently?

Valter Antunes

I’ve watched a lot of good movies, a lot of bad movies. I’ve watched everything. I put Netflix on and just watch everything that comes up. Yeah, so that’s been my life for the past couple of weeks just watching everything.

Alan Law

Sounds good, man. Honestly. I went to see 1917 recently that was brilliant.

Valter Antunes

I’ve heard about that. Yeah.

Alan Law

I just want to say a massive congratulations on coming joint second on our top photographers of 2019. That’s awesome.

Valter Antunes

That was crazy. I don’t know how I got that.

Alan Law

It’s ’cause you’re so good.

Valter Antunes

No, it’s not, I was just lucky, I think.

Alan Law

No, man, it’s not luck

Valter Antunes

When I saw my name on second, I was like, Oh no, this must be wrong, Alan just got it all wrong.

Alan Law

No, man, it’s totally deserved your work is briliant.

Valter Antunes

I was really happy with that.

Alan Law

Oh, it’s so good. And you can’t be lucked… you won 12 Awards. And four of those were Story Awards, you know, there’s no luck in that.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, the Story Awards, that really makes me happy because, you know, it’s so hard to get a Story Award. You know, because 20 pictures, it makes it a lot harder. Yeah, so I was really happy with the Story Awards. And the, you know, and the other pictures. I mean, it was nice moments that I got in I think, you know, those nice moments just happen and I’m there to capture them.

Alan Law

That’s a very modest way though. But it isn’t because, you know, great things happen at weddings all the time, but people don’t capture them. And you do. It’s really great work.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, well, I think you know, that’s what I think. I think at every wedding a lot of stuff happens. And I think the problem is that sometimes maybe because we’re tired, or maybe because we just, you know, we just sit back a bit to relax and we’d miss all those moments. Because every time something is happening, and we just gotta be ready, you know, just never, never put your camera down and just be looking for stuff. And in all those quiet moments there’s always something happening. And so, you know, I’m just looking for them all the time and never stop looking.

Alan Law

That’s cool. Yeah, that’s very cool. And did it come naturally to you, this? Because I think before getting into weddings, you were – you still – are a musician. Isn’t that right? You play the bass?

Valter Antunes

Yeah, yeah, I’m a musician. Well, I was and I still am. But I was a musician all my life. I started playing at about four years old.

Alan Law

The bass, when you were four?

Valter Antunes

I started with drums. So at four I was already doing shows with my dad.

Alan Law

Oh nice, really?

Valter Antunes

Yeah. And so I was a musician all my life and then I went to live in London for a while where I was studying music and then photography just came by accident. I mean, I’ve been a photographer for about seven years. This is my seventh year shooting weddings. And it was just an accident…I just bought a camera to photograph my kids. My second son was getting born and I thought well I’m gonna buy a camera. So I bought the camera and it was really expensive to me like I spent like you know, 700 pounds on the camera. That was crazy. I thought, okay, I’ve got to become a photographer; I wanna get this money back. So I, you know, I started studying photography on YouTube, you know, studying, watching a lot of videos on YouTube and, and became a photographer.

Alan Law

You make it sound so easy.

Valter Antunes

Well, you know, nowadays it’s easy. It’s all there on the internet, it just kind of search for all the information. And it’s all there.

Alan Law

Did you make your own website and things?

Valter Antunes

Yeah, so I just yeah, I knew how to do websites and all that. So I did my own website, I put it online. And that was it. Then, you know, work started coming and… photographer. But you know, it was an accident, and I never thought I would become a photographer ever.

Valter Antunes

Alan Law

You’ve gone from one creative industry to another creative industry though. So I guess that creativity has always been in your blood.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, well, yeah. You know, it’s, it’s still an art. So I started with art, this is still an art. So, you know, it wasn’t a big difference. It wasn’t like, you know, I was a cook and then I became a photographer. I think it’s all related. I don’t play that much, now. I play mostly in winter. I do some concerts in Winter. So usually from December until March, I do some concerts.

Alan Law

Oh, cool. Okay. Wow. In Lisbon, or in Portugal?

Valter Antunes

Yeah all over Portugal. Yeah.

Alan Law

Oh, wow. Cool. So when you studied in England did you play…? I guess you were playing gigs in London as well to did you?

Valter Antunes

Yeah. I was playing in London and after college I was a busker.

Alan Law

Oh cool, did you? I did a bit of busking as well, in Manchester. Where did you busk?

Valter Antunes

Tube stations in London? Mostly Oxford Circus station, and Green Park Station. So I did that for about two years. I was there every morning for two years.

Alan Law

Wow. What, the bass or guitar or what were you doing?

Valter Antunes

No, I was playing guitar. When my brother was playing kind of, I don’t know what we call that instrument. It’s like a melodica. It’s like a keyboard but you blow into it.

Alan Law

Oh, okay. Cool. Oh, how was that? Did you make much money? I guess you must have done if you did it for two years.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, we did. I mean, I don’t know how it is now. But at that time, we would make like 150 pounds an hour. So, yeah, so that was a lot of money. For us. It was for us, it was.

Alan Law

Were you not tempted just to do that forever? That’s a good hourly rate.

Valter Antunes

Well yeah, I mean, there was one time that I was also a music teacher at music school in South London. And I did a lot more money busking than being a teacher. But no, I could do both. Because I would do busking in the morning, then I will teach in the afternoon, and then I will do concerts at night. So that’s really good, yeah.

Alan Law

That does sound a fun time of life.

Valter Antunes

It was it was, but then I decided to come to Portugal because you know, I love this country. The nice weather.

Alan Law

Yeah, it’s a bit different to here. I’ve only been to Portugal once, and that was last year when I met you the first time but yes, beautiful, beautiful.

Valter Antunes

Yeah. And you know, Lisbon is a beautiful city and next time you’ve got to come with a bit more time to see a bit more because…

Alan Law

Yeah, I was a bit of a rush, wasn’t I, with that. Yeah, the most expensive Uber ever from Faro to Lisbon.

Valter Antunes

Oh, yeah, you’re crazy. When you told me that I thought you were joking.

Alan Law

I wish I was joking. I think it was like 280 pounds or something, it was ridiculous. But I had to get there for that night.

Valter Antunes

You could buy a used car and come…!

Valter Antunes

Alan Law

When you’re shooting weddings, are you ever tempted to get up and join the band and play?

Valter Antunes

Oh, sometimes I wish I could.

Alan Law

You should you could branch out. You could be the photographer in the day and then a musician.

Valter Antunes

Sometimes the bands are playing and when this is like a full band, like, with bass and all that, I just stay there staring for a while and just thinking, Oh, I want to be there. But, now it’s easier. But in the beginning, like when I made this transition it was always like, oh man, why am I not doing that? And but, you know, the transition was kind of hard because, you know, I was a musician all my life and then all of a sudden I stopped playing. And but you know, now I’m used to it.

Alan Law

And you’re still playing a bit in the winter?

Valter Antunes

Yeah, yeah. So yeah, I didn’t stop completely. So, because, you know, I’m doing some concerts in the winter. So you know, it’s not that bad.

Alan Law

That’s cool. You should come to the next This is Reportage Christmas party – you should come over and you can be the band!

Valter Antunes

No, can I be the guy who gets drunk?

Alan Law

You can both, you can do both!

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I wanted to go this year, but I had some work. So I couldn’t make it. But I’m hoping I can make it next year.

Alan Law

Ah that’d be cool. Cool, man. Let’s just change tack slightly. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind: What makes you happy?

Valter Antunes

What makes me happy? Oh, that’s a difficult question.

Alan Law

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind though, when I asked that?

Valter Antunes

My kids being happy. I mean, yeah, it’s probably a bit cliche, but you know, it’s what makes me happy. I mean, I work for them. So, you know, for them to have everything, to have a nice life. So, if they’re happy, then I’m happy.

Alan Law

Ah that’s, that’s lovely. How many kids have you got?

Valter Antunes

I’ve got two kids with Paula, you’ve met Paula. One is 10. The other is eight. And then I’ve got another son from a previous relationship. He’s already 19; he’s bigger than me.

Alan Law

Oh, really? Wow.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, he’s taller than me. So you know, he’s a man.

Alan Law

Wow, you didn’t look old enough to have a 19 year old child would I met you, at all.

Valter Antunes

Well, but I’m old, I’m 21.

Alan Law

That’s not old! Is your 19 year old son, is he into music?

Valter Antunes

No, he’s trying to, you know, learn a bit about photography and multimedia and all that, so maybe he will become a photographer.

Alan Law

Would you like that? I think it’s a cool career.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I’ve talked to him to start helping me out on the editing and all that stuff. And I’m going to teach him some stuff and see if he likes it. And then if he likes it, he can work with me. Yeah.

Alan Law

Ah that’d be cool, great. Sounds a good plan, kind of family business.

Valter Antunes

And the other kids, you know, they’re too young for, you know, to decide what they want, but I’d like them to do either music or photography. Yeah.

Valter Antunes

Alan Law

Yeah, both great. And how do you find the kind of, the work life balance, you know, being a dad and but also being so busy with the photography?

Valter Antunes

Well, it’s been hard. It’s been hard. I’ve, you know, for the past few years, I’ve been working a lot, a lot more than I could. And so this year, me and Paola, we decided that we’re going to do probably half the weddings we’ve been doing. And this is because we need more time. We need more time, you know, with the kids with, you know, for us at home and, you know, I think I’ve made some money to, you know, to buy my house to buy a car to, you know, all that stuff and now I don’t need that much money. Well, most of the stuff I’ve done it, you know, I’ve got my house paid, I’ve got my car paid, I’ve got, you know, the, it was expensive. So I’ve made that money, I’ve spent that money. And now I know I just need money to live and and I need more time than I need money. And I worked so much last year. And then I started having problems with like, you know, psychological problems, panic attacks. Anxiety and all that and so we’ve decided we’re going to do less weddings and you know, just have a bit more quality of life.

Alan Law

That’s the most important thing isn’t it? It’s easily the most important thing in life.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I mean, and you know, the kids are getting older, you know, they’re getting bigger and we hardly see that. Because we’re always working. So, you know, that’s one thing that I definitely want is to now have, start having a bit more time for the kids and for us to go in or to just to go out and because from March until December, we never go out anywhere we’re just working, working, working. That’s, you know, that’s not a nice life.

Alan Law

No, it isn’t, is it. And because do you shoot most of your weddings with your wife, Paula?

Valter Antunes

Yeah. Well, up to now we’ve been doing… I’ve got another team so we can do two weddings per day. So it’s with four of us, four photographers. So until now, we’ve been doing like about 80 weddings a year.

Alan Law

80?

Valter Antunes

80 yeah. I shoot about 50 of them but then I’m the one who edits everything. I’ve got to edit the 80 wedding so you know it’s just crazy.

Alan Law

That’s an incredible amount.

Valter Antunes

Yeah so you know that’s why we’re gonna do less now.

Alan Law

I think that sounds good. You enjoy this winter period as well; recharge your batteries. I think you need to.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, during the year I am always on computer editing all year long so yeah,

Alan Law

Yeah, you need a break. I don’t talk about it much on the podcast actually, the kind of technical gear side, but what’s your favourite wedding camera or what you shooting with at the moment?

Valter Antunes

OK so right now I’m shooting with Sony, I switched to Sony last year. I was shooting with Canon from the beginning. Before I was using the Canon 5D Mk IV. So this year, I changed everything to Sony, mainly because I wanted to change to mirrorless systems.

Alan Law

Which Sony cameras are you using?

Valter Antunes

I’ve got the A7R mk III and the A7 III. Too many numbers in there.

Alan Law

And how’s that? Are you happy with the switch?

Valter Antunes

I’m really happy. I am really happy. I mean, the Sony, just the focus system on the Sony is just great. The high ISOs are just mind blowing. So yeah I’m really happy.

Alan Law

Yeah. So cool, isn’t it? I made the switch last year, yeah, beginning of March last year and yeah, it’s just so good.

Valter Antunes

To Sony as well?

Alan Law

Yeah. I love the complete silence of it as well.

Valter Antunes

Yeah. And I can shoot just next to the priest’s ears and he won’t hear me so that’s really good.

Alan Law

It’s really good isn’t it! Yeah. And do you have a favourite lens or focal length?

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I shoot mostly all day with just 35 mm. Yeah, that’s my favourite lens. I shoot probably about 98% of the wedding with the 35 then I’ve got the 50 as well, but you know, most of the wedding is just a 35

Valter Antunes

Alan Law

Nice, good stuff. You seem to get incredibly intimate captures of your couples you know, which is awesome. Yeah, how do you go about getting these, you know, the kind of building the trust and…

Valter Antunes

Yeah, so you’re talking about the naked brides, right?

Alan Law

Well, yes, you do have a few of those. Yeah.

Valter Antunes

Okay. Well, you know, I do a lot of those. And I think it just happened naturally. When I did my first one like that, I posted on Facebook and Instagram. And what happens is, you know, other brides who see, they see that kind of photos, and they like it and then they want to do it, because I never, you know, I never ask them to do those kinds of photos. It’s them who asked me. So, you know, the more I publish, the more brides I get, who want those kind of photos. Last year I had one bride that came here to book me and she said that she was booking me mainly because I shoot brides like half naked. So you know, they already come to me because of that. So, yes, I’ll just keep on doing it.

Alan Law

Yeah, totally. Well that’s great though, isn’t it? And it actually makes you quite different as well because a lot of photographers don’t show that kind of imagery.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, here in Portugal a lot of photographers already call me “the naked bride photographer”. So when they start getting dressed, that’s where I would shoot, you know, them getting dressed. From the beginning, they will be completely naked. No, but I would always ask them if there was a problem of me being there. And you know, there was never a problem. So you know, I will just shoot and now they, you know, they really want me to be there from the beginning, from when they are completely naked, so, you know, it was just natural.

Alan Law

Yeah, that’s great. It did happen really natural. That’s cool. And it’s all part of their day, you know, and it’s down to different people what they want captured or not. It’s all valid, lovely part of the day.

Valter Antunes

Yeah I mean, there are some brides that don’t want that. And you know, I always ask them “Do you want me to leave the room?” But, you know, there’s always one or two maybe that say yeah, I’ll prefer if you go out for a bit and then come in. And you know, and I’ll do that. But most of them just want me to stay in the room and just capture everything.

Alan Law

That’s cool, man. That’s really cool. In terms of marketing and getting yourself out there, what’s been the most effective for you?

Valter Antunes

Online. From the beginning, it was just online. I mean, I’ve never done any wedding fayres, never done anything like that or publicity on magazines or anything. It was just always online, you know, just having a good website, good SEO.

Alan Law

Did you just learn about SEO yourself? Or did you..

Valter Antunes

Before I started into photography, I knew how to do websites as well so I built some websites for people as well. So I knew about this business. But SEO at that time was easier. It’s a lot harder to get ranked on first page now. But yeah, but I still do it and most of my work comes from my website. And now because I’ve been here for a few years, it’s also, you know, people talking to each other, they tell their friends so yeah, but mostly online.

Alan Law

Cool. Do you get actually direct inquiries through, like, Instagram and Facebook?

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I do. Yeah. I used to get a lot from Facebook. Now Facebook is kind of dying. So I get less from Facebook and I get more from Instagram. Yeah, so, right now I’m posting more on Instagram as well. I’m still posting on Facebook. But, you know, I’ve noticed that Facebook is kind of dying.

Valter Antunes

Alan Law

It is changing, isn’t it? Yeah. What do you think the secret of success is on Instagram specifically, you know, is it posting regularly? Is it just posting really good content? Do you have any specific tips for Instagram?

Valter Antunes

I’m not like an expert on Instagram.

Alan Law

But your images get, like, hundreds of likes, though, you do so well on there.

Valter Antunes

Some of them, especially the naked brides. Well, I try to post quite often. And I try to do a lot of stories as well. Not just about my work but also about my personal life. Because I think, the brides, they also want to see you, like, how you are, and you know, just when I have parties at home, I always put a story there. And because they like to see that, they like to see your, you know, your human side because you’re human, not just a robot photographer.

Alan Law

Not just a cold business, yeah. I think that is so important, to show your personality.

Valter Antunes

So, yeah, when I go out with my kids, I like to put, you know, stuff of them playing and all that stuff. Because, you know, women like to see that, they, you know, they’re more emotional than men. So, and because most of the people hire us, you know, it’s the bride. It’s not the groom, so…

Alan Law

Yeah, no, that makes sense. Yeah, definitely. Cool. Let’s change tack again slightly. A totally original question here – well, not really but – if you’re castaway on a desert island, what one album would you take with you?

Valter Antunes

Oh, okay, that’s easy.

Alan Law

Is it? Oh, really? Cool

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I’ll take any Queen album.

Alan Law

Oh, really? Wow, you’re a big fan.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I’m a big fan of Queen. And yeah, I’m really big fan of Queen. I cried so much when Freddie died. It was, because, it was like, when I started playing bass – because I played drums until I was about 13. And then from 13, I started playing bass. And I started playing bass, along with Queen songs. Like I remember the first song I learned to play the bass was Another One Bites The Dust. Yeah, that was my first song on the bass. And so I just became a huge Queen fan and yeah, so I’ll take, I’ll take a Queen album and then I’ll take my brother’s.

Alan Law

Oh your brother’s as well. That’s a good plug. Is that David? Yeah. Okay, cool. That’s very cool. Yeah, nice. I need to listen to more Queen, you know, I’ve never really… I’ve never listened to an album. I only know know some of the big hits. I need to.

Valter Antunes

Just buy the Best Of.

Alan Law

My mom’s actually just started a choir. And they’re doing a Queen medley with like Bohemian Rhapsody and things which… so she’s practising Queen at the moment. So it’s nice to hear.

Valter Antunes

So she can teach you.

Alan Law

Yeah. We talked about you watching movies earlier…do you love Four Weddings and a Funeral? Say you love it, you must love it.

Valter Antunes

Okay, okay, this is gonna sound weird. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Four Weddings. Okay, look, there are some movies that are really famous that I think I’ve never seen. Like, I’ve never seen Star Wars. No, I’ve never seen Star Wars. I don’t know why. Yeah, sci fi movies. I don’t really like it. So I’ve never seen Star Wars… Four Weddings and a Funeral…. If I’ve seen it, then I can’t remember.

Alan Law

You would remember if you’d seen it.

Valter Antunes

Oh, okay, so then I haven’t seen it.

Alan Law

It’s so good. I love it. Have you seen Groundhog Day?

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I saw it years ago. And then I saw it again. It was on Portuguese TV, like about two weeks ago. Two or three weeks ago I saw it again.

Alan Law

It’s great. Did you like it?

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I do. I do. And I can watch it again.

Alan Law

You should, everyday.

Valter Antunes

Everyday, like I’ve never seen it before.

Valter Antunes

Alan Law

Yeah, exactly. Which brings me to a question. If you could choose one day in your life to live over and over again like Groundhog Day. What day would you choose?

Valter Antunes

Okay, I’m not gonna say my kids getting born because you know, that’s too cliche. No, I wouldn’t choose a day, I would choose, like, you know, go back to when I was a kid. Because you know, I really miss being a kid. I’m that guy who doesn’t like getting old. It scares me a bit getting old. And, you know, when we think about, you know, when we were kids, it’s just such a good time.

Alan Law

What was your childhood like, then? It must’ve been fun, I guess?

Valter Antunes

It was just great. I mean, when I was in Portugal, I was here until 13. And I lived in like a small village. And it’s like, you know, we’re out all day, till 2am in the morning, just playing around and just, our parents will never know where we were. Because that’s how you lived in Portugal at that time. You were a kid, you could do just anything. You will be playing football from eight o’clock in the morning till 2am like non stop. And then when I went to London, it was just, you know, a whole new world. It was just so good. Everything was just so good. So, you know, it’s one time that I would like to go to, would be, you know, to those years when I was a kid. Because now it’s just working and working and working. It’s not as much fun as being a kid.

Alan Law

That’s true, isn’t it? Having to decide what to cook every night for meals…

Valter Antunes

Well, yeah, I don’t decide that. You know, not that I don’t want to, but because I work a lot. I let Paola do that.

Alan Law

How old were you when you went to London?

Valter Antunes

So I was…I don’t know if I was 12 or 13. And then I came back when I was 21. I think.

Alan Law

Ah okay, and when you moved when you were 12 or 13, did you already speak some English?

Valter Antunes

No. No, I didn’t speak anything. Now I’m speaking English a lot worse because, you know, I just lost it all. When I was there like for the last few years, you know, I have like a kind of nice accent. But then I stopped speaking English and then I just, I’m awful now. I went there, I couldn’t speak anything. And at school. Like the kids, they would start throwing papers and rubbers to the teacher. And then she will turn around and they will all say it was me. I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t say no, it wasn’t me because I couldn’t say anything in English. I would always be grounded for that.

Alan Law

Why did you… was it a family job or something, you went over to England…?

Valter Antunes

No. So my dad wanted me, they wanted us, to go to England – wanted us to study music in England. So he went there, he went there first, like for six months to see how it was, if he could find a job there or, you know, for us to go there. And so he found out that busking was really good. So he was a busker there for 10 years.

Alan Law

Oh super. It’s proper in your blood, music then.

Valter Antunes

It was him and my mom as well, my mom was a busker with him.

Alan Law

Wow, that’s really interesting. What were they playing?

Valter Antunes

Accordion, and my mom would play tamborine. That’s all she could play. Yeah, so then when he found out that, you know, he could make good money busking, then we went over and we stay there studying and when I went to university, they came back to Portugal. And then we came back a couple of years later.

Yeah. Well, he just wanted us to study music in London, because you know, it was better there. And it was, I mean, our school was great. And so it was a good choice, that they made.

Valter Antunes

Alan Law

Yeah. That’s cool, man. That’s very cool. I want to talk about one of your specific Reportage Awards (above), which really makes me smile and it’s the one of the bride where she looks like she’s giving someone, you know, the finger, as for a better phrase. With a wedding cake. What was going on there? I love that image.

Valter Antunes

Okay, well, so basically, she was waiting for the groom to come to the cake. The cake was about to start, cutting of the cake. So basically, she was waiting for the groom to come to cut the cake. And while she was there on her own, I don’t know what it was, but someone, a friend or someone, just told her something, like, he wasn’t coming or something like that, or he just gave up or something like that. And she just, you know, made the finger. And, and you know, to get that, you know, that’s why I say we can never look down or, you know, put the camera down. It’s like the camera is always ready. And you know I could be waiting for the groom as well because nothing was happening. But, you know, something’s gonna happen always, you know, something always happens – so it happened and I got it.

Alan Law

That’s cool, because you were ready for it, as you say.

Valter Antunes

Yeah you have to be ready for it.

Alan Law

I love the way she’s kind of hiding the fact she’s giving someone that finger as well.

Valter Antunes

Yeah. And it was really quick as well. That was like, you know, half a second that she did that. And she was hiding it. Yeah because you know, parents are not supposed to see that.

Alan Law

I love it because it’s almost the antithesis of the traditional wedding photo. You know, I love it. And it’s real. It’s real life. It’s awesome. Does that bride know that it’s an award winning image? Do you know?

Valter Antunes

Oh yeah yeah. They’re always really proud of the awards no matter what they’re doing. And so sometimes when stuff like that happens, like we put it on an album, like the printed album, and then they want to get it out, but then when they see that we won an award, they want to put it in again.

Alan Law

That’s funny, that’s cool. Oh I love it. And you spoke there about always being ready. I think that’s so important. What other kind of tips would you be able to give to, you know, people who want to get better at the documentary side of wedding photography?

Valter Antunes

Well, I mean, the main one is that one – is just walk around a lot. I walk around a lot. When nothing’s happening, I just keep walking, I walk so much like looking for stuff. And that’s also why I don’t use zoom lenses. Because having a lens without zoom makes me walk a lot more. And, you know, from when I’m getting from point one to point B, you know, I might see something there in between. So, yeah, just be walking a lot, looking at everyone. And there’s always stuff happening that you don’t usually see. And the other thing is, for you to be able to do that, and to have energy to do that all day, you’ve got to sleep well the night before. I mean, I noticed that when I go to a wedding really tired, that I didn’t get much sleep, I noticed I miss a lot of stuff.

Alan Law

So how many hours sleeps you need?

Valter Antunes

Oh, I need 24! Well, at least eight hours. But I don’t always get that. I mean, I’ve done weddings where I slept, like, for three hours. And with three hours, I’m at the wedding….I’m like a zombie. And then, you know, I don’t walk so much. I don’t go in search for stuff because I’m too tired. So you know, it’s essential for you to be not tired.

Alan Law

Well rested, I think that’s good advice.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, because I noticed that on me. I noticed, you know, that I’m not capable of doing my job 100% when I’m tired, so…

Alan Law

Yeah, and do you always have a second shooter with you? Do you ever shoot solo? Is it important for you to have a second you know, does that help…?

Valter Antunes

Always. I always have a second shooter. I don’t shoot without the second shooter never ever. Because I can also be a lot more free to, to do other stuff and to do more creative stuff. Like, you know if the groom is coming down the aisle, you know, I can put another shooter shooting the basic stuff and I can just be looking for other stuff like looking for someone crying, and stuff like that. So you know, there are moments that we need, we need to get to that safe shot, you know, from the front, nicely composed, and at the same time, I want a more creative shot of that moment. So I need two shooters, so that’s why I always shoot with the second shooter.

Valter Antunes

Alan Law

Cool, yeah, definitely good reasons. Let’s change tack again slightly, Valter. What are you afraid of? Or you could be afraid of nothing, that’s okay….

Valter Antunes

Oh, okay. No, I was thinking of more stuff related with photography, but no, I’m afraid of cats.

Alan Law

Really?

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I really have, like… it’s not just afraid, it’s a phobia. Is it phobia you say?

Alan Law

Phobia, yeah. Wow, a proper phobia of cats? What’s the technical name for that?

Valter Antunes

I used to know. But I don’t know anymore. But I’m getting a bit better now. But like two years ago, for example, I couldn’t even see a cat on TV or a picture of a cat. I wouldn’t look at it because I would be afraid.

Alan Law

Wow, that’s a proper fear. Did something specifically happen to you, maybe, to do with a cat that’s made that happen?

Valter Antunes

Really, I don’t know. I don’t know why this happened. And this only happened, like, it was about 10 years ago. Probably that it happened. But before that I had cats, so I don’t know what happened. And it’s funny when I go into the bride’s rooms and when they have cats. The first thing we do is for them to lock the cat out. I always explain to the bride that if they have cats I can’t be in the room with the cats. I just won’t be able to shoot, I’m always just looking back, where’s the cat? Where’s the cat? But I’m getting a bit better. I’m getting a bit better but I just can’t be to close to them.

Alan Law

OK, wow. So you don’t waste time on the internet by looking at cat videos then?

Valter Antunes

Oh no no! Usually, you know that there are some people just keep sharing things about cat videos about cats pictures, about cats. And those people I just block them.

Alan Law

Man after this podcast goes out you’re gonna have all your friends sending you little cat videos or messages and things probably.

Valter Antunes

I’ll just block them.

Alan Law

Oh man, that’s funny. That is funny.

Valter Antunes

I did that to one friend of mine. He did that and I just blocked him anyway.

Alan Law

Funny. Okay, can you tell me something that you’re really really bad at?

Valter Antunes

Really bad at? Well, Paula says that I’m really bad at cooking. That’s why she doesn’t let me cook. I cooked once, just once. I’ve been with her for 13 years and I only cooked once. And she didn’t eat so… So I think I’m really bad at cooking. What else? I don’t know, just dealing with cats.

Alan Law

That’s funny! You spoke at, was it Inspiration Conference last year, I think?

Valter Antunes

Yeah. It was the end of last year. Yeah.

Alan Law

How was that for you? Did you enjoy it?

Valter Antunes

Oh man. That was just, like, it was one of the worst days of my life. I mean, it was one of the best days of my life. But it was one of the worst days of my life because I was just so nervous, but so so so nervous, and I was just taking on pills to be able to speak. You know, like Xanax. To calm me down; I couldn’t calm down. And those three days that I was there for the conference, like other photographers were talking and I would never hear anything. I was just, you know, just afraid of going in, just going to stage. And, but, you know, in the end, I got up, it was good. It went really well. So the feedback I got was really good. But uh, but it was really hard for me to just to go up there and talk, because, you know, it’s so new to me. I haven’t been doing this for a long time. So it’s all new and then to put me there talking to other photographers – to other good photographers – that were there…it was just nerve wracking.

Alan Law

I totally, totally understand that. I get sympathy nerves for the past now – I’m getting nervous thinking about you doing it back then, you know, I get really nervous about talking and speaking at things, it’s a horrible feeling.

Valter Antunes

And I don’t think, well, you never know what’s gonna happen tomorrow, but I don’t think I would want to do it again. Because you know, I suffered so much for that. I don’t want to suffer anymore.

Alan Law

I get that.

Valter Antunes

Yeah. And you know that Elena Haralabaki? Yeah, she was on the podcast as well. She was there as well. And she was so nervous. And I was so nervous. And then I was giving her pills as well. But yeah, but in the end it was good, and I really wanted to do it. But, uh, you know, it was just nerve racking before.

Alan Law

Oh, yeah, I totally get that… it’s a big deal to do that kind of thing. It really is.

Valter Antunes

It is, because people are, you know, they’re expecting to hear from you, to hear good stuff from you. And they look up to you. And it’s a big responsibility, and then I’m always afraid of saying things that you know, oh, we might not like this. We might not like that. But yeah, it was a good experience.

Alan Law

Oh, that’s cool. Good. I’m glad it went well.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, yeah, it went well. I’ve got a standing ovation. So that was good.

Alan Law

Wow, well, that’s better than just well, that’s brilliant. Have you made any really memorable mistakes in your weddings at all ever?

Valter Antunes

Valter Antunes

Well, not memorable mistakes, but you know, I’ve done some mistakes. Not really huge ones. No, not that I can remember.

Alan Law

Do you think about the future? You know, whether you’ll be shooting weddings in 10 years time?

Valter Antunes

Maybe in 10 years time, maybe I’ll be shooting weddings. More than that… I don’t know. Probably my kids will be shooting weddings, and I’ll be just here, taking the money. You know, because it’s, a really hard work shooting your wedding on the wedding day, especially if you don’t stop, you know, I don’t stop, I’m always running from one place to another, I just, you know, I want to just find that image. And, you know, it’s like playing football, you know, they’re always running and I’m always running at a wedding. I never stop. So I don’t think that in more than 10 years time, I’ll have the strength to do that. So, I’m going to start preparing my kids for them to shoot. And then, you know, I can just stay here and do some editing and, you know, just running the business and editing.

Alan Law

That actually sounds a really good plan.

Valter Antunes

Yeah, I mean, I don’t imagine myself in 20 years shooting. In 20 years I’ll be 60. Who wants a 60 year old…, like, a Portuguese 60 year old is old. It’s not like the English or the, you know, people from the north, like Denmark and Sweden. They always look good. Portuguese people with 60, they look like shit. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.

Alan Law

I’m definitely keeping that bit in. Oh man, that’s funny. So one last question. It’s been so good man. Okay, so last question. Do you eat the canapes?

Valter Antunes

Oh, definitely.

Alan Law

Do you have a technique for doing it or do you just go straight in?

Valter Antunes

No technique, I’ll just put the camera down and start eating.

Alan Law

Good man. You don’t need a special technique; just do it.

Valter Antunes

No, no, no, I’ll just stay there, like, in front of everyone. Just eating. I’ve got to eat

Alan Law

It is important to eat, it is.

Valter Antunes

I’m human, I’ve got to eat. So if someone comes up to me and says, I can’t eat the canapes, you know, I’ll either call the bride and groom or I’ll just leave. Leave the wedding, go to Pizza Hut. I need to eat.

Alan Law

That’s cool. Oh man, Valter, honestly. Thank you so much. That was awesome.

Valter Antunes

That was OK.

Alan Law

That was brilliant! I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I think you gave some great insights and great tips and just really interesting backstories about you and your life. I loved it. Thank you.

Valter Antunes

Thank you. Thank you very much, Alan. Thank you for inviting me.

Alan Law

Oh, my honour to have you on.

Valter Antunes

I’ll see you soon. Come to Lisbon.

Alan Law

Oh I would love to come again. Yeah, I’d love to. And you come to London, to the TiR Party.

Valter Antunes

I’ll definitely do that this year. If I’m not working, I will definitely go.

Alan Law

Yeah, that’d be so cool. And oh man. Awesome. Thanks again. That was just brilliant.

Valter Antunes

All right, bye.

Alan Law

Bye dude. Bye bye

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

Thanks to Valter for this fab interview!

You can see more of Valter’s work on his website, or here on his TiR profile.

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