VALERIA DUQUE - INTERVIEW
Tell us about yourself. What is your background, and how did you get into photography?
I'm a vet turned photographer! I studied veterinary medicine and before graduating I was confused about what I wanted to do with my life. I absolutely LOVE animals and nature but didn't quite see myself working in an animal hospital 24/7. I felt something was missing— my creative side was looking for a way out. Six months before graduation I took a basic photography class and that was all it took, I instantly knew that THAT is what I wanted to do with my life. So I worked in an animal hospital for a year and saved all my paychecks up and left Colombia to go to Argentina to study photography for 2 years. That was 12 years ago and I haven't put down the camera ever since. I think going through vet school made me a very disciplined and hard working photographer— I'm basically just a nerd with a camera! I love reading up on gear, learning new methods in post processing, and experimenting with analogue photography. It wasn't easy starting a photography business at 25 with zero creative background or experience, and A LOT of scientific and medical knowledge crammed into my brain. But hard work, love for what I do, some luck, and a huge dose of stubbornness and believing in myself took me a long way. I've been shooting weddings and fashion since 2007 and I just can't imagine myself doing anything else.
Please provide us with a list of the gear you use on a regular basis:
I use a combination of Canon and Sony gear because on 2018 I was named the first female Sony Alphapartner in Colombia so my set up goes like this:
Sony A7rIII camera
Metabones MK IV adapter for Canon ef lenses
Canon 50mm f 1,2 lens
Canon 24 mm f 1,2 lens
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM lens
Canon 5D MK IV camera
Profoto A1 flash
Canon 600 EX II Flash
Macbook pro 2019
What does your post-production process look like?
I use one catalogue per project on Lightroom classic, I import everything, select using the star rating feature and then start the color editing process. Depending on light conditions and dominant colors I choose which preset to use. I have LXC (which I looove for pictures with a very strong green dominant), Summit (which is my go-to preset pack by far) and the now retired Flint and Steel (gotta love those black and white textures).
I usually use the same preset for the whole project and tweak each image in the selection. After I'm satisfied with the result I make a smaller selections for pics that I want to go to my portfolio, blog and lifestyle page submissions, Instagram posts and previews for clients. I hit the Export button and then go to bed. Method and order is also something that studying to become a vet taught me.
How has your photography style evolved over time?
OMG, it never stops changing, that's the beauty of it, I think. I used to be this super romantic, pastel loving low contrast photographer creature. And now I'm looking for stronger images that convey feelings and that look less dreamy and more like just what real life looks like. My shooting style and model direction has changed a lot. I l now look for movement and unusual angles and don't concern myself as much with finding or creating the absolute perfect ray of light. I feel that a good photographer can get good images in all kinds of conditions with creativity, the right attitude and proper gear.
What are your favourite tools for capturing, editing, and enhancing your photographs?
Well my gear is very important to me (not to mention I tend to name my cameras and lenses and have this weird pet love for them, the kind that makes you gently stroke them when you accidentally bump them into something). Post processing on a proper computer is sooo important because when you have a 42 MP camera things can take forever, so my computer is also a big tool. And last but not least there's those kickass Tribe Archipelago presets that I use as a starting point to tweak my images into perfection.
What is your greatest piece of advice for emerging photographers?
Be patient. Success and recognition take time, a lot of time, and a lot of work, so DO the actual work. Everything worth experiencing in life takes time and effort, which makes it soooo worth the wait.
Stop looking at what everybody else is doing (unless it's for learning purposes) and go and do your own things— make up styled shoots, meet people in other creative fields that are starting as well and create together, learn, fail, take chances, get frustrated, and start over. But mostly TRUST that when you do things with passion, love and respect for your clients and yourself everything just falls beautifully into place.
What type of photography do you most enjoy?
This is a hard one... I absolutely LOVE shooting weddings, that "love buzz" that can be sensed in the air, between a newly wed couple, it's real life magic. But then, how fantastic is it to shoot your own styled shots and have the creative freedom and time to materialize pictures that you have in your imagination? And travel photography, telling stories, transporting viewers to far away places and situations, that's pretty cool too.
What are you discouraged about in your work/business? What encourages you?
Well working in the weekends is kind of a pain in the a··· you miss a lot of important stuff of your own personal life and the people that you love and love you, and that can get tiresome as you get older.
The constant talking in the industry (both wedding and fashion) about what awards X or Y photographer won, or what X or Y photographer is charging— it just seems like a lot of wasted energy on ego and jealousy.
Other the other hand, love encourages me, when I meet couples that just can't look at each other without getting goofy happy. Beauty encourages me, places, people, music, everything that comes into a fashion shoot or a wedding to make it beautiful resonates with me and makes me want to just grab my camera and fire away!
Educating clients and photographers encourages me, I love teaching, and I love meeting young photographers because I learn so much from them, and I feel there are things I see as obvious that aren't so for someone who's just starting. And clients: It's so exciting to see how the perception of the wedding photographer has changed in my country in the past 12 years and knowing that I was one of the pioneers of that really motivates me to keep going.
When was a time you thought you would/had failed? How did you overcome it?
When I got a divorce, it seemed like my whole world just came crumbling down because my husband was also my business partner. But that's just the beauty of failure, you have to rebuild yourself and try again, and when you achieve that by yourself you become more confident and stronger. Yoga was my salvation during this hard period, it still is my happy place/practice. And when it got really hard and I was just on a non stop auto sabotage rant in my head I would dive into work, into doing what I love.
What defines success for you as a photographer? If you never achieve that, will you still be satisfied with what you do?
For me success is having time and resources for doing what I love and sharing with the people that I love. I'm really not interested in expensive cars, or big houses, or fancy things. Being able to balance a good business and personal life is just what I aim for always. Having time for a slow coffee with friends, or babysitting my nephew and watching him grow, or just hanging out with my cats while absent mindedly stroking their backs, doing yoga, traveling, reading and learning new stuff is what it's all about for me. If I never achieve that, I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I did my best trying because I had a clear goal and worked for it.
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