Interview by Linda Stansberry
Photo by Anna Villagomez
Leon Villagomez won’t let us sing his praises. When speaking about his work, he often says the “photographer should be invisible.” But all of the Humboldt Made members he’s photographed have glowing things to say about his work and his personality and, well, we think he’s the best. Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, Leon earned an undergraduate degree in Finance and a Masters in Administration before returning to a lifelong passion for photography. Wedding season is the busiest time of the year for him, but he was nice enough to sit down for a few minutes and give our readers his best advice about how to pick the right photographer for your big day.
HM: If you had to sum up your advice about choosing a photographer in one sentence, what would it be?
LV: Know what kind of wedding you’re planning and what you want. You can hire a good photographer but they may not do the kind of photography you’re envisioning for your event.
HM: It sounds like good communication is important.
LV: Yes, there are many wedding photography styles: traditional, illustrative, portraiture, photojournalist, fashion, etc. Mine is photojournalist with a touch of conceptual photography. I always ask potential clients to look at my work so they know what to expect. For the most part my clients are appreciative of quirkiness and a more conceptual technique.
HM: Your work is great, but of course I know some people might want something more traditional—or something really wacky. Wedding photography has definitely changed a lot since the days our grandparents posed shoulder to shoulder standing perfectly still.
LV: Social media has become so important. We’re showing part of our personality in whatever we share, so people want to make sure they get the right shot. Sometimes, though, people have expectations that they get from social media that their photographer can’t meet.
HM: What do you mean?
LV: Well, unfortunately, Pinterest exists. So people will see something on there they like and they’ll ask for that, instead of finding something unique. And sometimes the photographer can’t deliver. The setting or the light won’t be the same. And, honestly, you get what you pay for. If you hire someone for not a lot of money, they probably won’t give you something that looks like an award-winning photograph you saw online.
HM: How do you work around these kinds of issues with your clients?
LV: My clients usually want me to do the kind of work I do best. I always say that brides should appreciate the uniqueness of their wedding, not get fixated on a certain way that someone else did it.
HM: Humboldt County is a great place do outdoor weddings, which is what a lot of couples seem to choose. Is that a particular challenge for photographers?
LV: I love it, but I often need some extra time to scout locations and plan photographs if I’m going to do something special. Any photographer you hire should be really honest and clear about what they need to do their best job.
HM: What if the bride cries during the ceremony? Can you still make it look good?
LV: Like I said, my style is that of a photojournalist. I’d rather have a photograph that looks real. Showing the moment is more important than a “pretty” photo.
HM: Well, your photos are beautiful. It seems like you really love what you do.
LV: I do. Weddings give you a story. There are a lot of emotions. That, for a photographer, is a dream. People will spend a lot of money on the cake or the location but, really, the photographs are the only part that last. They’re a visual legacy.