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Crash Taylor Interviews Rocco Ancora


Before the interview, just a quick thank you to all my loyal subscribers and readers. This morning I looked at the stat counter and cannot believe I have topped 80,000 since September 08.

This week I welcome Rocco Ancora. Rocco is a true photographic artist and somebody who I admire very much. His work is definitely what these interviews are all about, creativity, vision and passion. He is a photographer who is taking this industry to the next level. Rocco is a cool person and I'm proud to feature him on the site. Enjoy the interview and as always leave a comment.

Hi Rocco,

Tell us a little bit about Rocco Ancora?
First of all, thank you for this amazing opportunity to be interviewed by the “Crashmaster” himself.
Ok! Where do I begin…born in the city of Turin in Northen Italy and migrated with my family to Melbourne, Australia in the late seventies.  Maths and Science  and art were my favourite subjects at school. Upon graduating from high school began studying applied science and engineering. I loved the technical side of things but there was something lacking...no creative stuff!!! Later switched to architecture then finally stumbled into photography. Turned pro in 1995 and have been loving it ever since. I won Australian Wedding Photographer of the year in 2004, 2006, 2007 and have been voted, for the second year in a row, by one of Australia’s photography magazine,  as one the top 3 Australian wedding photographers. My studio is situated in the inner eastern suburb of Balwyn in Melbourne Australia. My team is made up of one studio manager and two digital retouchers/designers.  I am married with a two and half year old daughter, Isabella.

Where is home?
“I live in Melbourne in Australia”

If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet where would you build your dream home?

“Ocean view on the Great Barrier Reef.”

What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?

“I think I’m sane, but then again I chase women wearing white dresses every weekend with a camera, other people call it stalking, I call it wedding photography.”

Did you go to school to study photography?

“I went to school to study architecture and somehow ended up doing Photography. I never actually completed my photography course. I was fortunate enough to be given the  opportunity to do a traineeship with a very large wedding and portrait studio in Melbourne. At the time the studio was shooting over 300 weddings a year with 6 full time photographers. One of those photographers was Yervant, who shared a lot his knowledge with me.”

How long have you been a photographer?

“Professionally since 1995”

How long have you been a wedding photographer?

“Since 1995”

What or who got you started in wedding photography?
“Whilst studying architecture, I began taking photos of buildings, I picked up a camera and fell in love. Shortly after I began doing a photography course, and at that point architectural studies were put to death. When an up and coming Yervant shot my wedding it sparked an initial interest in wedding photography. Then shortly after that I began working with him as a lab technician and assistant, and it just went from there.”

How would you describe your style?

“Artistic, evocative and with a sense of story telling.”

How many weddings do you average per year?
“About 50 to 60 per year.”

Do you have some recent favourite images you can share with us?

What type of cameras do you shoot with?
This is a very difficult question at the moment! I have been a Canon shooter pretty much all of my career until recently....Nikon was kind enough to lend me a full kit ( D3, D3x, and every lens from 14mm to 200mm ) I shot 5 weddings  with the gear and I was totally blown away. Being a big fan of existing light photography, the D3 gave me an unbelievable flexibility in low light. The skin tones are really nice too. So now I have a full Canon Kit and have just ordered a Nikon kit. So you could say I’m in transition.

What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?
“My lights, I’m a big fan of using tungsten lighting, I love to be able to create mood and to shape the light. Tungsten lighting gives me a real time view, what I see with my eyes is what I get, allowing me to work quickly and efficiently.”

If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
“14-200 mm 2.8…IS. does anyone make this yet? (just kidding) ideally I like my wide angle lenses, I like to get up close and personal to the action, (Nikon 14-24 2.8 )”

What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot?

“My speed lights, which are always off camera and triggered by slaves. Tungsten light, one soft and one fresnel spotlight.”

Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a wedding?
“I like to use video light when I want to create mood for ex: in a brides home, or in dark conditions. With video light I try to emulate existing available tungsten light in the shot. I use very little flash if at all (never on camera, always on a monopod and held by an assistant).  In Australia the summer light is very bright, so I use flash to create the mood and feel that I want in a shot, I tend to under expose the ambient light and use flash as my main light source. I use a lot of natural light throughout the day, it’s important to pick locations and use natural light where possible, just to keep the dynamics of the image more natural.
Reflectors I use only when I need to lift the shadows.

What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?
“Photoshop and Lightroom.”

How important is Photoshop in your final images?
“One of the forgotten skills in the digital age is how to be able to nail a shot in camera. Photoshop should only be used to bring photos to life and communicate the message that the photographer intends. Although Photoshop is an integral part of my workflow, very little time is spent in getting the desired result post production, because of the care I take at the time of capture with an image.”

What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
“ACTIONS ROCC, are my favourite set of actions, because I have personally developed them to make my work flow more efficient.”

Are you a MAC or PC lover?
“Mac.”

Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on?
“ Nikkor 200mm f2 ....very nice piece of glass but... not cheap!!!”

I finally feel I have mastered my Crash-Art workflow, can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow after a wedding?
“I shoot RAW. Images are downloaded, imported to Lightroom where they are sorted, colour corrected, and re numbered in chronological order of the day. Once the files are corrected for colour and density they are exported as low res jpegs for proofing and web galleries. We also do a high res export for albums, prints etc. Images that are going to be printed large eg panos in an album or wall prints, a 16bit export is the preferred option for optimum results.’

I use Queensberry albums, what wedding albums do you supply your clients with and do you design them yourself or outsource the design?
“The albums I use are supplied by Albums Australia and the designs are originally done in TDA, which is their amazing album design software.

How do you feel about cropping an image?
“It is essential to do your cropping at the time of shooting, I generally do very little if any cropping in post production. What I see through my view finder is basically my canvas at the time of shooting.”

I choose photographers for these interviews because their work really inspires me and gets my creative juices flowing, hence the interview. What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such amazing imagery?
“I get inspired by many things, life being one of them. As a wedding photographer, every couple inspires me in a different way. One thing that we all have in common with our wedding couples is the fact that we are all made up of life experiences. By being in touch with your own, you can also to be in touch with theirs. Before every wedding, I really go out of my way to find out as much as possible about the couple. I build a good rapport with them always. By doing so, on the wedding day you’re no longer a stranger, but almost an invited guest. It’s this very fact that allows you to capture images that are quite natural, as your subjects open up. To me every couple emits a different energy, and this inspires me in different ways. No two couples are ever the same.

What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
“Shooting a wedding where the bride was quite ill.  During the dance with her father, things got quite emotional for everyone, and me especially. I remember the father holding in his arms his dying daughter, and as this scene was played out in front of me, I Just couldn’t control my emotions, with every click of the shutter there was a wave of tears. I kept on shooting with my camera firmly pressed to my eye, trying to hide and hoping that no one could see me. It’s not always like that when you are there to do a job, but having a daughter myself it got me thinking about things, you always want the best future for your kids.”

If you could shoot a wedding with someone who would it be and why?
“I would love to shoot with David Beckstead, I am a big fan of his work and recently in Vegas I had the opportunity to judge at WPPI on the same panel. I have admired his work for quite some time, I think it’s just amazing. I would love to have the chance to work with him and bounce some ideas.”

Do you have an assistant/2nd shooter that accompanies you on wedding assignments?

“I always work with assistants, but not 2nd shooters, my couples pay a premium price to have the day interpreted through my eyes.  In my experience I find that 2nd shooters can often get in the way.”

How many images do you average per wedding and how many do you usually present to your clients?
“I normally shoot about 1,500 frames at a wedding, and I never present the couple with more than 1,000 images, as I find it gets a bit confusing for them.”

Where would be your dream destination wedding?

“Paris, because it is the city of romance.”

How do you make the bride and groom, bridal party etc… feel relaxed in front of your Canon 1DS Mk III?
“It’s important as a photographer to get to know your client before the shoot, I tend to meet with clients a few times before the big day so that they are comfortable with the proceedings. The bridal party usually follow the bridal couple. Being malleable with your personality is a help in making the day a success. You have to be able to see different sides to people.”

Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it?

“I had a bride once who very ill on the wedding day, when I arrived at the hotel, she was still in bed, it took a good hour for her mum and her bridesmaids to get her ready. This did not allow us to do any preparation photos. The bride became quite distressed over this. However once the ceremony was over, (which was being held across the road from the hotel), I took her and the bridesmaids back to the room and we spent a bit of time doing the preparation shots. I then slotted them into the order of the day in post production. The bride was very grateful and this eased her anxiety on the day.”

What is your favourite image you have shot recently? Can you describe its creation in regards to location, lighting, composition etc, also your thoughts when creating the image and what it means to you?
“This photograph of the little flower girls sleeping, with the dresses beside them, was shot during the reception at the end of the night. Everyone was having a great time on the dance floor, where I was photographing, I was just heading back to my camera bags when this little scene presented itself to me. The little flower girls, exhausted by the days proceedings, were laying down fast asleep, the dresses had been put to the side and were standing on their own.
It was shot in limited available light, at 2.8 at 1/20th of a second the lens was 16-35 mm. I took 3 frames before the little girls woke up walked off.  It was as if I was the only one allowed to witness this magical scene. This became a treasured image for the bride and groom, as the little girls were their favourite nieces.”

What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings?
“There are many factors but the 2 most crucial are time and the weather, then there is always factor no 3...The stressed out bride, a situation that can arise at many weddings.  Regardless of what happens in those areas, you still need to come up with the goods at the end of the day.”

What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?
“I think photographers aren’t placing enough value in what they do, they don’t seem to factor in the most important thing, which is their time and experience. This has a long term effect on the whole industry with undercutting costs and devaluing what wedding photographers do and the services they as professionals provide. Photographers should stop focussing on price and sell themselves, their services and their work.”

A wedding photographer who inspires you?

“Early in my career, Yervant was my teacher and mentor. These days, I still find his work very inspirational, but there are many others in the industry whose work I admire, it’s just too difficult to narrow down to one name.

It’s almost that time of year for a Taylor family portrait. Is there any photographer out there that you would be stoked to say - he took my portrait?

“David Williams, a real master of his craft and a great friend.”

A website and/or blog you visit often?
“There are many different sites I visit and view, but as an essential hub to keep in touch with what’s going on I use Facebook.”

The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
“Helmut Newton, because I love his edgy and moody images.”

The last workshop or seminar you attended and why?
“I haven’t been to a workshop or seminar for a long time as these days I am very busy running my own. The very last seminar I attended was my good friend Yervant’s in Melbourne about 2 years ago. ”

Do you have any seminars planned for the near future?

“I will be doing a 3 day workshop in Tasmania (In Australia) in  early June, followed by other 2 workshops in Europe later that month. One in Poland and one in Italy.”

What photographic organizations do you belong to?

“AIPP- Australian Institute of Professional Photography and WPPI – Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, and DWF - Digital Wedding Forum.”

One way you market Rocco Ancora Photography?

I  try at all times to cross promote with other wedding service providers like florists, reception venues, cake makers etc. I always make it my business to find out who supplied what on the day then provide them with complimentary images to use in their advertising brochures, web etc.. It really works!!!”

Do you advertise? If so where?

“Bridal magazines and websites.”

How important is an awesome website for your business?

“Very important, as this can be your first point of contact with prospective clients, it needs to make an impact in the first 10 seconds, and it should reflect what you are about.”

If not a photographer, I would have liked to be a marine biologist studying the great white shark. What would you have been?

“A pilot, I love flying.”

I realize that each great photographer has a particular penchant or love for photographing a particular subject whether it be nature, portraits, sea or landscapes, shadow and light, etc. as a result I would love to have you talk about and share whatever images you feel appropriate of your own private obsession in the magical world of photography.

“My passion is photographing people and documenting different times in their lives, freezing moments that they can cherish. I came into this business with my love of photographing people. My creative work mostly comes through my assignments. However, coming from an architectural background, I love buildings, shapes and forms. When I can, this is what I shoot.

Lately I have wanted to photograph old Mississippi and as always great white sharks in South Africa or your hometown Australia. Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph?
“I would love to be able to do a shoot at the Ice Hotel in Sweden, (I think it would be a really cool location).”

When I was 2nd shooting I was picking everybody’s brain, I still am actually. That’s why I love these interviews so much. Every interview I learn something that makes me a better photographer. What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pursue wedding photography?

“To be a successful wedding photographer, you need an unbelievable amount of skill and craftsmanship, however these 2 things alone will not get you over the line. One of the most important things for me is the love and passion that I have for what I do, I love being a wedding photographer. People skills are very important, you have to love people and being around people.”

At the moment I’m finding a lot of my photographic inspiration from my one month old son baby Jake Onni. We know that each of us has someone or something, which inspires our life and work. Can you tell us the true basis of your inspiration?
“I’m quite a spiritual person. Without being too philosophical I believe that my inspiration comes from God my creator. The world is a really beautiful place. Just look around and allow yourself to be inspired.

Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?

“I wouldn’t change a thing, I feel blessed to be who and where I am today.”

Name one photographer you would like to take a portrait of?

“Henri Cartier Bresson.”

Name one sports player you would like to take a portrait of?

“Michael Schumacher.”

If you could be invisible for one day with your camera...

“I would love to be in a tigers enclosure and get up close and personal with these majestic creatures.”

I’ve learned the most from…

“The Bible.”

What talent would you most like to have?

“Ability to play the piano.”

Something you’re still learning?

“Fatherhood.”

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

“Isabella, my daughter. (Is my wife reading this?) ok my wife too”

What is your greatest fear?
“Isabella becoming a teenager.”

Something that is overrated?

“Chocolate and sleep.”

Something you’re saving up for?

“An Aston Martin, with red leather interior, I figure this will take a lot of saving.”

What item do you wish you had designed?

“The iPod.”

If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be?
“Sean Connery, I’m a great Bond fan.”

Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.?

“Usually at home reading bed time stories to my gorgeous daughter, Isabella.”

Your favourite film (movie) of all time?
“Casablanca, African Queen, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Who would play you in a film (movie) of your life?

“Jack Black.”

First thing you would do if you won the lottery?
“Try and help as many needy family and friends as I can, (then get the Aston Martin I’m saving for).”

Which five words would your friends use to describe you?

“Had to ring around for this one but this is what they said: Funny, loyal, professional, creative and generous.”

What ambition have you not yet achieved?
“Aston Martin Owner.”

What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?
“Doing what I’m doing now, with improvements and reinventing myself and my work.”

And the last question, if you had one wish…

“No poverty in the world.”

Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Rocco Ancora?’ What would you say?

“Don’t! Just be yourself.”

Your readers can find out more about me:

Website: www.imagesbyrocco.com.au

Blog: http://imagesbyrocco.blogspot.com/