Top advice from Joel Grimes: follow your own path
[editor’s note: Joel Grimes just released a new portrait photography tutorial. We took the opportunity to ask Joel for his best advice and it is outlined below., you can download a sample lesson (#2) down the page here if you want to check it out]
The photographic process can often be a difficult world in which to navigate. There is this “tug of war” that occurs between the technical and creative sides, in which most of us gravitate to one or the other.
In years past, I generally gravitated toward the technical side of things because it was much simpler to quantify. The creative side seemed too nebulous, too subjective, and I often wondered if I was on the right track. I hated the feeling of not knowing if I was doing it right, which, in turn fueled my insecurities. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough? Or talented enough? Do you ever have those thoughts?
Once I started to master the technical, I soon discovered the most technically proficient photograph on the planet could be a complete bore. So, I had to accept the challenge of learning how to create images that go beyond f/stops, shutter speeds, flash meters and lighting ratios.
My biggest challenge was not knowing where I wanted to end up, so I was like a dog chasing my tail. I looked to others to define my direction. Do you ever feel like that? Well, you’re not alone.
Today, as I am working through the creative process I ask myself a question “What do I like? What fits me?” What a revelation! This bridges the gap between the two worlds. If we can come to an understanding that the creative process is a thousand times more important–what we like or dislike–then the creative side explodes into an unending stream of ideas. Instead of the creative process being a gut-wrenching process, it is the easiest thing we will ever do.
The difficulty comes when we step outside of what comes natural, what fits our uniqueness, and move into the realm of trying to please those around us. Once I formulate what I, Joel Grimes, like, it’s really easy to be Joel Grimes. The problem lies in my humanity, my inability to believe that being me is what is right.
If someone is born with curly hair, what do they tend to do? They spend a lot of time and money to straighten it. And vice versa, if you have straight hair, you curl it. We all have been there. Our humanity tends to want what we don’t have. As a result, we tend to spend a great deal of effort doing the opposite of what comes natural.
I have this saying, “Your intuition will never lead you down the wrong path”. Never! This is because your intuition is a culmination of a lifetime of testing what you like or dislike. You have repeated the process millions of times. You have been trained to respond in a certain way and now it’s built into the very marrow of your bones. Your intuition is the greatest asset you possess as an Artist. It drives you down a path of uniqueness. It separates you from the masses. You stand out because you are you. And being you is a whole lot easier that being someone else. Learn to trust your intuition.
However, being you, or working from your intuition, opens the door to criticism. Someone will not like what you like. Someone will tell you that you did it wrong, that you suck, and you quickly discover that not everyone loves what you do. And you hate that feeling. Sometimes it hurts so much that you want to quit.
You learn that it is much easier to stick with the status quo, so you follow trends because it is much safer. You hate to be criticized so much that you will avoid it at all cost. So you hesitate to let your intuition guide you and you end up copy someone else’s uniqueness and you blend. You become boring, nondescript, and uninteresting.
So stand out, be you. Believe you have something to offer, you are special. Don’t be swayed by the critics; the insecure bystanders that don’t want you to succeed. Stay true to you, and let your intuition be your guide. And great things will follow.
About The Author
With more than 30 years’ experience in portraiture, Joel Grimes is an undisputed expert in capturing a subject both in the studio and out on location. Since starting his first studio in 1984 he has worked with some of the world’s leading agencies and shot in more than 50 countries.
A celebrated member of Canon’s “Explorer’s of Light”, Joel’s focus is not just on the technical, but also on the artistic. As an artist himself Joel is able to communicate the more subjective nuances of portrait photography that can only come from such an experienced professional.
P.S. DIY Photography readers get $50 off Joel’s latest education series on location portrait photography, which is available here. Just use code DIYPHOTO at checkout.
Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.