“Hard Work Beats Talent Every Time” or How Joel Grimes Took Over the World

Joel Grimes is a nice guy. Joel Grimes is down to earth. Joel Grimes works pretty hard. 

These descriptions are all tremendous understatements. He does everything to the best of his ability, and he doesn’t quit. 

The camera person's eye.
The camera person’s eye.

Midwest Photo and The Learning Studio recently had the privilege of hosting Joel on his ‘Start to Finish’ tour, where he led students through his creative process: before the shoot, lighting technique, posing, Photoshop workflow, even branding and marketing. He talked about how to see the light, how to find it, and how to shape it. How to think like an artist, have a creative mentality, and what it really takes to have a career in photography… hard work and determination.

Joel Grimes on Good Day Columbus for Midwest Photo.
Joel Grimes on Good Day Columbus for Midwest Photo.

“Never let anyone derail your dream.”

After learning that he was color blind, Joel had some hard choices to make. He could have easily given up on his dream of becoming a photographer. There is no shortage of people that will tell you that you won’t make it. You can decide to do, or not do, anything that you want. Luckily for Joel Grimes, the photography instructor  that pointed out his color-blindness told him to stick to his guns and stay on track. It was a pivotal moment. He continued to shoot. Learned to knock on doors and pick up phones and sent out portfolios. He continued perfecting techniques and outworking everyone else out there. That is where the rubber meets the road, folks.

Is that an LP180 on Joel Grimes'  lighting setup?
Is that an LP180 on Joel Grimes’ lighting setup? And a Pentax 645z? Yessir.

“A photograph is not reality, it is at best, a representation or illusion of reality”

Joel Grimes loves bit depth and tonal range, color depth and dynamic range, softness and detail. The more information his image contains the better. He rolls around the country with a Pentax 645z, which has as much resolution and image quality as many other medium format digital cameras, with almost none of the drawbacks. All this, at a fraction of the cost. Record 50 megapixel 14 bit RAW files to SD cards? Perfect. He may be practical, but he doesn’t skimp on the quality of the image file he gets from his cameras, or the quality of the light coming from his modifiers.

He was using a Wescott Rapid Box with a Lumopro LP180 in it for a main overhead light, adding Westcott Strobelights in 24×36 gridded stripboxes as side lights. He showed that great light doesn’t have to be complicated using the Strobelights in the 7′ Westcott Parabolic umbrellas for a more high fashion style. Learn all the techniques so you can make them your own and find new ways to light and create execute your artistic vision. The whole set up he used can be broken down in 15 minutes or so and taken to almost any location. He believes in a pragmatic approach to most everything in life and his extensive experience allows his movement to be fluid and deliberate.

When it came time for post processing, he really moved efficiently. He spends no more than three hours on each retouch and shoots his own HDR backgrounds. When he is blazing through a Photoshop action, or layer masking very intricate details, his Wacom Intuos Pro tablet allowed him to quickly move from edit to edit, without having to use a clumsy mouse. Wacom tablets are a must for a digital artist doing anything near that level of finely detailed retouching and editing.

Dani D. from Heyman Talent on the big screen.
Dani D. from Heyman Talent on the big screen.

“A technique can have a short lifespan, but inspiration can last a lifetime.”

The main theme of a Joel Grimes workshop is that talent only gets you so far. Hard work and perseverance is the only thing common to all successful photographers. If you decide to perceive yourself as an artist, you are then free to fulfill your artistic vision as you see fit.

People left the first lecture on Friday night with a buzz, ready to go out and shoot. By the end of the workshop day, students were armed with the knowledge that if you keep at your art, you can accomplish almost anything.  Don’t get caught up in whether your photography should look like one thing or another. Be tenacious with creativity. Shoot everyday. Shoot personal projects. Experiment.

Dani D.
Model- Dani D. from Heyman Talent. Photo by Joel Grimes.

“Don’t afraid to break new ground. Take risks in going down a path that fits you. Don’t listen to the naysayers that try to steal your uniqueness and discourage you from your artistic vision. You have a voice that can rock the world.”

Art is supposed to be subjective; what one person loves, another despises. Don’t worry about that, it is what it is. Joel believes that every single person is inherently creative, and if you continue to create, other people will come around. Your work does not have to look like anyone else’s, and it shouldn’t. Make it your own. You have to hammer your style until you can’t anymore. Then you change it up. Reinvent. Trends and looks only last seven to ten years. You always have to be ready to change and stay nimble.

That is exactly how Joel Grimes became Joel Grimes. Shoot a lot. Perfect your look. Change it up. Repeat.

All quotes courtesy of Joel Grimes.

Model- Dani D. of Heyman Talent. Photo by Joel Grimes.
Model- Dani D. of Heyman Talent. Photo by Joel Grimes.
TJ Hansen

Photographer at MPEX.com

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