A Self Portrait Inspired By Joel Grimes
Updated: Oct 2, 2021
Lockdown was in full force in the UK and I was wanting to work on improving my lighting skills, the only problem was, I wasn't allowed to photograph anyone during this time. So I decided to turn the camera back on myself and see what I could do.
I had been looking at the work of Joel Grimes and found his gritty portraits and lighting really interesting. I was wondering, could I use my collapsable beauty dish, which I brought back in 2019 but never really used to recreate something similar.
Research is vital
So when it comes to trying to emulate another photographers lighting, research is vital in doing so. Joel Grimes is an educator so he has lots of videos out there about the different lighting and editing he does so my work wasn't too hard.
The first thing I needed to do was set up my studio at home again and the lounge was turned into a make shift portrait studio.
The lighting was a little more complex than I usually do in a small space with a three light set up. You can see in the above video there is a collapsible beauty dish above the camera and two gridded soft boxes to act as rim lights.
The biggest obstacle I had was the height of the lights. The ceilings are quite low in our house so I was not able to raise the beauty dish to the ideal position, but sometimes you just have to work with what you got.
Testing the Lights
So after getting my lights into position I needed to do a little test to see if the light was looking similar to Joel Grimes. Photographing yourself can be very difficult sometimes so I ended up using an iPad to trigger my camera. The good thing about doing this was I could see if I was in frame and ensure the camera was focused on the eyes.
The light was looking similar but over exposed so I needed to dial it back a bit. I was also lacking the drop off of the light around the face. I tried my best to recreate the look but I couldn't get the light high or far enough away in order to get the exact look.
Colour Self Portraits
As you can see in the above portrait I almost got the lighting to look right but it is still far off what Joel Grimes is creating. Even with the research, watching his videos and reading articles about him I wasn't able to emulate it exactly.
So I decided to play with the light slightly and work with what I had to see what I could do. This is the best part about doing this kind of thing, when you start to move away from the inspiration and make your own work.
For some reason I was quite enjoying making these very close up portraits, I felt like a bit of an idiot when doing it but no one was around to judge me.
In the above photo I added a slight blue gel to the light off to camera left and this added a tiny tinge of blue into my hair. It seemed to contrast well my skin tones.
Black and White
I decided to see what I could do with some black and white self portraits in the second half of this experiment.
All of the self portraits had been very serious up until this point with my expression, so I decide to listen to a stand up comedy show and see if I could actually get an image of me smiling without it looking contrived. I think I look like a bit of tool but it kinda worked.
I think this was my favourite black and white image I created. I was looking at actors head shots whilst I was trying to figure out how to pose myself.
Inspired by Danny Trejo
For the final self portrait I decided to take inspiration from Danny Trejo and see if I could show off all my wrinkles, scars and lines of my face.
If you're not sure who Danny Trejo is, he is an amazing Mexican actor who has been in loads of movies. I remember when he was in the film "Desperado" by Robert Rodriguez and the director said something along the lines of, and I am paraphrasing "That's what an actor looks like, someone who has lived a life and the lines and wrinkles show this"
So this was my attempt withe Joel Grimes Lighting
It's not the same as the above photo of Danny but that's not the point, the point is to be inspired and do your own thing. I've no idea how these photos will be received as its a very scary thing to show off portraits you have created of yourself, especially a portrait that shows every line, wrinkle and scar on your face. But I am getting older and I need to embrace how my face changes and ages as the years go on. I am who I am.
It was good fun getting to learn some new lighting techniques and the good thing about been the model yourself, is it really doesn't mater if it goes completely wrong.
I wrote a post about the difference of a selfie and self portrait and I hope you can see the difference in this post.
Have you ever taken the brave step and moved in front of the camera? How did you find it and who inspired you to do so? If you have any idea on what else I could try I'd love to hear. It was quite good fun experimenting with my own face, if somewhat daunting on sharing the final images.