WEDDING SEASON SALE! 30% Off Training Systems!

Your content will be up shortly. Please allow up to 5 seconds
Tips & Tricks

What Makes A Great Photograph? | Behind The Lens With Joel Grimes

By Kishore Sawh on November 26th 2014


It is probably the question, paramount to all others, that should be addressed by new and old photographers alike. What makes a great photograph? Joel Grimes, in the first of his series of videos called ‘Behind The Lens’, very broadly touches on approaching this question in the brief video below, and if you’re looking for a textbook defined answer to the question, well, you won’t find it there. This, is a good thing, because it’s sort of impossible to define, and what Joel does is be more suggestive. What he points out is that creating a great photo is above all else a creative process, and to be creative, it must be personal.

[REWIND: Understanding Composition & Why Not Doing So Is Undermining Your Work]

Furthermore, he stresses again that which I find myself repeating to up and coming photographers and critics of photography, all the time – that pristine technical execution isn’t the hallmark of a good image. It’s important to know, but is really a starting point. I liken it to martial arts; An uncle of mine who’s been a student and teacher of Shotokan Karate for some 40 years says that belts, really, indicate little, and that achieving the black belt is merely an indicator of some time spent, and basics covered. It’s at this point that he feels the learning really begins. Photography is the same in my opinion, that you should have the technical basics down, but they are simply a starting point – a means to materialize your vision.


Joel speaks to that feeling that getting caught up in equipment used, and all the technicalities, should only come after a decision has come about the vision itself. Only after you answer the questions of ‘what’ and ‘why’ should you then fall onto your technical side to figure out ‘how’ to do it, though this is generally where most teaching starts. Essentially, what you are trying to do is figure out what your heart wants, and make it happen with your brain. This is how great photographs are made, and also keep in mind that just because some people don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not great.

You can find more from Joel on his site and YouTube Channel

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Rafael Steffen

    This is just an example of all the dedication and hard work that makes him a great photographer!

    | |
  2. Ian Moss

    a question I’ve been asking a lot recently – and got a lot of replies!

    | |
  3. Fernando Lachica

    Nice article for photo subject and the photographers attitude.

    | |
  4. Sebastian Martin

    This video is super interesting. How true is it that most photographers when they begin spend so much time wrapped up in technology, pixel-peeping, gear, etc.

    Sure great gear is of extreme importance, but when I started getting paid to shoot I had nothing more then a Canon EOS 10D, Canon 550EX Speedlight and Canon and 28-135 USM lens. I made quite allot of money with this setup. Todays DLSR’s are so much far ahead of this initial kit, however I was able to produce fantastic results with what I owned.

    If I remember correctly, it took me about two years before moving from the mindset of good gear makes great photos, to really studying and analyzing the concept and creation of amazing photographs.

    I really enjoy the idea of studying other peoples photographs and trying to figure out what it is I really love about a particular photo. Sometimes trying to reverse engineer the composition, lighting, etc can be a fantastic learning experience.

    | |
  5. Ben Perrin

    I love Joel Grimes. Always encourages people to do what they like doing and not apologise for it. He just seems like a genuinely good person and a great teacher. Also he removes that fear of failure by saying that not everybody is going to like your work and that’s ok.

    | |
  6. Greg Silver

    Love the advice to figure out what your heart wants and make it happen with your brain!

    I’ll admit…I’m a tech junkie, so I have to consciously step back from my camera to think about the photograph. It’s often far too easy to just compose a shot through the viewfinder without seeking what the heart wants.

    | |
  7. Aaron Cheney

    Great behind the lens. Joel Grimes is so talented.

    | |