10 things Joey .L has taught me about photography

Disclaimer: All images in this post belong to Joey Lawrence. I don't own them nor do I claim to. They are for visual reference only. 


1. Stay true to your style and never stop developing it


Joey defines his style as ‘Cinematic Portrait Photography’ which is as visually complex and well lit as you’d imagine. He started with a photographic style that referenced the Dutch renaissance painters, like Rembrandt & Da Vinci. Then as he developed his aesthetic, the lighting in his photography became reminiscent of film and cinema. ‘’Somewhere between four-hundred-year-old painting techniques and cutting edge cinematic lighting, I’ve crafted a style that emphasizes mood and atmosphere.’’ This has made me reflect on how my own work has evolved since I first started out, and the direction that my photography is currently headed.

‘’An artistic style is forever evolving and improving upon itself. I often look back on work I once thought was great and now see it as terrible.’’


2. Construct your lighting piece by piece


Joey .L is a master of gradually constructing a scene; he begins by taking an exposure of the background with only ambient, he then introduces a test subject and begins adding one light at a time, until he is satisfied with how the scene is lit. This is a brilliant way of achieving your ideal lighting as it’s gradually created rather than a traditional set up. This is a practice that I have tested and it is certainly effective, offering more control over the situation. 


3. Frame you passion


Joey explains this best; ‘’My biggest passion is traveling the world, meeting interesting people and making portraits of unique individuals from different cultures.’’ I couldn’t express my own passion any more clearly than that, as it’s so concise and is quite literally my dream compressed down to one sentence. Loving your work is one thing but photographing your passion fills me with indescribable fulfillment. Eric Thomas (a motivational speaker) say’s ‘’you need to know your ‘’why’’, it needs to wake you up every single morning’’. I’m lucky enough to know that my why is travelling and creating photography. It’s what gives me the most joy in life and is what I will continue to chase.



4. Technique is key but vision is King


Joey L. believes that your technique is important in the crafting of an image but that it will only take you so far; as technique without a clearly defined vision will simply create photography that is well made, but not inspirational or life changing. He feels that the technicalities should be kept in the back of your head, to be applied when you are bringing your artistic vision to life. 

‘’The technical elements aren’t nearly as important as the direction of your photo. Whether you use one light or eight, your first thought should be how the picture will look-the mood, the feel, the character.’’ 




5. Underexpose the background



It sounds like a recipe for disaster but the best photographs of all time are right on the edge of failure. Joey L. has developed an outstanding technique for creating visual master pieces where the subject is the main dominating subject. ‘’The basics of the method involve metering my subject correctly, then metering for my lights, then applying a 2-stop neutral density filter on my camera lens, and finally turning my lights 2 f-stops higher to compensate for the filter.’’ This results in his subjects being correctly exposed as before, while the background becomes underexposed, moody and dark.


6. Value light over camera specs


I’ve heard nearly every photographer say that a great artist can create great work with standard equipment and Joey L. is no exception to this. He feels that the most important aspect of photography is the light, and that while camera specs are an important factor to sharpness and image size, the light is what can make or break any photograph. He believes that when lighting a scene, the ambient light is be respected above all and that other lights are put in place to tweak the scene. Light is the most crucial element in photography without it, there would be no photography or much of anything for that matter. 


7. Practice makes permanence


In an interview with Jared Polin, Joey L. is asked ‘’Do you think people need to go to college to learn photography?’’ He replies with ‘’In terms of education you need a good teacher, although school is kind of a mess’’ you have to put in the hours to master your craft. According to bill gates it takes 10,000 hours to learn and perfect a new skill. Also within that interview, Joey L. mentions that photography is such a competitive field that you have to be all in to succeed.



8. Create cohesion




Joey L. feels that a good photographer’s work holds instantly recognisable traits, resulting in photographic cohesion within a body of work. This means that style, aesthetic and lighting are all reflective of the photographer and how they craft images. It’s important that your photography has certain cohesion to it, so that when people look at several of your prints side by side, they know that it came from the same hand; meaning that you will be more identifiable as a creative person and should as a result become more noticeable. 



9. Do it for yourself 


A large amount of Joey L.’s jobs have come from people seeing his personal work and wanting a similar aesthetic on a print advertisement. If you put all your time and passion into creating work because you want to, eventually it will be seen by other people who will want your creative style above anyone else’s. Joey L. created personal project where he photographed a simulated blizzard inside a studio, just because it was something he always wanted to do, and as a result it was seen by someone at National Geographic and he was commissioned by them to photograph a similar campaign. 



10. Love and learn


Joey L. famously loves his work with a passion that has led to his great success as a photographer. This love combine with an eager necessity to learn more about his craft is why he has been befriended by so many and worked with some of the biggest names in the creative industry. An example of this love is shown by his continual need to document and interact with the people of the delta in Ethiopia, Africa. He has returned six years in a row to document these amazing people & their way of life and it is very prevalent in his stunning photographs of these souls and their environment. He is still learning and is producing a cinematic film with them titled ‘’ People of the Delta’’. The work he has put in to get to where he is, far surpasses 10,000 hours and is the attitude of a man who knows his purpose in life.