At first, Logan Grubbs of Hattiesburg didn’t want to get involved in the “social” part of social media. If anything, he said he could really do without opening up his life on the Internet.
Grubbs was more interested in taking photographs with his iPhone. When Instagram came along about five years ago, he developed a passion for the app.
“I actually started with Instagram,” he said. “That’s how I got into photography, which is probably pretty rare for most people to start down that kind of avenue. It wasn’t too long after Instagram started; my first photo was on May 24, 2012. My sister (Molly) told me about this app called Instagram. I had heard of this, but I had not considered getting on it.”
The thought of exposing himself to strangers on the Internet didn’t have much glamour for Grubbs.
“I realized right away from knowing Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook that I wasn’t interested in sharing my life,” he said. “What I started to see it was as a way for an artistic outlet. I didn’t start following all of my friends. Of course, this was early on in the app. It wasn’t a social thing for me; sure, I found some friends on there and I followed a few, but I really I wasn’t interested in seeing what everyone was having for lunch. I had enough of that already.”
Being bombarded with mundane food photos wasn’t what Grubbs was looking for. He remembers that his first Instagram photo was “a filtered sunset, having no idea what I was doing with the app.” However, he quickly learned by looking at photos from other Instagram contributors.
“I realized quickly I didn’t really want a lot of what some of the social media was producing,” he said. “I just wanted to use it as an artistic outlet. So I started following and finding people all over the globe that posted interesting photography. I dived in headfirst and what I realized was it was a very supportive community.”
At first, Grubbs really wasn’t sure why he became so enamored with Instagram.
“I stumbled into it and realized I loved it,” he said. “It became a hobby and an obsession every day. Every day it becomes a bit of a game because every day I wanted to post something. So if every day you want to post something, you have to be shooting a lot of shots and you have to be editing a lot of photos.”
With the constant picture-taking came the importance of showing quality work.
“You start taking pride in your gallery and wanting it to be consistent, which is important,” he said. “You have to be a consistent poster and you have to have consistent styling. I started cultivating that, learning that and appreciating that. It became a fun outlet where all the time I was looking for interesting shots.”
What he expected and what he encountered changed Grubbs’ mind about how social media could be a benefit for him.
“It wasn’t like any other social media that I had ever been a part of where there was a lot of bashing and a lot of negativity. If people don’t like your photos, they don’t say anything. If they like your stuff, they comment and they like. It was just an incredibly supportive community that grew and I grew along with it as a photographer and an iPhonographer. Strictly, that’s what I did for a very long time.”
The availability of a portable computer-camera-phone made the photographs easily obtainable. Grubbs is rarely without his iPhone.
“Most of the time, this is in my pocket 24/7,” he said as he held up his iPhone 7. “When I have some downtime, I can just edit on my phone while I am just sitting around or watching a TV show. I don’t have to be sitting at a computer and I don’t have to be super-technical with it.”
The iPhone’s apps also offer almost the same technical qualities that Grubbs can get on his computer.
“What’s amazing is how much you can do on your iPhone,” he said. “I do all kinds of editing and they say, 'You can do that on your iPhone?’ Most people don’t know that some of these apps that are very much like PhotoShop. You just kind of learn from friends.”
For Grubbs, Instagram has been a social media conduit for other things in his life.
“What’s interesting is that I have traveled all around the world and met with people through Instagram,” he said. “I have gone to a city in Europe where I have an instant friend already who will show me amazing photography locations. It’s not just some random person; it’s a person that I have built a connection with who is a world-class photographer. You can step off the boat and walk right up to somebody who is ready to tour the city with you, show you best there is and feel like they know you. I have never seen another community like this.”
Grubbs became the student of the iPhone photograph and the thousands of fellow smartphone photographers became the teachers.
“I honestly feel that it wasn’t a natural thing for me,” he said. “I was like an art student, so to speak, and every day I would wake up and three or four times a day I would be looking at the best photographers in the world and seeing what they were seeing through their lens. Then I started picking up what they were doing with symmetry or minimalism or the rule of thirds. I started naturally understanding that stuff and communicating with these people, so it was a very informal education. Really it was cultivated; it wasn’t something natural.”
Grubbs said he enjoyed using someone’s Instagram photograph as inspiration.
“Sometimes people would say, ‘Oh, you’re so creative.’ I go, ‘Really, no. Art is imitation and I’ve seen this done.’ Yes, I put my own spin on it; I put my own spin on it and I have what angles to take. It’s really just a trial-and-error learning process.”
From seeing someone else’s photographs to becoming more aware of his surroundings, Grubbs started breaking out into his own world.
“I started finding situations and subjects that speak to me,” he said. “I know what to look for now; that’s really what developing ‘an eye’ means. I really don’t have hard and fast rules; I know how I want to shoot a subject. I know with trial and error and shooting over these years what I want to do with it. The beauty of it is that sometimes you can’t make it work the way you want it to.”
Grubbs, however, stresses quantity over quality right now.
“The name of the game is volume and then it’s curation,” he said. “You go and take a lot of shots, you edit a bunch and then you find the gem out of the rough.”
With Instagram, many photographers manipulate the photographs with certain apps by using filters, special effects, double exposures and twisted perspectives to put their own signature on their photographs.
“If it’s aesthetically pleasing and it adds to the photo, I enjoy it,” Grubbs said. “Most of the time, you expect it on Instagram. A lot of times, you can tell that it’s done and it’s done on purpose. Most of the time, you’re tweaking a photo and changing it a little.”
As far as the iPhone camera, Grubbs prefers the lens that comes with the phone.
“Most of the time – they call it ‘shooting native’ – you use the native camera on the phone,” he said. “That’s what I traditionally shoot with. I have shot with a couple of different apps, but I find that the native camera works just as well. I have never once that I remember used Instagram to edit. I usually put it in another app to edit and then go to Instagram to post.”
Among the iPhone apps that Grubbs uses are Snapseed and VSCO cam. “Snapseed is pretty intuitive to learn and I’m used to it,” he said. Other apps include Enlight, Afterlight, Retouch, Lightroom, SKRWT, Lenslight and Image Blender.
Just because Grubbs has a folder full of editing apps on his iPhone doesn’t mean he uses them all on every photo.
“What I found also with the edit, oftentimes less can be more,” he said. “If you’re cooking with the right ingredients, you can overdo it if you try to spice it up too much. At first, I was always trying to make some edits and I make some fun edits.”
In the five years that he has been taking photographs, Grubbs has found certain methods when he feels more comfortable.
“I do a lot of symmetry,” he said. “That’s just my style that I developed. It’s easier for me to see it that way. It’s easier for me to have guidelines and some rules on how I do my shots.”
Grubbs’ sister, Molly, who lives in California, is really minimalistic,” he said.
“She does a lot of negative space. What’s really cool is she saw some magazine and she is really artistic. Actually, so are my mom and my dad (Gary and Glenda Grubbs of Hattiesburg). I would say that I am the least artistic member of the family. She was inspired and she has a highly specific style. She has a ton of negative space and usually has the sky.”
Grubbs said he feels blessed to have fallen in with Instagram when it appeared.
“There are some amazing photographers that I have gotten to know and be friends with,” he said. “It blows my mind. Honestly, I feel like my timing was fortunate because I was on the early curve with Instagram.”
Grubbs apparently found success in his Instagram endeavors when he got the attention of some major companies.
“It started out organically and I ended up doing some commercial work,” he said, mentioning a Hyundai assignment at the New York Auto Show and at the Tournament of Champions in Maui. “I went to Hawaii and I went to New York. I did different Instagram work for their accounts. It went places that I never expected it to and never wanted to when I started. It was for only my personal benefit.”
Grubbs has also built a social network because of his Instagram connections that have been lifelong friends.
“Now I’ve got a small group of friends that I met through Instagram,” he said. “There’s one in Sydney (Australia), a couple in Phoenix, one in England, one in Tasmania and my sister in L.A. We all became close, tight-knit friends through Instagram. It’s a group of friends that I dearly care about that I never would have met if it hadn’t been for this silly little app that you send pictures.”