Nobody likes copycats, and nobody would suggest you to copy other people’s photos. However, there are some situations when copying other photographers’ work can be a good thing. Pierre Lambert has thought of some cases when being a copycat isn’t all that bad. As a matter of fact, it can be good for your skills and career. So let’s dive in and see when it can be good to copy someone else’s work.
The first reason why you should copy other people’s photos is for the sakes of learning. As a matter of fact, many new photographers are encouraged to replicate their idols’ photos in order to learn the techniques and to hone their skills. I remember that my group and I at Photography 101 class had a task to copy Man Ray’s “Glass Tears.” Of course, it was merely an exercise to practice composition, focusing and light.
Only copy the work of others for the sake of learning. Don’t publish these photos because those are not your ideas. Other photographers will call out on you, and for a good reason.
2. Trying new things
Even if you’re not a new photographer, there will still be some techniques and genres you haven’t tried out so far. For example, if you’ve never tried underwater photography, you can replicate other photographers’ work to see if it works for you. And if it does, you’ll figure out your own style and create something new as you progress. In my opinion, this is similar to the previous point, only it could be more applicable to photographers who are already experienced.
I see two scenarios here. The first one is copying your own previous work, when a client may ask you to do same shots to something you’ve already done before. Personally, I’d always try to make the photos as unique as I can. So, I’d suggest you try and find a compromise with the client: make a similar concept, but still add something new to the photos. I might be wrong, but it’s just my two cents.
Another scenario is copying someone else’s work when the client asks you to. I don’t think you should do that. After all, they hired you for your style and not someone else’s. However, it can happen that you unknowingly create something similar to what has already been done before. Pierre gives a good example: taking photos near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. So many people take photos there! It’s considered one of the most romantic places on Earth, therefore, many couples get photographed there. Because of this, chances are your images might resemble someone else’s work. However, create the photos to suit your style and don’t knowingly copy what someone has shot before you.
As I mentioned, I had a task of copying someone else’s work when I was still a new photographer. Today, I still do it on occasion, but it’s mainly when I’m trying to learn something new in Photoshop. Personally, I think copying can be good for practice, but as long as you don’t publish that work. Or even worse, base your career on it.
What do you guys think? Should photographers copy someone else’s work, and when is it okay to do it?
[You SHOULD COPY OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS – Here’s WHY | Pierre T. Lambert]