When is it copying someone else too much?

Posted on March 8, 2013

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Being a photographer, one of the concerns that I have with images I create is copying someone else or duplicating someone too much. How do I determine this? If you have ever created a “mood board” or “pinterest” board, you have the possibility of shooting something to the point that it is duplicating someone else’s concept rather than making it your own and creating something new. A mood board is a board of several images to give the feel of what you want to shoot. They were created by photographers who needed to show the feel, atmosphere, and attitude of the shoot they were doing to potential clients, stylists, and models. Being someone who is a photographer, I feel it is OK to use someone else’s concept but you have to make it your own. You should never just copy an idea.

How do you make it your own? You don’t copy the concept exactly. In the first stages, you find your own props, maybe change the lighting some with what you know will work, use your own models that you think will be best, use different outfits than what were in that shoot. The goal is to come up with something different but better than the original. You aren’t there to copy the posing and expressions and create the exact same thing that the images you base your shoot. There will be some images that are the same, but that isn’t your goal. The shoot should be to create something different and show something else that either the original team missed or didn’t capture. You want to say why you are better or why you are different. You don’t want to be like the pack of people who claim to be photographers and they all have the exact same types of images. The same applies to concepts. It is OK to take someone else’s, but make it uniquely your own.

If you are shooting the same model, same outfit, same location, and same poses… isn’t that copying a little too close? This is one of the reasons I hate shooting at meet and greets – it is a race to copy someone else’s work by shooting over their shoulder. Have you really created something new and different? I also had an assistant who didn’t ever shoot anything different – the way he shot things was always over the shoulder of someone else’s concepts. The object as a photographer is to always show how you are different from everyone else and why people can’t copy your style and technique. I am not sure why they never came up with anything on their own, but instead just shot images similar to the ones being shot. When they did something that was different, it always panned out that the concept came from the model or an art director. Never were the concepts this person shot their own. Yet, as the photographer, they were perfectly willing to say they were their own. This is wrong. If the ideas weren’t your own, you need to credit the people in the process who did the work. This is why you don’t copy someone else’s concept exactly and why you need to make it your own.

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