The Fine Line Between Learning and Copying!

I am one that constantly preaches (yes I realize get preachy sometimes) learning and gaining knowledge to improve your photography, your business and your life, but often there is a fine line that crossed between learning and simply copying.  Learning from someone is take the additional knowledge that you have obtained and combine it with all the knowledge you have, to take yourself to another level.  This is where greatness in a profession, business or life can be obtained.

Copying on the other hand is something that happens way too often in professional photography.  For years, Larry Peters has been the single biggest name in the education and teaching of Senior Portrait Photography.  When you go to a convention for seniors, you see the majority of photographer’s entering folios that look just like Larry’s or his son-in-law Brian’s.  Then you have the other truly fine photographers like Gary Box and Kirk Vulcan who have all studied with Larry Peter’s, but instead of just ‘copying’, they took what they learned, combined that without all their previous knowledge to take their photography to another, unique level.  You can see the influence of their teachers but their style and look are their own.

You can see this everywhere in our profession.  Younger photographers change camera brands just because an author, speaker, or teacher uses a certain kind of camera.  They think if they just duplicate everything the teacher is doing, they will duplicate their success as well.  It sounds good in their, but success goes to those who are unique in a creative profession, not to students who simply copy what the educators of the time are teaching.

This learning process, copying that is, homogenizes our profession, much like example of the look of Larry Peters is found everywhere in senior photography.  Larry shows an image with a new painted background from a certain background company and all of sudden, senior studios across the nation are using the same painted background.  This isn’t creativity or even creating unique photography, this is copying what you learn and hoping for the best.

The easiest way to not become a copier is to keep everything you have in your studio or in your outdoor areas the same.  Stick with the same equipment you use…keep everything the same.  Then once you learn new ways of photography, adapt those new ideas into what you are currently doing.  Make the equipment you currently have work to capture the essence of what you learned.  When you adapt knowledge into you current work, you take the unique qualities that you bring to photography to another level and don’t just become another copier of a successful photographer.


~ by jeffsmithbooks on March 2, 2011.

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