As a new photographer where do you go for inspiration and for learning resources? You will probably find these two places intertwined. You will read books, watch videos, find your favorite new photographer and say “This is what I want my photographs to look like”, so you start to use their images as a reference. At what point will you become an authentic artist if you are copying other photographers, and is it really okay for you to copy other photographers?
Here is one quote to make you think:
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso.

Either way it seems bad, right? Well if you have read “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon, you will know that the author makes the point that no art is completely original. Artwork that has been created is based on an accumulation of ideas reconfigured. 

So to that point, here are a few things new photographers should consider.

1. As a beginner, copying is okay.

When you are learning, it is okay to out right copy. Have you ever taken an art class in highschool? I remember in our graphic design class, we were given a guide book with assignments. In order to learn InDesign, we were instructed to complete projects from the book and follow the instructions to reproduce the exact artwork. Each person had the same exact instructions, but no one piece was exactly the same. In the end, it was only a tool for us to learn the basics. We also had to recreate famous works of art in our painting or drawing classes. The same goes for photography! By reproducing others artwork, you learn to break down the technical skills used to make that photo. Can you recreate the composition, lighting, editing?
But when does copying no longer become “okay”? – Copying should only be used as a springboard to help you, as your own artist, create your own unique style. It is the gap between the artist you are copying and your reproduction where you will find your style.

2. Get inspired by other types of artists.

You’ve heard this one before – Copying is the highest form of flattery. — Did our mothers just tell us that so we wouldn’t be upset the with girl who was copying our sense of style? Possibly, but it is a good base to start from to develop your own style. There is a reason for tools like Pinterest, which they allow people to create boards to inspire action.

As a new photographer, you should look beyond the photographers you wish to shoot like. After you develop basic skill sets, I’d advise that you expose yourself to other artwork. Search online for artists of all types. Your art doesn’t directly need to be influenced by just photographers who shoot what you want to shoot. Check out different visual art forms, music, and even photography of different principles.

Photographers – Yes peep other photographers, and don’t just check out the photographers who shoot the same time of photography. Check out these types of photography to help you think outside of the box:
Other Visual Artists (Painters, Graphic Artists, Etc.) – Check out other art forms and think about how you can transform other concepts photographically.
Have you heard of Alexa Meade? She is a photographer slash painter who creates  “Living Art”. What shes does is paint objects and people to make them appear as if they are a 2-D painting and photographs them.
Talk about thinking outside of the box! – How can you use other concepts in your photography?
Aleaxa Meade Painting Model

3. Get inspired by life

Our subconscious accumulates all of our experiences to help us produce our own authentic artistic self. It is not only the people who inspire us, but our life experiences that influence how we see the world and how we produce art.

Art is highly personal, so no one person can become you, just be copying your techniques (and vise versa).

I like to think about art like genetics. Fundamentally, we all come in the same casing. We have a body with the same organs and functions – with nearly similar sequences of DNA. It is the factors that we encounter that determine how our genes are expressed.

The same goes for photography. You will have the gear, different lenses, and the general knowledge on how to use use these tools. BUT based on how you see the world, your mood, and your perspective, will your art be different than anyone elses.

Becoming An Authentic Artist

So as a new photographer, use these tips to help you jump start the development of your own style.

Yes, when you are learning, it is okay to derive inspiration from your favorite photographer. Just remember that you use copying only as a way to help you learn a new skill set. Do not have the intention of becoming THAT photographer by the subjects you photograph and they way you edit your images.

As you create more and more work, your own style will evolve. In order to think outside of the box, use other principles to challenge what you already know and how you already photograph. In the end, it is the accumulation of you personal experiences that help you become your own authentic artist.

Photographers, what do you think?

How have you developed your unique style?

Where do you find inspiration?

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