A Photography Copycat Isn’t The Sincerest Form of Flattery


There’s a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism…..

When it comes to social media, I Simply love sharing photographs from recent commercial branding projects, and connecting with my lovely followers. Sure, it helps get my brand out there, but mostly it’s about the fact I’m passionate about supporting my clients, sharing their stories and my passion for photography.

However, there is one big downside to being so visible and open and it’s something I suspect many creative professionals will understand all too well…

I’m talking about the point where imitation (which is an important part of any photographer’s development, mine included) crosses a line and becomes, well, outright plagiarism.

The imitation game.

No photographer develops their style in isolation. I could list hundreds of people who have inspired me over the years. I’ve studied methods, and even been fortunate to join personal heroes on a shoot. You better believe I watched their every move, to learn everything I could.

I have no issues with anyone studying my work and applying some of that information to what they do. It’s flattering, to say the least.

But where does the line between imitation and theft start?

I couldn’t say exactly, but over the years I’ve experienced:

  • My images being posted on Twitter and passed off as someone else’s work.
  • My Orwell Bridge image being displayed and used in a photography competition by a photography student
  • Artists taking concepts and ideas from my images, and reshooting them to look exactly the same. Some of this work has even appeared in prominent locations, and garnered significant revenue… for the copycat, that is.
  • Weirdly, in recent times, I’ve also spotted my blogs and social media content being repurposed, sometimes word for word, by other industry professionals.
  • Had my website completely copied by another photographer

How have I dealt with these situations? Sometimes, it’s Simply a case of accepting that a well-meaning stranger, perhaps a student, hadn’t realised what they were doing was wrong, and moving on.

Other times, where the theft is particularly brazen, and has been done by someone who should know better, it’s a case of speaking to the perpetrator directly and then, if it continues, letting my legal copyright dogs loose. Never an action I’d take lightly mind you but quite often the people who do this type of thing don’t take kindly to polite requests to give credit where credit is due (or they think it hasn’t been seen and they can get away with it).

Why plagiarism is bad for everyone…

It’s bad for me, of course. It’s hurtful to have your hard work and unique creative voice used by someone else, and time consuming in sorting, ultimately it affects income. Legal costs are also expensive.

However, it’s probably worse for clients. Imagine you commissioned a “professional photographer” to produce your website images, headshots, property shoot, or product catalogue, based on the strength of what turned out to be a plagiarised portfolio. You’re going to be sorely disappointed when you see the finished results. They might have copied the walk but they can’t deliver the talk…

And last but not least, I feel sad for the people who feel they have to copy work in the first place.

If they instead applied their time to, you know, honing their own craft, investing in their own voice, developing their own style and creating their own brand (something we photographers harp on about), they might stand a chance of actually getting the clients that they deserve.

Who knows, they might even get so good that they find other people start copying their work and passing it off as their own, and when that happens, you know you must be pretty good at what you do.

If you’re looking for a great commercial photographer, Simply ignore the copies, and get in touch with the original today.

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