>Hi, today I got a very interesting response on my blog
. Here it is:
"There is always two sides to a coin.Copying keywords , like copying someone's idea , can come back to bite you in the rear end.Consider this. The same keywords are going to pull out that image you copy from. Buyers are not some silly dude with no brainers. They will still look for quality, and uniqueness and style of the photographer or artist.We all know what happens when we got a million and one copycats that flooded the sites with clones of one famous top seller in micro . I don't need to mention his name.The way I see it, you can fool someone with copying everyone here,but eventually, you will actually be drawing the buyers attention to the "genius" you plagiarized from. In other words, you shoot yourself in the foot, to quote my good friend Mani. - posted by Tan510jomast on January 22, 2010"
It gave me the idea to talk a bit about plagiarizm in photography. Does it really exist? Can something in photography really be plagiarized?
If we compare plagiarizm in photography with other arts we'll see some common points, but also some differences. For ex. As a journalist I had an experience when some of my articles were copied – one literally almost from word to word including the title - and this was plagiarizm for sure. In another case only some parts of text were copied and a bit altered. Here I couldn't accuse my colleague of anything, but, of course, the ones who read both the copy and the original could immediately see which sourse was the initial. Copies are always worse than the originals. If the copy is better than original it's already no more a copy - it's a better development of the same idea. So, plagiarizm in writing is the exact copying of someone's text or a fragment of text and signing it with your own name. A sort of copy-pasting.
But in photography you can not just copy-paste somebody's image. To copy somebody's photo (if you not just replace the author's name by your own) you must understand the lighting, collect the objects and create the whole scene by yourself. Then you take your own camera, your own lighting system, select the right settings, shoot and post-process with your own hands.
When I was in photography school we had some lessons on copyright. And we learned that in photography if you reproduce somebody else's image it can be considered borrowing, pastige or whatsoever – even a complement to the author of the initial idea, but not plagiarizm. So, you can't go to court if a copy of your picture is made this way. Many famous photograpgers copy each other for challenge and they are not ashamed to confess it. I read many times in interviews something like that: "Yes, I saw this picture and admires, desided to try if I'm capable to reproduce it. I'm proud with the result".
Copying someone else in photography can very fast increase the beginner's skills. It's a perfect training. First you copy then develop your own style. In fact, exact copying someone's picture is sometimes often more difficult than making an original shot. Especially automatically.
There is another point. We often see on stock (and not only on stock) pictures which seem to be cloned. If you look, let's say, at several amature family albums you will see almost the same pictures there, only faces change. Are these pictures all plagiarized? How? These people may not know each other! The answer is: people have stereotypes. At the beginning everyone makes more or less the same pictures: something in the middle, tourist on Red Square, my face with "glamorous" expression, my face with open mouth (oh, don't you think I'm like Merylinn Monroe here?), then comes myself in sepia, myself with higher contrast or blurred... The further you go, the more unique you become - if that's what you want it, of course. Learning the works of better photographers and copying them for educational purposes helps to develop better vision. It also helps to understand how to present this vision the best way tecnically. There can be another good thing about it: usually in the process of copying something unexpected happens - and these unexpected results can be the first seeds of uniquness.
Once I read in a book about dancing that to learn how to dance you should copy the teacher's motions exactly. Let's say, we have a teacher and two good students who copy him very well. We look at a teacher and one student – they do the same. We look at a teacher and another student - they do the same. But if we look at the two students repeating after a teacher – there is a visible difference.
Same situation in painting. If we compare good copies with a copied masterpiece – no difference. But if we compare good copies made by different artists between themselves we immediately see the individual manner of each. This sort of uniqueness can't be multiplied so easily, which means there is no reason to be frightened too much.
Of course, if you consider yourself an artist and want to make career in art, copying «geniuses» when you create your own portfolio (not for educational purposes) makes no sense. Absolutely. Because in art the one who comes first with an idea – wins. But in commercial photography there is a lot of copying. It's normal. Commercial photography is not art. Art is something which has no practical value and displays something new. And sometimes this «new» doesn't even need to be beautiful. Commercial photography is only in rare cases trully unique. It borrows from art, it borrows from itself. (This is very easy to understand after learning a bit the history of photography). Commercial photography has another function compare to art - it has practical value: to sell. People better buy familiar things. So being too unique in this sphere sometimes can seriously cut off your income. Many pictures which are «too fresh» will not even pass through editor's control. Another inportant moment is that you just can't create unique images every day in the amount which is enough to live on the income offered by, let's say, micro stocks. Even if you are the biggest genius of all geniuses. You will just burn out. If you really find micro-stock best-seller's images unique – look at them better. They are in most cases variations of more or less the same concepts, same compositions and same lighting scheems. Saying so I don't mean these people are not talented. They definetely are. Their talent is to sell, to know marketing, to have exellent technical skills, to be able to arrange the production best way, to have the energy for all this. Their high quality works and the amount of these works prove their exeptional talents. I respect them a lot. They can be examples of successful busyness people for everyone. But to call each their picture unique – sorry... It doesn't mean they don't keep something aside to make a sensation out of it later and it doesn't mean they never made anything unique which was sensation before, it doesn't meant they killed themselves as artists - no, it just means that mass production can not consist of unique things only, and these people are specialists in producing mass things. To say they never borrow from anyone – sorry… To say noone should borrow from them…. Almost eveone on micro-stock tryes and will try it in any case ;)
As for another part of the post which I quatted at the beginning, noone consideres buyer a full. The buyer will search and find exactly what he needs. The most relevant. The best of offered. From his point of view.
I don't know how other micro-stockers treat their own micro-stock activity. I can just say for myself. I treat microstock as a sort of photographic diary where I show the places I visit, some accidential pictures, both old and new, some pictures which I make for training, something typical which I do or something untypical... During the upload I usually like every picture, but later some become favourite, some I begin to hate. I know it's not very much business like. But I do business another way. Here I'm for fun and training. I like stock for the possibility to see what is being done in mass and what sells. For the possibility to copy also – for educational reasons. I don't consider anybody else's copied ideas my own and don't give them away for my own. I also don't care that some of the works I show can be copied. For me it's a compliment. I have some works though which I don't want to be copied by anyone. I prefer to collect them in my drawers and present alltogether as something special - at least at the moment I find them special. For this reason these works can't be found on stock or elsewhere in the internet. So, to fight with with plagiarizm is easy if you wish – don't spare ideas which you consider meaningful. Show them at the right time and in the right place. Be aware that if you show something really interesting someone else may want to have it. Show only what you want to share. Then you are never hurt by the ones who copy.