Something has been on my mind lately, and that’s the ethical line between inspiration and imitation, or to be more specific, plagiarism.
I think we can all agree that we live in a highly creative world, and that rarely do we reinvent the wheel. We consume what’s around us. Our creative process is influenced by many factors, intentional or not. We can’t walk around with blinders on, nor should we.
We’ve all heard the phrase “imitation is the highest form of flattery”, but I disagree. No-one enjoys being copied. It hurts to see something you’ve worked so hard on, put your time and effort and skill into, reappear as the work of someone else. It’s painful when something I’ve created is replicated or taken without my permission — part of me is taken with it, and it loses part of its value, uniqueness, and meaning. It’s disheartening when you see a peer trying to edge you out, when you’ve worked to build a genuine relationship with a client.
I’m very open about my processes and have been both an educator and mentor to other photographers. But experiences like having my work stolen, message and words blatantly copied, and clients poached, even after years in the industry, does sometimes make me feel hesitant to share.
What I know is that we can’t keep our creativity, work, or ideas locked away out of fear of being copied.
Need help finding inspiration, outside of what the competition is doing?
· Observe your surroundings — colors, textures, light — and learn what you’re drawn to.
· Instead of following peers, notice if your work becomes more original by following a brand outside of the field you’re in.
· Enjoy the process of creating.
· Remember that your work should reflect your passion and unique story (not someone else’s).
· If you do find yourself stepping into the grey area, dig deeper than surface level “admiration” and ask yourself why (creative rut? lack of confidence?), then challenge yourself to be different.
I’d love to learn your opinion on this topic. Share your input below, and let’s start a conversation!