As a photographer, we often pay close attention to the work of other photographers in order to better our own craft. Think about it for a second. Where would we be in regard to our own photography without the examples and influence of other people’s photography? If we were not allowed to look at any other photo, I would assume that the world of photography would be a very different place. Without inspiration, guides or mentors, every profession in the world would be very different, especially something as creative as photography and art. At the same time a balance needs to be found between using other peoples work as inspiration and distinguishing yourself by developing our own style. This is something I want to talk about in a different blog though – for now I want to concentrate on why it is such a good thing we look at each others work.
The beauty of being a (creative) human being on planet Earth right now is that we have so many ways to explore our creativity and express and share that with the rest of the world through social media. Art and photography are great ways to do this. But how would our photos look like if we couldn’t see other people’s photos? Is it even important to get inspiration from others in order to be inspired yourself? So many elements of a person’s photography is learned and deprived by the example of others. Their style is a combination of others’ styles and photos. We are all beginners at one point or another, and when getting started it is only normal to learn from watching others. Using their work as examples and goals help us to strive and work to improve our own work to achieve the same level of competency.
Art and photography are much like a language. All the words are there in the dictionary, but new words will be added every now and then. You as a starting photographer don’t have to come with all the words from the dictionary yourself, you just have to learn the existing ones. Now to go further, after you’ve learned all the necessary photography skills from the dictionary, so you know how to read and to write, do you have the creative ability to create your own style and even add words to the dictionary?
Besides our basic needs, many believe the ability to express oneself and their creativity is one that makes us human. Without it, almost all the aspects of our culture would not be what they are today. The combination of expressing yourself (being creative) and being inspired by others only leads to growth and improvement.
When you think about sharing photos with other people in relation to improving your craft, it is almost impossible to not think about this without the role constructive feedback plays into this. While most photographers are their own worst critics, it is important to share your work on places where constructive feedback can be given. Reality is that many people only like the positive words and not the negative ones. Great places for especially starting photographers are the more serious photography forums. You can also think about photo contests with anonymous judging on a website like Dpreview.com
Styles, composition techniques and locations are being copied easier than ever thanks to social media (and their popularity based algorithm). Do these developed skills and acquired knowledge get passed down to the next generations? Absolutely, we pass down learned skills and human development like every other form of human development. Techniques and elements like framing, lighting, and colors are influenced and adapted from generation to generation. New technologies are adapted into these passed down skills. Just ike a brick house, they are built upon the previous knowledge. Whether it is the Orthon effect, light bleed or manual focus stacking, elements of photography will only continue to adapt and grow thanks to our ability to share and learn from one another.
So should you be looking and get inspiration from other people’s photos? Ask yourself where your photography would be if you didn’t and…. where those other people’s photography would be If they didn’t.