From the time I first started out in this industry and even today some 9-something years later, I hear people saying that you mustn’t copy; you must be completely individual and have your own unique style.
Now obviously I do agree with this however what I don’t agree with is how the same people that say this all too often take a sharp intake of breath at the mere mention of copying.
Now let me just say that I believe copying is VITAL if you’re to develop your own unique style, and that’s the key point here…your own unique style. It’s all well and good saying you must not copy but if that’s the case how do you develop your own style if you don’t have a starting point.
Let me just clarify what I mean by copying….
In the photography / retouching world I mean seeing work that you like, reverse engineering it and seeing if you can recreate the look, the pose, the colouring and so on. What I’m not talking about though is ripping-off another person’s work and producing an almost identical piece.
But on the subject of copying, as Austin Kleon will tell you in his superb book ‘Steal Like an Artist‘, copying is everywhere: the music industry, the movie industry…in fact ALL creative areas AND it’s all part of learning, developing and growing
I think it’s fair to say that anyone who plays the guitar, part of their learning processes was copying famous tracks. Geez, look how many cover versions of songs there are out there or rather how many songs have you heard that have a snippet from another track in them to create something completely new, and unique???
Oh and the movie industry, here’s just a few examples of actual movie posters where similar styles have been
Oh and another thing about copying…
We’re all individuals and no matter how hard we may try to copy exactly we never will be able to. We all have different tastes, likes, dislikes, life experiences and so on, and it’s these that ultimately shape our style.
Movie Director Francis Ford Coppola says it best when he says (and don’t quote me exactly here) “We want you to copy from us because you can’t. We want you to copy from us because that’s how you find your own voice, and once you have your own voice, others will copy from you…and that’s just how it is”
So my advice…go find something you really like. It might be a poster, a picture, a book cover, the look of a movie, a portrait, whatever…but look at it, try to figure out how it was done and go have fun trying to recreate your own version. You’ll learn a ton and have great fun in the process!
•Check out this video ‘Everything is Remix’ for more about copying and imitating…you’ll love it!