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Artist Living

What Defines an Artist? A Writing Exercise for Photographers

Me Ra Koh

What defines an artist?  Is it natural talent?  Expensive education?  Affirmation from colleagues?  Or is what defines an artist something more?

When I first got into the writing industry, I learned a powerful warm up exercise. When you sit down to start writing, start by taking a passage from a book by your favorite author. Type or write the passage out to get your mind thinking in words, in the rhythm of words, in voice, in your voice. Every day, before I started my four, sometimes five hours of writing, I would start by writing a passage straight out of Madeleine L’engle’s book A Circle of Quiet.

I love Madeleine L’engle’s voice in her nonfiction books. I wanted to write just like her and what better way to emulate someone you admire than practice writing what they wrote. In the end, this writing exercise helped me find my own writing voice. You see, I didn’t know where to start as a beginning writer. Could I even call myself a writer since I didn’t have anything published? And yet, what better way to find a starting place than to practice copying someone I respected.

Yesterday I received a disheartening email. One of our former workshop attendees had been told by a competing photographer to get her own style and come up with her own original ideas for photo shoots (implying that she was stealing her ideas). This, among many other things, broke our friend’s heart. This competing photographer (if there even is such a thing called competition in the photography industry) accused her of copying her locations for family shoots and using her ideas for images. Brian and I know the former workshop attendee pretty well. She is an amazing photographer (whether she believes it or not) and has one of the most unique eyes. The way she frames images is tight and intimate. You are always drawn in. To have the wind get knocked out of her by a photographer whose work she respected is so sad. But what is even more sad is the mentality behind what this other woman was saying.

In essence, she was saying that a photographer must be their own artist. They must NOT copy other people’s ideas but take pride in being original. She seems to believe that these are the elements that determine a good artist from a fake one. What do you think?

Having been in the writing world, I was disillusioned in a healthy way from the beginning. One of the first things writers learn is that every story has been told. There is nothing new under the sun. So now that we don’t have to carry the pressures of thinking up a new story, go and write a great story!

It’s the same with photography. I would bet that every composition has been done. What makes the image unique is our subjects and the spirit of who they are. Yes, we grow in our ability to understand light, or post process our color tones, etc. But these things are all peripheral to the ability to capture the spirit of our subject.

I’m also convinced that one way to become a great photographer is to apply the writing exercise and copy photographers you admire. If you love Carolyn Jensen’s dreamy work, experiment with her photo tips and ideas. If you love Vivienne Gucwa’s street photography, try to recreate her shots when you are out and about. If you love the way (my) Brian captures emotion without showing the facial expressions, give it a try.

What Defines an Artist

What better place to start!

Copy those you respect and admire until you find your own eye, your own voice. I believe wholeheartedly that we all have our own specific eye. But here’s the thing: the journey to find our own eye–our own voice– is not an overnight journey. It requires courage and faith to believe in what we can’t yet see in ourselves, support from those around you and humility to start with others’ ideas until we see value in our own ideas.

One thing are Storyboard Artist, they visualizes stories and sketches frames of the story. Learn more about famous storyboards artist clients. What separates a true artist from a fake artist? Can I offer up some of my ideas? I would love to hear yours too!

I think a “true artist” is someone who hangs in there, against all odds because they can’t help but create with words, photos, paintings, songs. They don’t give up on the burning passion they can’t shake. And they fight for their dream, even when others criticize their attempts.


*Jump start the new year with Me Ra’s Restart Your Creativity course.  Be inspired, empowered and filled with hope.  Begins Jan. 20th.


  1. beck says:

    This post is so inspiring to me. The most destructive voice in my head, artistically, is the one that says my photos are ordinary, banal, unoriginal. Thank you for putting into words why “unoriginal” is okay! 🙂

    Also, I think the whole idea of “competition” among photographers is an interesting concept to explore… even though I *know* that my photos are about MY perspective and voice and everything else, it’s difficult not to compare and get touchy with what feels like DOZENS of new photography businesses popping up in my area…

    My idea of a true artist goes off of part of your definition, having to do with the compulsion to create, no matter what the medium… and there’s something, too, in the creating for creating’s sake: not as concerned necessarilly with the final product as with the process and the representation of an idea…

    Have you read Art and Fear? LOOK IT UP, it will change you. 🙂

  2. Anita says:

    Thank you so much for this post. As I’m post-processing my first wedding, I am really struggling with some of these very concepts. What is “my” style and what if it looks alot like someone elses. This in addition to the “these are no good, the bride is going to hate them, you are so lucky you did this for free” voices that are haunting me is making this a miserable task instead of an exciting one. But I keep trying to remind myself that it was my eye behind that lens at that unique moment in time and so it is my style whether it looks like someone elses or not. So thank you for the very important reminder.

    I completely agree with what you said about the compulsion to create. I would also add that a true artist has the courage to take on something new because of the exact compulsion and in spite of the nagging fears and doubts I believe all creatives have…and they have the confidence to know that even if their work “seems” like someone elses its is their own unique personal creation.

    I have also learned from my graphic design career that people like the “competing” photographer are often not angry with you but frightened of you and your abilities and what it means to them, so I think your workshop attendee should look at this as a compliment to her great talent and eye!

    Thanks again, Mera, for always saying what I seem to need to hear! And I love Madeline also! She like you…ROCKS!

  3. denise karis says:

    oh I have so much to say on this.

    My mother told me to study other photographers that I admire and really define WHAT it is i loved about their images. WHY I loved their photos. I did. I wanted to be a childrens photographer. So I started pouring through website after website. The first shot I came across was of a woman with baby blocks across her pregnant belly spelling, “Baby” HOW ORIGINAL!!! I thought – I’d never seen anything like it!

    THE NEXT PHOTOGRAPHER AND THE ONE AFTER THAT AND AFTER THAT ALL HAD THE SAME EXACT VARIATION – of the pregnant lady with the baby blocks. I realized it was a bit of a cliche… so who stole from who? Who was ‘the first’? The answer is: WHO CARES? If you see something youd like to try – TRY IT! BUT make it your own – take the essence of the shot and turn it into something that’s YOU so that you’re still using your imagination.

    My mother also told me: Try to copy jessica claire – then try to copy mera – then try to copy becker – then try to copy mike colon – now do something thats all your own.

    Apparently thats what her writing professor told them to do in college: Write in Alcotts style: now write something in Lawrence: now write something in Paine’s style: now write something in your own style.

    Sorry if this comment was long but I really do have a strong dislike for photographers who think that because THEY shot at the prettiest spot in their town, no one else can. It’s pretty pathetic and I suggest we post THAT mean photographers name and give her a bad rap 😛

  4. Brooke Snow says:

    I have two advanced college degrees in Music Composition (another artistic field), and how interesting it is that so many of the exercises and assignments I had involved studying other composers works and taking tools they used in their piece and creating my own. My piece was never the exact same piece as the master I was emulating, there may have been qualities that were similar, but my piece was still my own. How much I learned from those exercises! How much I was able to gain inspiration off of the basic element that they provided and spur ideas of my own! It was through those very exercises that I created all the colors of my palette. That I increased my vocabulary. That I added one more tool to the tool box for creating. The more works I studied the more those tools increased. I found out what I liked, what I didn’t like, what combination’s worked,… and really, I found that the combination’s were endless!

    I feel the same about photography. I love seeing other artists work. Often times I flag images and posts as “inspirational” and file it away to build off of those ideas for my own some time.

    I believe that the only artist to create “something out of nothing” was God himself. The rest of us have the great opportunity of combining and organizing all sorts of elements already in existence into our own mini creation.

  5. Thank you for posting this! As a new photographer I am always so hard on myself for searching for inspiration through others work. I feel like I should have my own vision. What I have found is that I have created my own style not through copying but through being inspired by others. I take what I like from one, add it to someone else I like, leave out what I do NOT like and voila – it’s ME! As far as locations go, that’s a hard one. There are so many photographers in the socal area that it’s hard to find a truly unique location! Everyone does the same locations, it’s what YOU do with that location that makes it unique.

    Hopefully your friend from the workshop understands that we are all in the same boat and isn’t too hard on herself. Remind her that many of our journeys follow the same paths but no one walks in our shoes.

  6. Jen Olsen says:

    Thank you so much for these inspiring words!! As I am just starting out in this photography world, this was a great inspirational yet informational words of wisdom to be read by all. One of these days, I will meet you and devour you with hugs. 🙂

  7. Ness says:

    I think the photographer who sent the email needs a wake up call. Seriously. Stealing her locations? What, she owns public places? Honestly, I think the photographer who sent that email is just plain afraid. When I started in this industry, (shooting equestrian competition shots), my very first day, I was approached by another photographer, who’d been on ‘the scene’ for awhile. We spent the next six hours, laughing our butts off at each other, and having a total blast. By the end of the day we had agreed that we must have been separated at birth because we agreed on everything, had a very similar unique senses of humour etc. My point is that the day could have gone down totally differently. She could have approached me with the idea that I was on ‘her turf’. I would probably have turned tail and run a mile. As it turned out, we decided to start consulting with one another. As in, comparing our schedules to see who should cover which show etc, and if we both went to the same one, we’d do different arenas. If there was only one arena, then we’d say c’est la vie and we’d enjoy the day in each others company. Both of us had clientele. They bought from both of us. Nobody missed out. The clients were happy with having more variety. Everybody won. Just recently I helped her out with her first wedding shoot (I’d already done my first), our relationship has been nothing but help, and help out. I wish all photographers would encourage one another like this, because heck – we’re all the same kind of people!

    Of course – we should also all remember that mimicry is often the sincerest form of flattery!

  8. Lora says:

    thanks for this post, love it! i feel the same as jen olsen about devouring you with hugs 🙂 you just don’t know how much your words mean to us “little people” lol 🙂

  9. steve d says:

    The story from your friend just… GAH! Drives me nuts for all the reasons you mentioned.

    I’ve been shooting “professionally” for a couple of years and a whole lot more before that and I still don’t feel like I have a style. Right now I’m seeing alot of Chase Jarvis in my pictures. That blew me away when someone mentioned it. I just love his style. I like alot of people’s styles but while I might take inspiration from them and remember photos of their’s I’ve seen when I’m in a similiar situation, it’s like you said. I may start with an identical picture to the one I saw, but from there it’s an excercise in adjusting it until I find what I’m after. In essence, making it my own.

    From the other side of the coin, I think if I just worked into getting the shot someone else was getting, I might have talent, but my creativity would be pretty low. I’ve been there too, but I had to move out of it to stay passionate.

    Finally, obviously we can’t “own” a style as completely our own because as you said, someone has done it before whether it’s Ansel Adams, Me Ra Koh or my neighbor. Creativity is a process no?

  10. Michelle says:

    Ok..this may get long.

    Through your blog and workshops, you have given women such a gift. You have told us that we can follow our passion and do something with it. I know for me, every time I pick up my camera, a surge of energy goes through me. When I sit down at my computer to view the images I have taken, I am often taken aback by what I captured.

    Before I attended your workshop last April, I had in my head that before I could call myself a photographer, I had to be perfect. I had to know everything there is to know about photography and every picture I took had to be perfect and every shoot I did could have no mistakes. It was not until all those things were checked off, that I could finally put myself out there as a photographer. I realized after attending the workshop, that was not the case. If I was taking photos that gave me and others a positive response and drew people in, then I was on my way. I knew though, that just because I could take great pictures of my kids, a shoot would not be the same. So..I could just keep practicing on my kids or I could take a huge risk and put myself out there. Thanks to MeRa and the other wonderful ladies at my workshop, I put myself out there and started doing shoots. Some shoots have been great and I walked away feeling like I could really do this, while others left me questioning if this is for me when EVERYTHING went wrong. I still wince when friends call me a photographer, I question if I am worthy of that term.

    Wikipedia defines an artist as: A person who creates art, a person who creates art as an occupation, a person who is skilled at some activity.
    Based on that definition, I would say that I, as well as all moms who feel that same passion for photography are indeed artists. And the difference between a true and a fake artist, who really gets to decide that? I think that can only come from the inside.
    It was probably almost 4 years ago when I stumbled across the blog of Tara Whitney. I had a film SLR at the time and was happily snapping away taking pictures of my kids. When I saw her work, I saw that there were other ways to take pictures of my kids that did not fall in the category of snapshot or posed “picture people” shots. What she was creating was art. It was because of her work that I went out and got my first DSLR and signed up for an online photography class. I know that many of my photography friends have been inspired by things Tara has done. I am not going to say that she started any of these things, but I am pretty sure I first saw the camera tilt from her, the kids in focus in front with the parents blurred out in back and mom and dad cut off with the kid’s faces showing. These are things that I may not have thought of, but I could immediately appreciate the creativity in these shots and of course, like many others have be inspired to try the same thing. I look at those types of pictures and see art. Some, including my husband, look at them and would rather see all of mom and dad in focus with no tilt. Anyone who spends some time looking at photography blogs and flickr is going to see these shots over and over again. If they live near a beach or a great historical landmark they are most likely going to see the same pose in the same location from a handful of photographers. So what..they are never going to be the same. Just as each photographer’s eye is unique, each family is unique.

  11. Jen says:

    I think the past year that I have ‘exponentially’ grown as a photographer…I have done so b/c I’ve practiced other people’s styles (wide angles, cropped in, low aperture shots, punch color, desaturate color, and I use some of the photo coaching techniques that I’ve learned from MeRa…to mention a few)…and in all of this, I am learning to find my style. I felt bad at first when I wanted to try someone’s technique…but my photo never came out the same…b/c it was MY photo.
    I’ve often wondered what MY style really is(I’d be curious if any of you have any feedback)…my business coach often asks me the same thing. I still can’t quite put my finger on it…b/c I’m still growing as an artist. I will continue to try new techniques…and always grow…which from time to time, may mean that I ‘borrow’ someone’s idea. It’s the only way to learn!


  12. Lora says:

    jen, you made me laugh, I’m with ya girl! 🙂 love reading what everyone has to say on this.

  13. Lynete says:

    I just have to add that I’m so inspired the words you’ve written MeRa and the ones of the comments above. I take other people’s pictures, I charge a fee, yet I still can’t bring myself to call myself a photographer. I have more photography websites bookmarked on my computer than I could count, and I browse through a few every day for inspiration and ideas, I use some of those ideas when I shoot and while I guess I knew that was ok, this post has just verified that for me… what I do is ok, I’m not copying, I’m not stealing, I’m being inspired by someone else’s work and making it my own with my camera and my eye!

  14. Tessa says:

    This blog post disturbed me. I feel so badly for the photographer who got chastised by a fellow colleague. I don’t know one photographer who doesn’t visit other photog’s blogs (my Google reader has at least a hundred) for inspiration. I love looking at others photos for not only that reason, but also because I truly love pictures and looking at things through someone else’s “eyes”. There’s also a drawback to doing this too, and that is the “I can never be as good as that photographer” thought that seems to creep into my mind. While we might look at someone else’s picture and are inspired by it, no two photographs are going to be exactly the same!

    Also, as someone who was just married almost two years ago, I often came to my photographer saying “I want that shot”! These photos were not just MY wedding photographers, but most were other photographers’ images that I saw in a magazine or on The Knot etc. I would just love the feel of a photo, and was hoping to inspire my photographer to capture a similar image. My clients sometimes do the same thing. Maybe they saw a maternity or newborn picture that they loved, and ask if I could do that same shot.

    And I agree with Michelle, “Just as each photographer’s eye is unique, each family is unique”.

  15. Addie says:

    “I do not think that I will ever reach a stage when I will say, ‘This is what I believe. Finished.’ What I believe is alive…open to growth.” — Madeline L’Engle
    I have this quote hanging on my “wall of strength” behind my desk. It is one of the quotes that I ran across one day and connected with. This wall is full of reminders of who I want to be, who i want to teach my children to be and how I want to leave my mark on this big ‘ol world. To your photographer friend who had the unkind comment made to her: Just remember to believe in yourself and your love of creating beautiful images. The truth lies in the focus.

  16. Kirsten says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with “borrowing” others ideas in order to learn…I think one of the best things about photography is that every photo is different and really how can you steal an idea?
    Often when I really love someone’s work I will try some of those ideas out and guess what…it usually ends up just inspiring something else and never turns out excatly the same.
    I encourage people all the time to take my ideas and run with them…there really can never be too many creative people in the world, IMO.
    When I was doing my self-portrait project I ran across many people who did shots that looked EXCATLY the same as mine…then I would check out the date taken and guess what…they had done them months or weeks before me! I really just stopped caring after that…humans are unique but sometimes even the most unique ideas have already been done…nuff said!

  17. Vanessa says:

    Here’s what I think is going on with the two photographers in your post: The one that told the other that she needs to be more original is just plain feeling threatened. I’d be 99% sure of it. Photographer #2 needs to put absolutely no stock in what she’s saying. I guarantee Photographer #1 has elements in her work that others could say weren’t original!
    Thanks for your insightful posts! I’ve enjoyed discovering your blog and your work lately!! Just starting up in the photography world…and what a wide, wide world it is…


  18. shawna says:

    Thanks for bringing this topic up, Me Ra. My dad is behind me 100% on bettering my photo skills. He will never tell me my style is wrong and has encouraged me from day one to study what I like and don’t like about other people’s photos. I may be a beginner, but turning a hobby into a passion and creative outlet make me an artist, regardless of how others may view the results.

    This post comes at a great time as I pore over pregnancy shoots to gather some skills before I attempt my first pregnancy session of my friend. I have a whole set bookmarked in my reader labeled Inspiration, and I was just sitting down at my computer to start going through them to define their undefinable allure so I could try to replicate it.

    As a writer, that is exactly what I have always done and swear by. From an unschooling perspective (or child-led learning), this is precisely how children learn. They copy what interests them and catches their eye, until they have mastered the skills enough to incorporate their own passions and evolve into their own style. Today I may copy Tara Whitney, tomorrow I may copy Audrey Wouldard, and some day someone may copy me for the style that has evolved. Everyone has someone to thank for inspiration, whether they admit to it or not.

    “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulder of giants.” Isaac Newton

  19. Wow… that really upsets me. I think that that photographer that said she was stealing/copying her should shove it… “copying” would be if she took a picture of her picture and then claim it as her own… give me a break!

    Daily I am inspired by other photographer’s ideas and images and sometimes I like to TRY recreate it. I think that is the biggest compliment someone could get. I hate when someone thinks they “own” a location or a pose. When someone asks me “how did you get that shot?”, “what settings do you use?”- I take that as a major compliment! I wouldn’t be a photographer if I wasn’t inspired by other peoples work! Something has to inspire you to become and continue to be a photographer!

    I ALWAYS visit my fellow workshop attendees blogs as well as Me Ra and Carey’s blog to feel inspired and touch base.
    One of my friends that I met at the workshop did my families photos a few weeks ago at Balboa Park and she gave me new ideas on locations within the park to take pictures and I used some of them with a family who I shot 2 weeks later.

    I’m sad to say it, but there are some a-holes in the photography world. Whether they don’t want to share their knowledge with others because they feel threatened or –this happens to me– they take and take from you and don’t reciprocate. But it is nice to know that there are many more who aren’t like that! And that is what makes me feel that there are still nice decent people in this world!

  20. Before getting into the photography business, I was an educator. I was thinking about the word artist and what it means to me. I often see the relationship between teaching and creating art as inspiring others. I only hope that my photography inspires others on some level. I am reminded of a beautiful and powerful poem that was written about teachers but also can be translated to artists as well. It says:
    “You are the molder of their dreams. The gods who build or crush their young beliefs or right or wrong. You are the spark that sets aflame the poet’s hand or lights of great singer’s song. You are the god of the young, the very young You are the guardian of a million dreams Your every smile or frown can heal or pierce the heart You are a hundred lives, a thousand lives. Yours the pride of loving them and the sorrow too. Your patient work, your touch make you the gods of hope Who fill their souls with dreams to make those dreams come true. -Clark Molenhoff-
    I guess when I read this, I remember what it was like to be a teacher and to inspire others to follow their dreams. I often feel that way in photography now. I receive calls from aspiring photographers or moms just like myself wanting to get into the business. I only hope I inspire them so they too can make their dreams come true. I think it feels good to contribute to others and encourage others to be the best person they can be. I only hope that someone would do the same for me.

  21. Sharon says:

    MeRa! I just love and adore you! You are priceless.

    I agree with everyone else…
    We should be uplifting and inspiring each other.

  22. Gwen says:

    Here is the thing, I think it is okay to be inspired by another photographer, (who isn’t?) but it is not okay to copy them exactly. It is not okay for a new photographer in the same city to go to the same location and pose a subject the same way and try to use the same settings to basically copy another photographer. (I’m not saying that this person did that, but from what I am reading in your post it sounds like you are saying that)That is not inspiration that is copyright infringement. And even the law would agree that unless the image is at least a certain percentage different it would be within the first photographers right to sue. I would hope that she/he wouldn’t and that they could come to an understanding but it is still something for your readers to be aware of.
    Do I think it’s okay to try and copy a master photographer as an exercise in creativity or to see if you can do it? Sure, as long as it not for money and you state where the inspiration came from. I think you could learn a lot from it. When I was in school our teacher would give us a photograph from different decades and we had to try and replicate the feeling the lighting gave each photograph. I learned a lot. But I never copied them exactly and I wasn’t using it for financial gain. I think this is what you did with your writing exercise, you learned from it but you wrote your book with your own voice, and your own combination of words.
    I just think it’s important for people to find their own creative voice if they want to make a living. Is there anything truly original? No, but is it okay to use that as an excuse to copy others? Again, no.

  23. abbey says:

    This post is so inspiring!!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the lens flare on that picture … I am also a huge fan of jessica claire! I am going to have to check out this book!!
    thank you me ra.. for always challenging us!!

    On another note… I randomly emailed a photographer from my hometown… an “up and coming gal whose work I LOVE” and told her I wanted to “pick her brain” about running a business etc… and she called me an hour later and we talked for about an hour! She gave me some fabulous ideas and was a pleasure to talk to! I am so thankful to have this positive experience after my negative one!!! She was so open and honest and left me with such a great feeling.

    Maybe being an artist is about “confidence”?!?!?!

  24. Bree says:

    This is bonkers. I doubt anyone is purposely trying to copy exactly what another photographer does. It’s all about inspiration!

    I have many friends in the “biz” and we all share ideas. I once “came up” with an idea to use an actual antique picture frame as a prop in my photos, and a couple of my friends went out and got one (I went with one of them to pick one out). I LOVED it! It is such a compliment. Later I came across a website from across the country and saw the same idea being used – I know they didn’t “steal” it from me (there’s NO way)! Great minds just happen to think alike I guess! 😉 HAHAHA!

    I take pictures in a small town (52,000 pop.). Everyone and their brother is a photographer, and there are VERY few great places (around town) to take pictures. So of course many photographers in the area are going to be usuing the same general locations… and seriously… there are only so many poses that are humanly possible. There are going to be lots of repeats or close similarities amongst our pictures. The only real important part of the picture is the focus, right!? And that’s always going to be different! Unless some weirdo out there is paying a million photographers (in the same area) to take her picture over and over again 🙂 Ewww…. how vain is she!? 🙂

    Let’s all just be friends and help eachother get to the top. There’s plenty to go around… don’t be stingy, and take someone’s “copying” as a HUGE compliment! 😉 They’ve obviously found your work inspiring enough to want to emulate it. That’s awesome, and speaks millions about your camera skills.

  25. Pam says:

    How sad that this photographer felt threatened and had to try to intimidate a fellow photographer. I run our photo club in my city and one of the things we pride ourselves on is the sharing atmosphere. I quess she’s never heard that we help ourselves by helping others. Just like you do, MeRa! I’m so glad that she had you to come to. I know you gave her encouragement, just as you do to all of us every day here on your blog.
    Thank you for your generosity.

  26. Maria says:

    I am just getting into the photography world, but I know that it is true that it very difficult to make something new in art. However, as an art therapist, I also know that all art is unique because of the expression of each soul in their art (just like how their handwriting is unique).

    The challenge with photography and expression is that the camera takes the same image under the same conditions of the camera settings, posing of the subject, etc. Yet, somehow, if you look through the pictures after a wedding between myself, my husband (Dan) and possibly a third shooter, you can always tell who took what pictures due to a slightly different take.

    This is my response to the person who claims another is stealing their work in photography… you must be insecure about your own creativity, skill or possibly your “turf”. Get used to it, because that is one thing definite about the art world, artists will keep making art and selling the same ideas until the end of time. Ultimately, we artists on earth only make art. God is the true creator and if anything is new in the world it must be through the hand of God or through the cooperation of an artist with God’s spirit (ie. Michaelangelo, Ansel Adams, …)

  27. de says:

    Gwen, sue? Really? REALLY? I took a photo that a photographer asked my client the location and then went and took the saaaammmmeee exact photo in an attempt to downright copy me. I didn’t feel threatened when I saw her copy, and I certainly didn’t feel like suing her… I’d probably get laughed at by every lawyer in town… “She stole my idea” boo hoo, the world has bigger problems than “She used ‘my tree’ and took a photo of someone smiling in front of it” GAH! People today!

  28. Jenn says:

    This post is so encouraging for me. I recently started to write a book and I’ve been having a hard time find my voice, the words that I want to say in a way that communicate what I’m saying and inspire people. Thank you for the sharing the writing exercise! As for the copying other’s work, as videographers, my husband and I take shots and techniques from our favorite film makers. For instance if my husband (Steve) wants to make an action movie, he will watch all of his favorite action films and takes things from Michael Bay (The Rock, Transformers), or Steven Spielberg (War of the Worlds, Minority Report) and although they are trade mark styles, he is able to find out what works for him. Also by pushing himself to try these different techniques he is able to expand his style and grow as a film maker. I mean how can we grow, if we don’t experience what came before us? As for your definition of a “true artist” I love it!

  29. Paco Perpén says:

    I think that a true artist is who loves what he/she does. No matter if he/she is a photographer, a welder, a cooker or a politician. To be a true artist is an attitude, not a skill; is the desire to improve, put your love in whatever you do not only to earn your living, but to make your world better and make other people happier

  30. […] dentist appointments, homeschool and a million other things. I didn’t have a chance to read your comments until after 10pm last night. As I sat and read your comments, I was inspired by all the powerful […]

  31. jeramy says:

    i know this is true with music. there are only SO MANY chords, and words and melodies. even if i copy something….it won’t be exactly the same as the original because of one key element….me.

    great post.

  32. Kelly says:

    Your words are comforting AND inspiring.
    You have such a wonderful, positive take on things.
    Thank you for sharing that with so many.
    It’s such a blessing! (I’m on board with the ‘devouring hugging’ thing as well!)
    I hope that the photographer you spoke of continues to create her own style despite negativity from a fellow photographer. How else do we learn if not for studying those that have gone first?

  33. Airika Pope says:

    What a beautiful post, Me Ra. That’s all I have to say. 🙂

  34. tracie says:

    and this is why you inspire so many. you inspire us to believe in ourselves and be who we want to be. you bring that out in so many ways. thank you me ra …

  35. Tina says:

    This post is so inspiring to me. I am in the process of completing a diploma in photography, and have come up again nasty comments from both people who don’t know me, and ones very close to me – and I am guilty of giving up on many things because of the comments of others. It’s been a struggle to keep at it, but I have been doing my best to remember that if the other person is not being constructive in their comments, they have more problems with themselves than they do with me.

  36. Jen Sulak says:

    yea i’ve found that really the best thing to do…is swallow it…and realize that helping other photographers with their businesses and vice versa really is more fulfilling than trying to be competitive. I think in some form, we are all given a sphere to work within. Instead of being upset with others, realize that hey…they weren’t meant to come to you! I’ve just worked through this myself…cause the more i meet folks…the more i realize our spheres start to overlap…but what can you do? Be true to yourself, develop your style and don’t be afraid to show it! People will be drawn to you…you shouldn’t have to wine, dine & schmooze someone to be your customer. Being yourself is the best attraction there is. There is freedom in that! Rock on fellow photo-graphers. 🙂

  37. Daisy Reyes says:

    Amen. Amen. Amen. I am inspired daily by other photographers (thank you bloglines!) and am in the process of defining my own style, but I love what you said about a true artist. Despite how busy life gets with the demands of providing or other activities, I always come back to photography and creating as my refuge, my release.

  38. Pat says:

    Great idea for getting into the flow of writing. I often have great ideas for blog articles but as soom as I’m in front of the keyboard my mind goes blank!

    Regarding your photographer friend this is simply rediculous. Posing, use of light etc. all comes fromt he great artists such as Rembrant. Of course locations will be reused by many photographers. When I shoot a wedding at a new location I will speak with the people running the venue and they will often give insights where photographers take pictures.

    Besides mimicing someones elses ideas is surely the greatest compliment! I think the other photographer has some serious confidence issues.

    PatB Photography

  39. Amazing content!! will come back again:D

  40. […] Me Ra Koh said on her blog several months ago about this very issue: “It’s the same with photography. […]

  41. Leanne says:

    I loved this encouraging post! I’m sad for the photographer that discouraged the other one. She should have been flattered!!! I would be!

    One thing that I’ve done is make a notebook of ideas for myself to use. I write notes about picture ideas that I really love, if I’m stuck, pull it out for ideas; I look it over before I go somewhere to shoot to plan and sometimes. What is great is that I’ve started adding my OWN pictures and ideas to my notebook for inspiration; and, just to remember what worked and what didn’t work.

    I also have lighting tips and arrangement ideas written or sketched out just as a backup because I don’t trust myself to go it alone, yet.

    I don’t look at it as copying someone but helping me gain insight and looking at things in ways I might not have before.

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