Just Copy It

Foto de Noelia Hernandez

Recently my friend from Bulgaria asked me to give her a few tips on how to make great pictures of her baby daughter. And she is not the only one. I get asked this question a lot. I sent her a link to my friend’s photography site and told her to just copy what she sees. Of course, it is not that simple, this is why I decided to write a post on this topic.

First of all, you do not need to go to a photography school to create great images. It is all about just making pictures. You learn while you do it. Here are a few tips I want to share with those interested in the subject.

1. Find pictures you like and plainly copy them. Select the background, surroundings, objects similar to the ones that are on the picture you like. Copy the light, the positioning of the person or object, the gestures, the expression. Copy as much as you can.

2. Find the right picture to copy. For example, if you are planning to make a picture of your boyfriend, find a picture of a man. Make sure the man has certain similarities with your boyfriend and that your boyfriend will feel comfortable with the pose, surroundings, light and the overall situation. The same goes for babies and for everything else.

3. Not all the “copies” will turn out great. Some of the shots you will make will look completely different from the original and will not be all that inspiring. And this is ok. Try it again. Change the original picture if needed. Learn to work with what you have. Shoot a lot. You will get it right after a few tries. I promise!

4. Pay attention to the details. For example, if the picture you are copying has a forest in the background and the person appears full length on the shoot, occupying approximately one forth of the image on the righthand side, please copy it all. Pay attention to what the person is holding in her hands. Look at the clothing, at the extras, at the hair. The better you are at noticing and copying the details, the better your pictures will be.

5. Expression is important. Make sure your subject thinks about what you want him to think when making the picture. The right expression makes the shot. We appear different when we think about different things.  Depending on the mood of the image you may ask your subject to think about a delicious meal, to imagine seeing someone he has been long in love with or to fantasize himself relaxing on the beach. Once you see the right expression in his eyes, then shoot. And, yes, make sure the eyes are in focus and given the priority in terms of sharpness.

6. Do not forget the 10.000 hours rule. It says that to be an expert in something you need to have spent 10.000 hours practicing it. Go ahead and shoot. Spend the hours copying the pictures you like and that inspire you. Use your kids, spouse, friends as the main subjects. They will love the experience. You will create some amazing memories for them. And yes, you will become a pro very soon.

7. Copying is creative. Trust me, it is. Just select great pictures to copy. After becoming good at copying you will see new angles that you can shoot from. You will discover new details in the scene. You will play with the focus. You will create art starting from a copy.

8. The last one: just remember it is ok to copy. Do not be afraid of it. It is actually great. This is how all of us learn a new skill. A skill that can later become a talent, a gift. Take any field and you will see that copying is the beginning of learning.

Take camera, select pictures you like and go for it. Copy. Learn. Create.

I would like to give credit to my friend Noelia for the pictures used in this post.

Barcelona, February 25th 2013

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3 thoughts on “Just Copy It

  1. I totally agree. When it comes to any kind of artistic expression there is this communal obsession with originality. In photography this is especially true because so many of us are self-taught and therefore we rely on books and the internet to learn. When we get our first camera we all want to be original, we want to have our own vision, to be different from the rest, often putting down everything that has been done before in that field.
    What we need to understand is that there is a process to creativity, you don’t just wake up one morning and start creating masterpieces out of the blue. And the best way to learn is to copy. To choose the style that attracts you for whatever reason and work out how it was made so you can try and replicate it. That’s how you learn at art schools, you copy the masters. Even in those copies you will be expressing something of yourself because they will never be exactly the same as the originals.

    • Noelia, your comment about originality is so true. Everybody wants to be original not realizing that originality comes from a mastered skill and ability to notice details that others don’t see. And it all comes from practicing a lot, from practicing without fear 🙂

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