To copy a Photogs style to get paid or not too - that is the question.

Bokeh_HunterBokeh_Hunter Posts: 234Member
edited October 2014 in General Discussions
To copy a Photogs style to get paid or not too - that is the question.

Situation: A client wanted me to produce photographs of her children like a well known family photographer who has a very distinct style. One that is instantly recognizable.

Issue: The photographer lives less than 60 miles away from me and would eventually see the photo posts.

Client's Reason: He is booked and charges much more than me. (Slightly disheartening in regards to my work, but the photog is really good.)

Thoughts?

Note i: Keep this discussion to BEING PAID to copy a style - no one cares about personal use or do it as a learning tool - we all do that.

Note ii: Why would they see it? The state I live in only has 1.5 million people in it total. On game days our stadium becomes the 3rd largest "city" in the state. Six degrees of separation is not needed, just a cousin, friend, and a neighbor.

The job is done, and I know what I answered to it, but I thought it would be an interesting topic to see where people's threshold for doing that would be and how far away someone should be.
Post edited by Bokeh_Hunter on
•Formerly TTJ•
«13

Comments

  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,293Moderator
    I was approached by a guy who wanted exactly that. It was a green screen event photography job and one that took me outside my comfort zone in just about every way possible but I went for it. As instructed I mimicked (and greatly improved on) the theme and style of the backgrounds that the people I got the job from used. I spent best part of a week in Photoshop creating those backgrounds and just when they were finished, he said he preferred my idea of changing the backgrounds so I had to start again. I was prepared to mimic the other companies work to get a foot in the door though.
    Always learning.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    I have tried ( for my own amusement) to mimic other peoples styles
    I have always failed, although sometimes, I have ended up with something completely different, which I quite like

    My answer would be No
    If you pay me to do a job, it will be done my way.
    I think I would try and find out why, they wanted the photograph taken that way and see if I could come with an alternative

    One exception. I very occasionally cover a wedding for friend, if he is unavailable. I will try and shoot the event in his style, not mine
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    People do it all the time. It is not unethical in any way. Go for it if you want. If you don't want to, don't.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited October 2014
    ...The question isn't so much should you copy a style, but can you copy a style. ...
    +1

    I find nothing being violated here Bokeh_Hunter. Seeing someone else work and then attempting to accomplish the same "theme" is a positive position to take and the "original" photographer should be proud that others find his or her work appealing enough that they would try to emulate it. Hence, the thousands of videos on YouTube.

    Personally, I would like to see both finished images.
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,200Member
    Also +1 to "can" you copy a style ... If you produce good work, yet it's not exactly like the style that the client hoped for, will he still like your work or will he not like it because it's not exact. That's a bit of unnecessary pressure on you. But would I take the job, absolutely, because there's good that could come of it. You'll probably learn things that you might not currently do and could probably gain future clients by doing so. Also you don't have a non-compete clause anywhere do you? The worse thing out of it is you might find yourself more booked than before.
    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,351Member
    edited October 2014
    Are we snobby "artists" who only produce our own unique art or are we serving a client to give them what they want? Vincent Van Gogh was a snobby artist who only produce his own unique style of art. I believe he sold only one or two paintings during his lifetime. Claude Monet did produce paintings in the French impressionist style but sold many during his lifetime achieving fame and fortune while still being considered a great artist. Mr. X____ was a street sketcher who made a living but is totally unknown today. He produced images which served a client at the time. Most of us would like to be a Van Gogh or Monet but we are really a Mr. X____.

    In the situation mentioned by TTJ, I would (try to) please the client and if the original artist ever complained to me about copying their style I would tell them that I urged the client to hire them instead but the client chose not to do so.
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    I cannot think of any "original" idea I have ever used for a photo. While not directly copying someone, I am certain almost everything I do has been done before and probably better. Let's see…. +5 Amber….mmmm
    Msmoto, mod
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    The first thing the person did that hired us for her wedding is send examples from another photographer in the style she liked. Asked if it was something we could do. Seems pretty common. However overall it didn't change my style of shooting throughout. It wasn't a hard style to copy..just more artsy black and white stuff.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • Bokeh_HunterBokeh_Hunter Posts: 234Member
    It is interesting how no one is commenting on local relationships with other photographers in the area. As I am fairly new around my area (photographing) I'm not biting at the bit to make enemies. They also do some 1 on 1 "training" sessions which I wouldn't mind taking as well. Maybe I am the only one who lives in a small enough community where relationships mean more than one job, and one that will not be lost due to turning down a request copies another work.

    I do know it is a bit unique where I live. I have lived in large cities where I wouldn't give it a second thought. But in this community, the "social acceptance" is very low, and in some cases business in unrelated industries will shun one off. The bad part is, if that does happen - you have no where else to go, literally. All the camera stores are owned by one company, there is only a handful of videographers, there are only 3 local printers in the state. It may sound weird to some, but around here the expectation is to respect everyone's business and their livelihood. If it is unique, then you really don't go there. The one's that don't respect that, they are just not in business for very long - everyone works to push them out. Like I said, no one is but a few steps away from each other. Friendly people here - until you do them wrong, then the gloves are off and you will get thrown in your place pretty quick.

    I wish I could post an example but they protect their images and from what I have heard, do go after people using them improperly. Part of my hesitation is how they are particular to their work being shared by others.

    These images just are not lighting or a "clean" photograph or just a "style." With practice one can easily copy Jill Greenberg, Emily Soto, or Joel Grimes "look". Their work is not like that at all. They really are more of an artistic impression overlayed on a photograph. It is not just a "filter" or plug-in, they have done something of their own design. It is a very distinctive color scheme and other PS actions that they have perfected. That is the aspect the client wanted copied - it was the true artistic aspects. That is where my hang up is at. Photo style, fine, I basically shoot the same way, but it was the aspects that can not be done in the camera where I draw a line at a point. Most of the work really is just great locations and shooting with a 85mm 1.2 lens throwing the backgrounds out. Looking at many of the images, I do believe they shoot two shots, one at a much higher f-stop and then one at 1.2 for the background and stacks them in post. DOF just doesn't match the people, the background and the EXIF many times. It does make me wish Nikon would do 1.2s though. (I seriously consider getting a Canon 5Diii and a 50 & a 85 1.2 just to achieve some shots.) That's just the technical part which anyone can copy and can learn from and use easily. The post work is where I would be difficult to a point.

    My take away is not so much about the copying an artistic look, but some of their shooting techniques and also creating your own style. It may not work for everything, but it can create a good draw of business.
    •Formerly TTJ•
  • Bokeh_HunterBokeh_Hunter Posts: 234Member
    edited October 2014
    Nope - that's just a whole bunch of photos around a subject with the focused locked and then stitched together to simulate a large format image. What this photog does is done with custom layers that they made. They were a graphic artist before a photographer.
    Post edited by Bokeh_Hunter on
    •Formerly TTJ•
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    Oh as for the reputation thing. Wouldn't bother me but then again I don't do it for a living. However I live in a city of a million people. But if it gets you work and people see you can do whatever it could be very beneficial...more so then some other photog not liking you.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member
    edited October 2014
    This is why, in my opinion, being a "professional" is so much more than simply taking money. Professionals work in a profession and professions have ethics and standards to which professionals in that profession adhere to. (phew)! In simplier terms: Professionals act professional.

    Let's reference back to the OP

    "Situation: A client wanted me to produce photographs of her children like a well known family photographer who has a very distinct style. One that is instantly recognizable.

    Is the client intending on deception? Does the client want a product that can be passed off as being from professional A but was made by professional B?

    If a customer approches a professional and asks "can you duplicate the style of another professional but do it cheaper?"; I feel that the professional should refuse for ethical reasons.

    On the other hand, if a customer approaches a professional and asks "this is the type of product I like, can you do something like this?"; I feel that ethically the professional should consider it.

    But is it as easy as that?

    Suppose the professional, we are talking about, is not a professional photographer but a professional auto mechanic, musician, lawyer or doctor (list continues)? Each one of these professionals has a unique way of performing their profession and many would argue that none of them are interchangable with others in their profession.

    How many of us shop around for the cheapest "professional"?

    Does the observation that photography is a form of art make this different? If yes, how and why?

    Art has been recognized as being unique to the artist. At what point does the creation of art by someone else become duplication instead of being simular? My opinion: when there is an intent of deception involved.

    This is why ethics can be complicated and why professionals struggle with ethics all the time.

    In the end, the standard adhearence for ethics and ethical behavour is up to the person and what feels proper to them. Which choice they make indicates whether they is or ain't a professional.
    Post edited by ThomasHorton on
    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,351Member
    My 2 cents as a lawyer and former resident of smaller towns in the Midwest. If this photographer has developed a special style that requires photoshop image stacking and color shifts the style really relies on post processing more than camera manipulation. You live in the Midwest, I did too for 25 years, and people do have a different expectation of respecting each other's work there. Based upon what you say about their technique and where you live, it would be best to avoid bad word of mouth going around about you (justified or not). People in the smaller Midwest communities don't steal property (including presumed intellectual property) from each other and if they do they are shunned. The large cities on the East and West coasts are very different. Copying intellectual property is seen as "fair game" and the burden is on the person who doesn't want others to copy his or her "unique look." They are expected to sue to protect their intellectual property (assuming they can prove it is unique). In the case you describe I don't think the photographer would be able to win such a suit since the "unique" style is produced by common camera and photoshop settings. For example, PitchBlack's style is to shoot at f1.4, even in broad daylight. He is not going to be able to sue to stop other photographers from shooting at f1.4 because that is a common setting if you just buy such a lens. He also does great post processing with commonly available software. Again, he will not be able to sue to protect the "look" produced. However, if he were to develop his own software he would be able to sue to keep other people from pirating that software. At what point some certain PS presets applied to all photos might be considered protected "intellectual property" is a very tough question. Probably 99% wouldn't be sufficient to be protected but someone may come up with something so creative and complex that it might be protected. I would never want to take a case of a PS user trying to keep others from finding and using the same PS settings they use because I think I would be wasting a lot of time and money. In your case my advice would be to "leave it alone" and tell the client you don't copy the work of other people but you can produce something similar for the client. They probably will be just as happy.
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,200Member
    edited October 2014
    Where is the line drawn though? If a well experienced photographer with a specific technique (not necessarily this one) offers teaching sessions and teaches you his/her style and you turn out doing it just as well or even better, how could they get angry at you for acquiring clients and producing work that they thought they should get credit for? The craft is now in your hands.

    Ultimately, I think you're going to have to have a (another) sit-down talk with this client and discuss all of this. If your conscious is going to drive you to migraines and nightmares then perhaps it's something to stay away from for your health.
    ** Could you possibly give us a few Google search terms that will lead us to some of this photographer's work?

    Edit: I just re-read your opening post: "The job is done, and I know what I answered to it ..." Will leave the above comments just for discussion.
    Post edited by Rx4Photo on
    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited October 2014
    It does make me wish Nikon would do 1.2s though. (I seriously consider getting a Canon 5Diii and a 50 & a 85 1.2 just to achieve some shots.)
    You should consider getting the 200 f/2 or 300 2.8 and save yourself the heartace. I'm keeping an eye on a good deal of the 200 f/2. ( Update: Found it...looking forward in playing with the 200 f/2 :D)

    @PitchBlack: It must be nice to have the ability to edit one's work in the manner you do. I must invest more time in my post processing skills. Hence, I'm going to mimicking your professional work...there I have stated my intentions. :P
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • Parke1953Parke1953 Posts: 456Member
    @Bokeh_Hunter Go and talk to the photog that she could not hire because he was booked. See what he has to say about it. Just a thought.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,351Member
    edited October 2014
    "You should consider getting the 200 f/2 or 300 2.8 and save yourself the heartache."

    Or maybe a 105DC f2 or a 135DC f2 for a lot less money?

    Or find a nearby location where you can increase the distance between subject and background for better bokeh?

    I did this 200mm self-portrait standing under a tree in my back yard with the background foliage far enough away to blur at f2.8. Just an example of achieving background blur through distance as much as through f-stop.

    DON_5869_pp
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    @donaldejose: Great job on the image...well done.

    My recommendation was in lieu of the Canon gear he was considering.

    Bokeh_Hunter is a very good shopper...he knows what to do and not to do. :P
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,351Member
    Golf007sd:

    Until I did self-portraits I never realized the left side of my face looks (maybe is?) partially paralyzed because my mouth doesn't lift in a small smile like it does on the right side. That left eye is also open more and the left cheek droops more. The things you notice when you start photographing yourself!

    I recognized the f1.2 lens as Cannon gear. My point was like yours, perhaps there are some other ways to get good smooth bokeh in the background with Nikon gear while keeping the whole face in focus by shooting at f2.8 or f2 in a situation where you can put a lot of distance between the subject and the background. Hence my examples of 105 and 135 f2 lenses which you can get for about $1,000 instead of spending much more for a 200mm f2 or 300mm f2.8. Nothing wrong with those two lenses, of course, if you have the bucks to spend. A post processing way to blur the background would be to use layers and a Gaussian blur on the background layer. However, the more you can achieve in camera the better. If the background is more washed out than the foreground (two shots shot at different f-stops) that effect may be emulated by shooting with the sun behind the subject to throw the face into relative darkness compared to the background and then bringing the face up with fill flash.

    Perhaps TTJ can post the person's website so we can see just what this unique look is and then some people here may be able to suggest ways to emulate it without needing to buy a Cannon body for a Cannon f1.2 lens. That just has to be a very expensive way to emulate the look.
  • manhattanboymanhattanboy Posts: 1,000Member
    Not quite @Bokeh_Hunter. You stitch a few photos together not to look like large format but to attain a depth of field that looks very narrow. You can get depths of field that look like f0.8 or less using the technique. It is as you described. I've used it with amazing results.The great thing is that the subject can be entirely in focus but the background compresses quickly. It almost looks like it's shot with an 800/5.6 @5.6 from about 50 yards away. This is not my shot, but from the flickr pool:
    image
    It must have been cold. This one has more clothes on then your normal shots :D
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,351Member
    edited October 2014
    Very nice shot. Depth of field is less than about a foot or 6 inches? What "reasonable" lens could you use to achieve this effect in camera?
    Perhaps those who have the following lenses can comment on how it would handle the above scene wide open.

    200mm f2? Could it produce the same effect, or close enough, for $5,000.00?

    300mm f2.8? Could it produce the same effect, or close enough, for $6,000.00?

    70-200mm f2.8? Could it produce the same effect, or close enough, for $2,500?

    135mm f2 DC? Could it produce the same effect, or close enough, for $1,000?

    85mm f1.4? Could it produce the same effect, or close enough, for $1,700?

    I am suggesting you can "copy" another photographers "look" without doing exactly as they do: at least to the satisfaction of a client. Then, if the other photographer ever complains you can explain how you actually used a different technique than the one you think they used. Sort of a compromise position.
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    'Style', Look and Feel', etc are not protectable intellectual property. There is a universe of case law on this issue.

    An image is protectable if copyrighted, and a technique or process is protectable only if it is new and unique enough to be patented, and a patent is issued or pending. If you were to claim that the work was someone else's to enhance its value, that may put you in violation of a trademark if they have one, or simple consumer fraud.

    None of this applies to the situation you described

    I respect your desire to be ethical, but I do not see an ethical or legal issue here.

    If someone feels offended, even though they have no legal claim, and acts in a small community to slander you or hamper your business, that is potentially actionable if it can be proven.

    I fully understand if you do not want to shoot or process in a 'style' not your own, but that is a personal issue for you, not one of infringement.
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • Bokeh_HunterBokeh_Hunter Posts: 234Member
    edited October 2014
    @ThomasHorton & @donaldejose both did a great job in describing the "professional predicament" and did so better than I did. The professional ethics, assumed ethics, proper ethics - pick almost any descriptor you want, plays a much larger roll and one (I feel) must realize one doesn't live on an island, but in a glass jar and eyes are on you, even if you don't see it.

    If I am taking donaldejose's legal description correctly, it is what OTHERs perceive is infringing on someone's work, not that copying it would win in court. Right or wrong, the perception of what is protected is what the court of public opinion will decide on, and that can be detrimental to one's reputation and business if you fall on the wrong side, on the wrong day. Ethical Standards change by community, region, country, and even down to school, city, etc. We all realize they are different in every community and we abide by them (how strict or loose they are) or face the repercussions. They are judgement calls each of us have to make.

    @PitchBlack - again, that is not what this photographer is doing. It is really simple technically. It is the overlay that is unique. I know it was random, but you are actually close to the "style" (color, contrast, a bit of the shallow DOF) of what they do. Now if you can imagine an artistic overlay on top of it. While scouting a location today, I took a few shots of a friend with this thread in mind. I'll piece together an image to show a close example to the "technical" part of it is. Ironically enough that you mention it, I have a shoot this weekend that I will probably use that brenizer technique but to achieve a slightly different effect though. ;) Not sure if it will work out though.
    Side note: There are actually custom backs for large/er format systems that you can attach your camera to and it does the "slide" movements so you can replicate that format very accurately from 2-9 shots. It is basically the brenizer technique but much more technical. I have always thought the would be fun to play with or do landscapes with. With people that would be difficult.

    @Golf007sd: I have always had my eye on a 105 ir 135 DC lens if one pops up for cheap enough. I'm not a big 200mm guy, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't pass on the lens if one was given to me. ;) The thing that 50s and 85s can do is show more background that is in "bokeh" - that is what I like. To have the larger field of view, perceived depth etc,. Kind of like the example Pitch Black but of course not to that extent. I know there is some actual physics behind why 1.2s and say a 200mm lens (even though have the same DOF) don't have the same effect. I believe the results reside/are a result of the circle of confusion numbers.

    There are some great and interesting thoughts.

    Just as a reminder, the job is done, and I'm completely at ease with my decision. For me personally, there was no debate in my head I knew my decision without a thought.
    Post edited by Bokeh_Hunter on
    •Formerly TTJ•
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,351Member
    Just a few comments: Ethics and the law are different.

    1. The law protects "intellectual property" but a person claiming their "intellectual property" has been infringed has the burden of proving that it really is a unique thing they created and not simply a set of standard lightroom sliders that are available to all who use the program. They didn't create those sliders; they just combined them in some way. An example is Nikon's AF system. Samyang has a great 85mm f1.4 lens for only $300 but it is MF. Why don't they just copy Nikon's AF system and add it to the lens to sell more? Because Nikon would sue them for infringing upon Nikon's intellectual property which Nikon created. Samyang has to either license the AF system from Nikon (which Nikon won't do) or they have to reverse engineer it in some way they can claim is their own creation.

    2. Ethics can be of two kinds: professional and personal. Professional ethical standards are sometimes written down for the profession to follow and sometimes a matter of internationally published scientific literature. For example there is an essentially world-wide agreement among doctors that certain conditions should be treated in certain ways. Ebola will be treated the same no matter where it is diagnosed in the world. To not follow that protocol will be considered unethical and malpractice. To some extent the law will enforce professional ethics but the law will not enforce the ethical standard that a doctor should treat his patient with courtesy. You cannot sue a doctor for his or her lack of courtesy as you can for his or her malpractice. However, personal ethics are very, very different. "Proper" ethical behavior will vary among cultures, among ethnic groups in the same country, among different regions in a country and even among different religions in the same small town. When it comes to personal ethics we should realize it is more a matter of personal and cultural behavioral preferences than it is a matter of abstract right and wrong. We should be tolerant of different people from different backgrounds and in different groups making different decisions as to what is "right and wrong" and we should see those choices as just different choices, not a right or wrong behavior according some universal standard of behavior.

    The issue TTJ describes is one of personal ethics in the context of his Midwest community. There is no legal or national standard answer to his issue. It is really a matter of personal behavior: what kind of person do you want to be?
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited October 2014
    ...... a well known family photographer who has a very distinct style. One that is instantly recognizable. ....... He is booked and charges much more than me... .
    Would he copy your style?

    I very much doubt it

    not for any legal or ethical reason

    simply it would compromise his reputation and his reputation is why he can charge more than you

    I going to guess you did the same for the same reason


    Post edited by sevencrossing on
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