You’re nobody until somebody copies you, right? Maybe a client screen-grabbed your online gallery instead of buying digital files. Maybe a new photographer is offering to shoot weddings at a quarter of the price you charge. Maybe you noticed another photographer’s “about me” page looks suspiciously similar to yours. Maybe every time you shoot in a new location, your closest competitor seems to shoot in that exact same location the following week.
They say there’s nothing new under the sun, but that’s a misleading saying. There’s a big difference between drawing inspiration and flat-out copying. Imitation is supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery, but the truth is, you work hard for your art, and it stings when someone rips you off.
But here’s what no one wants to talk about: You may be supporting the copycat epidemic without even realizing it.
It may sound hard to believe. But…have you ever bought a $5 set of 10+ actions, or subscribed to a dirt-cheap all-you-can-download service, or used your Photoshop skills to recreate a pricey original design you loved?
When photography is your passion, those little design elements -- your logo, your branding, your marketing materials, your albums -- might feel like the boring nuts and bolts of your business. But for professional graphic designers, that’s our art.
And just like you stress out when someone copies your signature style or invades your secret shooting location, we stress out when we see knockoffs of the templates we worked hard to conceive and create.
We promise, it’s not just our wallets we worry about. As photographers, you can relate to this too -- as much as you hate losing clients to cheap competitors, doesn’t it also bother you to see someone trusting their family’s memories to subpar work? Likewise, when designers see knockoff templates and products originally created to help photographers’ businesses, we get a little bummed because we know you and your business deserve better.
Here are a few problems with bargain-basement templates and actions:
To put it in photography terms, cheap knock-off templates are the neon grass and oompa-loompa skin of the design industry. We see it everywhere, we know it’s wrong, and we can’t help but cringe.
But here’s the biggest problem: It encourages stealing.
You know how fired up you get when you scroll through PhotoStealers.com? That’s how our designers feel when we release a new product, only to see a discount site attempt to whip up an exact replica two days later. Or when a designer spends weeks testing a new set of actions, only to have someone tweak a step or two and sell it under a new name. Or when someone teaches an editing workshop, and a month later one of their students is offering a workshop on the same exact technique. We’ve even seen photographers demanding discount sites to replicate a more expensive design they saw elsewhere.
Like you, we try to take the high road and tell ourselves that the clients who don’t recognize quality aren’t our ideal clients anyway. But like you, we secretly worry that this is becoming the industry norm, because too many creative folks are becoming complacent about it.
Bottom line: If you want to be respected as an artist, you need to respect artists. If you cringe when someone crops out your watermark, don’t download copyrighted templates and actions from a share site. If you hate losing clients to undercutters, then go out of your way to make sure you have a unique brand and offer a superior custom experience. If you’ve ever put your foot down about someone screen grabbing your images, don’t use unlicensed music on your website. If it drives you nuts when someone retraces all your locations, don’t beg discount sites to copy a template you saw elsewhere.
Want to break the cycle? Here are a few suggestions:
From a very early age I loved taking pictures and looking at them in magazines and books, but the art of photography captured my heart when I was a teenager, on my first overseas trip to Wales. From that point, I began shooting with a little film SLR and having my friend model for me. In college I took some digital photography and visual communication courses as part of my communication studies major, and decided to pursue a career in photography. I became a legal business and took my first paid client at age 20, and it's been quite a journey and adventure over the past nine years.