Studying the work of other photographers can be a blessing and a curse. It can be inspiring, but you can go overboard. Here are some ideas on how to find the right balance.
When I was first getting started I spent countless hours on Facebook checking out other photographer's pages. Then along came Pinterest and I jumped on that bandwagon too. I stayed up too late and "pinned", "shared", and "liked" into the wee hours of the morning. It was a wonderland of inspiration. I had so many ideas to use I could never get through all of them. I printed out poses that I wanted to copy, sets to replicate, and props to buy or build. In the days that I was shooting anything and everything it was essential. I could never come up with enough material in my own. When I decided that newborns were my thing it helped me keep up with the trends. I watched many tutorials that were as valuable as expensive workshops.
For a while there was not an original idea in my head. Not one! It's hard to feel creative when everything you do comes from someone else. And I spent a lot of time feeling bad about myself. Truth is, there is always someone out there that is better than me. Either they have been at it longer, they have a stylist helping out, or whatever. When Facebook page surfing became torturous instead of inspiring I knew it was time to take a break.
Finding a Good Balance:
I will never say that it's not a good idea to study the work of others. People are producing amazing photographs all the time. I love seeing the results of other people's hard work and imagination. Often I get ideas of my own from looking at the work produced by other artist's. I am inspired by them. Sometimes I recognize my own ideas in someones work and realize that it really was a good idea.
The problem arises when we start to compare ourselves to others. We have a tendency to feel competitive or like we will never be as good. This spells death for the creative process. If you know your style and what you want to accomplish you should go do it. Don't find something similar online and copy it, just figure it out on your own and go do it. You might just end up being the inspiration that someone else needs.
I think that photographers need each other for inspiration and motivation. We need to see what's possible to inspire us to go further and work harder. I also think it's important for us to monitor ourselves. Don't become obsessed with what everyone else is doing. Give yourself a chance to think your own thoughts. You'll probably be surprised at what you come up with!
1000 Words Photography