I did a bit of a splurge for my birthday (which I tend to do every two years or so, with the last two being dogs for myself). Instead of a dog (which is not allowed by my landlord), I decided it was time for a camera upgrade. Trying to stay in budget led me to purchase a used camera at an awesome little shop called Focal Point Photography located in Dallas, OR (which I highly recommend checking out to those who are relatively local- it is certainly worth the drive down from Portland).
With the new-to-me camera in hand for a great price, and under a limited warranty for the next 6 months (something offered on all the new and used equipment Focal Point sells), I of course had to get a few lenses. I have ended up with three: a 50mm that I bought with the camera (as recommended as the best for both portraits and for shooting low light sports shots, such as flyball), a 75-300mm, and a 35-80mm. Then of course I had to make myself a great little camera bag to hold my awesome new-to-me camera, lenses, extra batteries, speedlight external flash, and any other little do-dads and whats-its I may acquire.
|I bought the bag itself, then added the brown and pink shoulder strap and the internal cushion dividers for the camera and lenses. I think it gives a much more unique look than a standard black, square camera bag.|
|Of course, the camera itself is stored in the blank middle space. I normally store it with the 50mm on, since that is the lens I use the most.|
It has been a bit of a learning process. As many will know, I have previously been shooting pictures with cheap used cameras that are in the "super zoom" class of point-and-shoots. Most recently was a used Kodak that I picked up for $30 on Craigslist. I sort of reached a wall, though, with what I could successfully shoot with that camera, and wanted to get something that would help reach beyond that. Another super zoom, newer, with more features and a larger mp would have helped. But there would still have been a wall to run into as to the capabilities of that camera. When I found out I could purchase a used, good condition DSLR for less than I would spend on a halfway decent point-and-shoot or super zoom, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just jump in. Obviously my current camera body is not a brand new shiny state of the art camera. I paid under $350 total for both the camera body and the 50mm lens, with two batteries, a memory card, and a few other nifty accessories thrown in. However, my lenses that I collect now will be able to be used with any upgrade of camera body that I purchase in the future, making them an investment rather than something that will soon be outdated.
|Taken with my 50mm in Sports mode, auto focus, the first week I had the camera|
All this is a somewhat long way of getting to the original point of this post. With the addition of my new camera, I have started following more photography blogs, facebook pages, and other photography related sites, many focusing on pet photography. Some of these sites are part of what inspired me to purchase a new camera to begin with. (One of my long-time favorites is Artis Photography in Seattle.) Others are new finds that pop up when I do searches (often about trying to do a specific something with this new and often baffling new camera).
I am sure that when I say these sites inspire me, I am not alone. The photos these people can take of dogs that show so much emotion and have such a dynamic, moving lay out make me see some of what I would like to be able to achieve someday. But along with this comes the issue of copying. Where is the line between being inspired by a photo or idea, and copying that photo or idea?
An example of a photographer whose work I enjoy a lot, and who I am pretty sure many in the pet blogging community are already familiar with, is Scruffy Dog Photography. The photographer manages to really capture each dog client in a very unique and interesting way. The photos are beautiful and I love scrolling through the blog to check out the highlights of various photo shoots. In particular, a photo of two corgis posed on a white, old fashioned fancy white chair set outside in nature made my hands itch to try something similar with my dogs. The trick of it is, how do you take a great idea like this and make it your own? I would never want to insult an artist whose work I admire this much by carelessly stealing away the idea. At the same time, though, I know Scruffy Dog is not the only one who has ever used a chair pose out in nature to create a portrait. There is no copyright on this idea. It is not a matter of legality so much as morality and courtesy.
A photographer has to work hard to come up with unique, interesting ideas. It is as much the creative ideas of the artist as the technical skill that sells a photographer's work. Someone can have amazing technical skills with a camera and editing programs but still not be successful if they lack that creativity and imagination for creating interesting and unique photo designs. For such a technical photographer to use the ideas other, more creative, people have come up with does seem very wrong. With the internet and social media making the world a small space, physical distance doesn't even matter much, as far as this goes, since a photographer's unique style can be seen around the world.
I'm going to confess, at this point, that I am not really sure where to draw the line between inspiration and copying. I think the line has to be placed a bit differently for those people who are professionals and selling the idea to their clients versus those people who only do photography for themselves, for free. I did read an interesting blog post about this issue. However, this post is pretty obviously geared toward those who are selling their photography.
I'm interested in hearing what you guys think. Where would you draw the line? Would you find it appropriate, irritating, or offensive if, having seen the photography shared on the Scruffy Dog blog, I posted a picture on here of one or both of my dogs posed on an ornate chair out in the Oregon wilderness? If you loved the idea of this photo, would you go ahead with the shoot? Would you make an effort to change some aspects on purpose to make it more different? For most of us, the chair, dogs, and setting would all be at least slightly different, of course, but how much variance from the original would be enough? How different would your answer to these questions be if it was a professional photographer interested in the idea, instead of a casual picture taker and blogger? Would it change your opinion on this if the photos were to be sold? If they were to be posted online (say on a blog or in a Flickr group)? In what ways, and why?
Anyone have any other input? A different perspective, a what-I-did story, or other reference points?