Any creative will know that feeling, that feeling you get when you have put in so many hours of hard work, brainstorming and scenario’s together to get a unique product, photo shoot or design out there, just for it to be copied by a competitor a week or so later.  Even worse is when you see your own work passed off by someone else as his or her own!

The feeling of discovering something like that goes somewhat like this: You get hot, really hot {from the coffee that is spilling from your cup as your hand starts shaking}, then you feel it, that slow sinking feeling mixed with anger, as you realize that someone has stolen your idea, concept or basically copied you, or used your property as their own without any shame.

“They only steal from the best” or “it’s the greatest form of flattery” some will say to try and calm the situation, “take the high road, people will know they copied from you” or even “no idea is truly unique”, “you cant prove that they stole it” are all words that will definitely make the rounds when something like this occur.

However, sometimes you need to stand up for yourself. Sometimes staying quiet is the worse you can do, specially if someone is using your work to pass off as their own, or blatantly copied you in no uncertainty.

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In my line of work, you see copycats all the time. Concepts of shoots are being copied from others, unique and gorgeous locations are being chased after {and some, if they cant figure out the location on their own, will even go as far as contacting your clients behind your back in order to get it}, styles, posing and even editing style will be copied {or they will try their damn hardest}.

Staying unique and fresh is the challenge of any wedding and lifestyle photographer. You have to constantly go scouting, try new things and be creative. It sometimes takes a lot of energy to get an idea into motion. No wonder photographers are so touchy about their work. No wonder if we suspect someone copying our work we get all revved up and ready to attack.

I have personally experienced being copied a few times. Sometimes it is in small details, other times, it is just blatantly obvious. The issue however is, how do you prove it? How do you convince people that someone really is copying you, or is using your ideas as their own, without sounding like the photographer who is a bit paranoid or is “just imagining things”.

How do you go about asking a competitor about why their photograph looks exactly like yours? Setting, posing and time of day, {the only difference is the clients in the image}, without feeling weird about it?

In numerous occasions I had moments of anger and even disappointment when I realized what a competitor was up to. I have always tried to take the high road though. Like I said, knowing that they know, I know they copied from me was enough, or is it? Is it fair that someone use your ideas to gain clients?

I have yet to find the perfect way to handle a situation like this. It can get really sticky and downright nasty to go down a confrontational pathway.

My solution is to always stay ahead of the game! It’s crucial! Trying to always have fresh and new ideas will have you ahead of your competitors. Don’t allow copycats to influence you in a negative way and stay true to your style.

However, I will definitely confront someone immediately who is using my work and passing it off as his or her own. Name and shame as well as legal action will definitely be an option in this occasion. {Who does this anyway}?

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I surely hope though that people will start being creative on their own, start thinking of their own awesome ideas and stop being a nuisance to fellow creatives. After all it is fun to think and create something totally unique, and pulling it off successfully. By doing so you will understand exactly what it takes to be unique and fresh, but also how it feels the moment you realize someone is copying your ideas/concepts etc.

I do realize that artists experience a creative block sometimes, and need inspiration. There are so many things that you can do to get inspired though.

Its lovely to get inspired! I surely hope my work inspires many people and other artists. However there is a big difference between copying and being inspired by someone’s work.

If you are making yourself guilty of copying other photographers or creatives work, STOP IT! Chances are they already know what you are up to and you can be sure they are talking about it and might be considering legal action.

Build your name through your own ideas and style. It pays to be original!

How to legally register your work, and claim your copyright. If you are a South African citizen, here is more info: http://www.services.gov.za/services/content/Home/OrganisationServices/Intellectualproperty/Registeracopyright/en_ZA

For more on who & what exactly qualifies for copyright: http://www.ais.up.ac.za/copyright/policy.htm

Images Found on: Copyright Attorney, Shutterstock & Richard Harrington

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