Imitation is the sincerest form of improvement

Many photography experts will give the advice of not to copy or imitate the work of the masters or other photographers you admire. They will tell you to find your own style and forge your own way. This is true but what they don’t tell you is that this advice is for advanced photographers and professionals wanting to step up their game.

(11/28/16) The leaves on a liquidambar tree turn to their fall colors of red and orange at the Weber Point Events Center in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

For beginning and even intermediate level photographers, not only is imitation Ok, it can be a great tool to improve one’s skills. To copy another’s work you need to study it and thus learn about the the techniques use to create it.

(10/5/12) The setting sun glints off of the railroad tracks near Lincoln and Church Streets in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Lighting is very important to most photos. When considering light, you need to think about what direction it’s coming from and how it affects the quality and mood of the scene. The quality of light also can change the feeling as well. Is it harsh lighting with hard light and shadow or is it soft lighting that is more subtle.

(4/15/10) Alex Gray will graduate from Middle College High School with 6 AA degrees from Delta College. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Through composition one can bring attention to the subject of a photograph. By placing the subject, say, on the right or left or even in the center, can make an image more effective. You can also use other elements such as leading lines or framing to help the subject to stand out. The use of color and affect a photos composition. Having the subject on one color against a backdrop of an opposing or complimentary color can bring one’s eye to the subject.

(9/6/14) Delta College’s William Mafi dives for a pass with Santa Rosa Junior College’s Mikal Quintoriano during a football game at Delta’s Di Ricco Field in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Timing is an important thing for a photographer to learn. Split-second timing can be the difference between a smile or a frown, a perfect catch or an incomplete pass, a perfect picture or what could have been. When you study the masters you can see when the pressed the shutter button and then practice on your own to get the precise moment.

(12/14/10) Ginkgo leaves lay on the ground at the base of a tree on the San Joaquin Delta College campus in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

All these things and more are used by advanced photographers to create their works. By imitating them, you learn techniques that you can use in your own photos.

(9/16/14) A butterfly rests on a wild sunflower growing along Highway 4 near Roberts Road in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

If you keep at it, there will come a time that you will reach a certain level of proficiency. Then you can use the lessons you’ve learned through copying to find a photographic viewpoint of your own. So long as you don’t try to pass someone else’s work off as your own, imitation can be an effective way help you to improve your skills.

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