Will the Real YOU Please Stand Up…and Out!

Is it just me, or are you noticing it too? A slow homogenization of the photography (and video) worlds. More and more things are all starting to look alike. First it was websites. Website after website I come to in the photo world are looking remarkably similar. Here’s a funny story, at WPPI, luxury wedding photographer and marketing expert Kevin Swan did a branding consult in front of  group of photographers. Part of the consult involved comparing the subject’s website to four or five others. Four of the five websites all had the same website template. It was rather comical, and totally unplanned.

With the onset of template blogs, they are staring to look very similar too. And now I’m seeing promo videos that all have a very similar look and feel, from the editing, effects, even the things the subjects say.

In an era where there are a ton of books like Purple Cow and Fast Track Photographer that extol the importance and virtues of being unique, of setting yourself apart, why are there so many professionals going in the opposite direction? Settling on bland branding and in some cases, outright copying. Check out these two videos:

And now this:

The first video by Scarlett was posted seven months ago on Vimeo. The second one was posted three months ago. Setting aside the fact that both videos use copyrighted music for their promo video (which I strongly suggest you don’t do), when I was showed this second video I just cracked up. It is an extreme example of this homogenization I’ve been noticing. The same thing is happening in my industry. Some colleagues of mine have noticed their websites copied word for word and image by image by new comers; or their videos copied shot for shot.

Are professionals who are supposed to be creative that starved for creativity?

IT’S OKAY TO BE INSPIRED

I’m not saying it’s bad or wrong to be inspired by others. It’s only natural. There’s nothing really completely new under the sun. But, there’s a difference between being inspired by someone, and copying. Or being lazy in your branding and settling on a template that has no distinction  to it. If it’s the experience that you provide your clients (and potential clients) that will set you apart and justify your worth, you only hurt yourself in the long run by diluting your brand, or not having a unique brand. Get inspiration from those you admire, but then run with it in a different direction. Be different.

SOME SUGGESTIONS

I don’t just want to be a complainer, so here are some suggestions of what you could do:

  • Websites and blogs: I understand that these hard economic times may make it difficult for you to get a customized website or blog. So, if you’re going with a template due to cost, at least pick a template that every body and their mother hasn’t already used a million and one times. Many of these template companies have hundreds of templates. Go with one you’ve never seen used. Heck, even if you DON’T like it. Just being different will make it worthwhile.
  • Promo videos: If you see a promo video by a colleague that you really like, and you hire the company that made the video, tell them that you want your video to be shot and edited different than the other videos they’ve done. If you recognize the talent in the video producer, they probably have the talent to do something different, but it may take your vision and insistence to get there. Use YOUR creativity to work with the video producer to make YOUR video different than the other videos done by that producer.
  • Photography and videography: as a filmmaker, I’m inspired by other artists and by movies and by television. But I’m always looking for ways to do it different. Brett Culp is an extremely talented celebrity wedding videographer in Florida. I remember him saying one time in a presentation that he’ll go to a wedding and try to come up with ten different ways to shoot the wedding cake. Rather than fall into the same old routine, he forced himself to think outside the box. This is something you can apply to both photography and videography. As my friend Dane puts it, “get off automatic!”

GET PROFESSIONAL HELP

If you are in a position where you can afford it, get some professional help. Hire a pro branding agency to help you develop your website and/or other marketing collateral. Yes, it can be an expensive investment, but it IS an investment. One that can pay for itself in due time if you can truly set yourself apart. You small studios out there may want to give a call to Elevation, a southern California branding company that is offering a special program for pro photographers (and I’m sure they’d offer it to small videography studios too). For a limited time, you can get their Fortune 500 branding experience at a 30-40% discount. Check it out.

WHO ARE YOU?

So I ask again, “Will the real YOU please stand up. Or should I say, “please stand OUT.” Twenty-five years ago Apple Computer released a ground-breaking commercial during the Super Bowl to herald the release of the first Macintosh computer. Watch it below and ask yourself, “Who do you want to be in this video?” The mindless automatons marching in rows, colorless and bland? Or, do you want to be the hero with the sledge hammer making a statement and going against the grain?

http://www.youtube.com/v/OYecfV3ubP8&hl=en&fs=1

About these ads

64 Responses to “Will the Real YOU Please Stand Up…and Out!”

  1. I don’t know that woman is running with a heavy sledge hammer and all. Looks exhausting. The drones are just chillaxing watching TV. I think I’ll take the drone side on this one.

    Kidding of course.
    Great post Ron.

    Keep em coming.

  2. So true Ron. Very few are taking risks anymore. I just got done watching a few wedding videos online. And i swear, i am so sick of cinematic dramatic soundtracks, slow motion, magic bullet looks,
    and same old, same old camera moves and composition. It’s the “Stepford Video” syndrome! Take risks people. STAND OUT!!!!

  3. It seems intrinsically obvious to me that setting yourself apart from everyone else is key and paramount to brand recognition. To not become diluted in a sea of photographers or other visual artists, your brand and your name is greatly important.

    Having read both Purple Cow and Fastrack Photographer, I was reinforced with the ideals and business philosophies that I already believed in. Either of these books are a ‘how to’ manual. One has to be able to read between the lines and best apply that thinking to your brand and develop ways to be different, discover who you are and stand out from the rest.

    I love the Apple ads! Every time I watch them I get chills down my spine. Apple has certainly developed a strong brand by being different. Come to think of it, I can’t even think of any genius Microsoft ads off the top of my head. Microsoft is just diluted with all of the other personal computers in a sea of technology.

    Think different.

    [kc]

  4. edit:
    re: Purple Cow & Fastrack Photographer

    ‘Either of these books are NOT a ‘how to’ manual…’

  5. @pete Actually, your joke makes a valid point. It IS more work to stand out and be different. Thanks for commenting.

    @david Well, David, maybe Enya will come back in style. :) I know what you mean though.

  6. Great post, right on!

  7. in my old career in graphics, there was a saying: “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.”

    What that means is the mediocre ones copy, borrow, and imitate. The great ones take an inspiring idea and then they OWN it. They change it or tweak it or do whatever they need to do to make it belong to them.

    Good post.

    (p.s., to Ron, if you see my stuff “homogenizing”, please send me an email or punch me in the stomach.)

  8. I actually saw this and thought the same thing… I can’t see Apple’s 1984 without thinking about the Simpson’s Comic Book Guy remake.

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/46751/the-simpsons-steve-mobs

  9. I understand what you are trying to say but, there are only so many ways of what you may call styles or looks. There are so many angles, camera moves or editing styles that you can do with an image, moving or still. The only thing that in my opinion that becomes different is how these different elements become assimilated by the individual. Inspiration comes from looking at different sources outside of your subject sources and incorporate them into your own. Look to movies, TV shows, magazines, advertising for inspiration. See if there elements that work with the subject matter you are working with. What has happened is tools that we now use has allowed our creativity to flow more easily and has opened a larger canvas of options. This could and has been a mixed blessing. This presented problems in the wedding industry. An example of this that we tend to overshoot and worry about it post which in some cases severely takes away from the bottom line. In the end to be successful is to take the creative skills and insipration that has been aquired and work within a timeline and budget.

  10. I stopped looking at other photographer’s blogs awhile back for this very reason – it was making me start to be influenced too much by what I saw other people doing. Now I look at them sometimes, but only briefly. I try hard to be careful when I’m shooting not to copy others work, but if I am influenced by it I try to put my own spin on it. Trends happen for a reason.

    When it comes to blogs, it is harder. A lot harder. Because to some extent, the design principles of what make a good photography blog are pretty straightforward and basic, so it is easy for everyone to end up looking similar. Fortunately, I know my way around the code side of WP, so I can make tweaks to make mine unique.

    Ultimately, it is most important for YOU to stand out to your clients. The real you. Because that is what they are buying ultimately, you. Not your photos. You.

    I agree, when it all starts to blend together after awhile, it makes me craaaaaaaazy!

  11. Excellent post Ron. As a creative professional it is so important that we be just that : Creative AND Professional. True creativity is found when we are authentic in our point of view.

    I think it’s very bold of you to post those two copycat videos and commend you for doing so. I think what it also shows though is the narcissistic delusion that is growing in the wedding photography realm where everyone is trying to be a “rockstar photographer”. Often I wonder if some of these people are trying to start a modeling career because there are more photos and videos of them than anything else. It is an interesting phenomenon to see from the outside as it is self proclamation of fake celebrity as a form of branding. hmm… now maybe i’ve really just ruffled some feathers.

  12. @christine You raise an interesting point. Some of the most successful photographers and videographers I know are ones who rarely, if ever, frequent the social network scene. They just mind their own business, tending to their million dollar plus studios, while the rest of us (me included) are doing our best to “make a name” for ourselves. It’s just interesting. Obviously, blogging/twittering, etc, isn’t bad, but it’s just an interesting thought.

  13. So true Ron. Great post.
    I don’t think anyone will copy my promo video…
    http://vimeo.com/3167511

  14. Nice shameless plug, Jay but this one was made 11 years before yours:

  15. we spoke on this yesterday in michigan – i think a huge part of the issue/problem/plague is that so few of us actually take the time to question what we are doing. there are so many things, steps, tools, that are a part of our process and it is important, dare i say vital even, that we all question all of these things and what they mean to us and why they are there. when we don’t fully understand something, such as the tools we shoot with, why we would use this lens, this soundtrack, or that post production – it is easy to just pick up other things we see around us that are cool.

    if we start giving our work more of a motivation and a purpose, start questioning why we do things the way we do, it can be a very short path to finding your own style and developing a much deeper relationship with the art you create.

  16. Ron,

    This is a good post but I hope you’re not actually surprised by this. In any industry there are going to be people who blaze trails and innovate–then there will be people who walk in the same trail and copy.

    Do you really think this is new because of the web and digital photography? It might be more obvious, but I don’t think it’s new. You don’t think people copied Avedon and Liebowitz once they gained notoriety?

    Now on the website front (since that’s what I do), I think you make valid points but I’d like to counter with 2 points:
    1. Most photographers don’t realize that a lot templates can be customized quite a bit with different colors/textures/branding/etc. I could show you 2 sites based on the same design but look completely different. The key is getting photographers to actually learn how to use their site and break out of a simply black or white color mindset.

    2. Honestly, what does it matter if a wedding photographer in Atlanta has a similar site to a photographer in Seattle? Now, before you say “my clients are all over the world”, it doesn’t matter. So many people these days like to say “I’m a destination photographer” or “I travel worldwide”. That’s just another way people copy well-known destination photographers. Let’s face it–the average, hard-working wedding or portrait photographer serves a regional area. As long as your site looks good, is easy to navigate, and has good images, a similar site 3 states away doesn’t matter. The same bride isn’t going to look at both.

    When it comes to videos, you should have shown the video on engagingfilms.com and what a copy of Vincent Laforet’s “Reverie” it is.

    Great post. Keep it up.

  17. Beautifully penned Ron, I agree with a lot of the other responses especially K*’s regarding the shallowness of the “Rock star” photographer image.

  18. @erik dungan Erik my man, you are indeed a true feather ruffler. :) No, of course I’m not surrprised. In every industry you have leaders, followers, and out-right copy cats. TaxCut copies TurboTax. Quentin Tarantino copies Asian filmmakers. Everybody copies Apple. And I’m sure many, many photogs over the years copied Avedon and Leibovitz.

    With regards to the photog/videog in ATL copying the one in Seattle, the truth is, there are sooooo many templates out there (which, as you pointed out are NOT that changed that much), I hazard to guess you’ll find a number of competitors in your region with the same look and feel. But, even if you didn’t, the exercise of developing a truly unique brand has many more benefits than just setting yourself apart from local competition.

    I’d also point out, that with the internet the way it is, even a bride three states away may come across your site and the one somebody may be copying. I’ve had clients contact me asking if I could do a video like so and so from so and so location far away. And I’ve had videographers contact me asking for advice on promo videos that photogs in their area want them to do because those photogs so a video we made. So, just because a bride may not hire you regionally, doesn’t mean they are comparing your brand to someone three+ states away. How will it look if you’re brand is identical? (And by “you’re” I mean the proverbial “you.”

  19. Ron – BRAVO for posting this entry! Yes, I long ago noticed that the entire wedding industry is becoming one giant collective organism, with few distinctions between those of us who participate in it. The thing is, the industry, whether it wishes to or not, actually promotes exactly this sort of behavior.

    The photo industry has been blurring the lines between creativity and commerce for a long time, and I think that creates a lot of confusion on the part of people entering the industry who are feeling the pressure to succeed in this business. Uniqueness has become a marketing ploy, and not a matter of an individual’s personal integrity. In a business that thrives on pattern behavior (and consistently mistakes it for creativity) blogs and self-revelation and all forms of visual output become just another pattern to plug into. Photographer’s consistently sell their “secrets”, and the incentive behind the sales pitch is that other photographers can have a business, and a lifestyle that’s JUST LIKE THEIR OWN. It is of little wonder then that so many photographers see nothing wrong with wholeheartedly appropriating all of someone else’s hard work and inspiration and claiming it for their own. Let’s face it, nothing that’s truly sacred is for sale, but EVERYTHING seems to be for sale these days… Having said that, it’s still frustrating to see a hardworking photography like Scarlett so blatantly plagiarized!

    Also, we take ourselves FAR TOO SERIOUSLY as an industry. In the end, we are selling a product, be it ourselves or our services. To call such market-crafted offerings “art” is, in most cases, a form of conceit that sells well to the general public, but does little to promote true artistic interpretation. And, as always, those who trumpet the loudest about their artistic abilities, their inspired lives and their passion often have the least of all these attributes to offer… I often feel like the people they’re really trying to convince are themselves!!!

  20. This is so relevent you have no idea!! My photog friends and I have been talking extensively about this lately. We all do documentary professional pet photography (good, not ‘sears portrait studio’ type crap) and we also notice loads of newbies copying website text and web templates etc, etc. Styles being ripped off, unique compositions that are special to certain pet photographers being ripped, off, the list goes on and on.

    We believe that *if you are being paid for being creative, and you copy or outright steal, you are a fraud*! People who do that should never work in the photography industry and certainly should never call themselves ‘professionals’. Love this article.

  21. As usual Ron you post with an honest heart. Excellent.

  22. None of this really matters. Its great that everyone is so concerned about the “state of the industry”, however if you had any experience in other industries, you would realize EVERYONE is copying EVERYONE. It is no different in this business. There are no original ideas, styles, compositions etc. etc. Now having said that, I do not blatantly copy or steel anyone’s anything… I am however inspired and influenced by other photographers ideas and styles. These influences can certainly be seen in everything I am doing. At the end of the day, I care about two things, being of maximum service to my clients and making enough money to enjoy my life and continue to be of maximum service to my clients. THAT’S IT. I don’t care about what other photographers are doing, nor do I care about the state of the industry, because at the end of the day I have absolutely no control over that anyway.

  23. Just came back to read this post again. Love this comment you left Ron: “Some of the most successful photographers and videographers I know are ones who rarely, if ever, frequent the social network scene. They just mind their own business, tending to their million dollar plus studios, while the rest of us (me included) are doing our best to “make a name” for ourselves”.

    This is SO TRUE! I work in a studio shared with 3 crazy successful talented lifetime photographers, none of whom have blogs or social networks or 3,000 facebook friends. Why? Because they are TOO BUSY running their businesses. I also know a photographer who posts every day on her blog (won’t mention any names) and does everything she can to become a household name, and has a very narcissistic personality and is great at getting people to love her, yet the time she spends on facebook and her blog and all of the other social things she does online makes it crystal clear that she doesn’t have many clients or a thriving business. There is no way she would have TIME to, with all of the time she spends trying to build her status. She only has the *illusion* of success and a wannabee rockstar business. She has completely *bought into* the whole ‘I am photographer, therefore I am cool’ idea, hook, line and sinker.

    I agree with what Christine says about how it’s important for the photographer to just be who *they* are and stop looking to others for their ideas. It seems to me that our clients who purchase high quality photography are interesting enough on their own to provide all of the inspiration we need for our shoots, whether they be couples or families or weddings or dogs or even commercial photography. In fact, I would go out on a limb here and say that it’s not even necessary to ever look at another photographer’s work to become wildly successful! Making the excuse that there are ‘only so many things’ a photographer can do to be original is a creative copout. Feel free to quote me on that. :-)

    Oh, and one more thing. Just like you say in your reply to Erik, the internet is a giant equalizer. It effectively means that any photographer that has a blog or a website is ‘in the same geographical area’- the ‘geographical area’ of the world wide web. If I thought that nobody could ever see the stolen content on another photographer’s website that came from mine it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but the fact that we are both on the internet makes us on the same playing field.

    But ultimately what it boils down to is that copying, mimicking and stealing are not ok. On principle. Regardless of the reason. I think I learned that in 2nd grade.

    *ANY excuse or support for doing it is just a copout borne from a lack of creativity.*

    Those are my two cents, worth exactly what you paid for them. :-)

  24. @dmiller I think everyone knows and agrees that to some extent, everyone copies everyone. I even mention as much in this blog post. However, I think MOST of the “copying” that artists with INTEGRITY do is truly INSPIRED derivation, vs. the example I posted in this blog.

    Second, I don’t believe you when you say the only two things you care about are being of maximum service to your clients and making the money you need to maintain your lifestyle. If that were REALLY true, you wouldn’t have taken the time to comment on this post. Read it? Maybe. Comment on it though? You made the comment because you wanted to share with all the readers here your thoughts on this topic, and in so doing, HELP the industry with your input. If that is not the reason you commented, then I would guess the motives are more selfish and/or narcissistic.

    Lastly, I think it’s cool not to care what other photogs are doing. More power to you. All of us can often times get too caught up in what everyone else is doing. But, to not care about the “state of the industry”… To me, that’s sad. What if all the masters and teachers who came before you thought the same thing?

  25. Great topic Ron. I think all of us evolve from different influences and you made it quite clear that this is ok. The challenge we face is when you know a certain style sells or is generally accepted by your target market and then having enough guts or balls to push beyond what was once comfortable and safe. We attended “The Art of Cinema” workshop by Still Motion and I remembered something that Patrick Moreau talked about, which makes sense. Shoot about 20% the way YOU want to shoot it and then let that dictate how your style evolves. It’s then quite possible that the 20% becomes 80% of your style, which should always be in flux. Additionaly you have to create a certain level of trust with your client to give you creative control. You pick the brushes, the paint, etc. It’s ok to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening out there and to admire and be inspired by other work but to always check in with your work and make sure you are not falling prey to the equivalent of “groupthink”. There is SO much that defines ones style and I believe people don’t spend time searching for that and they end up taking the path of least resistance.

  26. Thanks Ron for pulling my head out. Your right, I realize I do care about the industry (anyone that says they don’t care, really does care). I also think I may have been a bit selfish as well in my motives for posting. After examining my knee jerk response to your blog post. I believe the REAL issue for me that came up was more of my own insecurity as a photographer and my uncertainty about who I really am and what I have to contribute. I may put on a mask to protect my livelihood, but deep inside I’m still very unsure of my own abilities and sometimes feel fraudulent.Your blog post reached in and shook some things up for me. Going forward I need to re-examine everything I am doing. I think I need to make sure I am being authentic. I also think I need to think before I speak. Thanks for waking me up!

  27. Great blog post, thanks for the nudge towards our authentic selves!

  28. @dmiller Thanks for your openess and vulnerability. I hope it brings you some solace to know that just about everybody puts on some kind of mask to protect their livelihood. None of us knows everyone’s story. Those superstars of the industry we all put on a pedestal all have their own issues. The grass is never greener. Perhaps if you know that even the best of the industry has hard times, gets scared at night, and wonders about THEIR own work, it will make you (and everyone else) less hard on yourself. The personal conversations I’ve had on F-Stop Beyond (fstopbeyond.tv) has really helped open my eyes to that.

  29. Interesting that Scarlett is a direct knock off of Jessica Claire and this is a topic about her being copied by someone else. LOL What a joke.

    Lack of creativity is seriously an epidemic in this industry.

  30. Ron,

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the copy of Vincent LaForet’s Reverie video here: http://www.engagingfilms.com

  31. Using Scarlett and JC’s name in the same sentence is a joke.

    Scarlett isn’t fit to be a watered down version of JC, much less a direct knockoff.

    That’s absurd!

  32. I think you can make a point about being unique without calling someone out publicly and mocking their promo video. Who knows if Lauren Harris did it intentionally, or if she just saw Scarlett’s website once and it subconsciously influenced how she designed her own site. Maybe she hired someone to do it, and they copied Scarlett. Maybe it’s just a big crazy coincidence. Regardless, it’s kind of unprofessional and just plain mean to mock someone openly like this.

    I think you give great advice and make a really good point about being unique, but couldn’t you have done that without picking on Lauren?

  33. Never mind being original, many of these self appointed “rockstar photographers” could first use a class in basic composition, lighting and exposure. Blowing out highlights, oversaturating an image and a pretty girl does not mean you are a good photographer. And most of them talk more about their boyfriends and their shoes than the business of photography.

    The direction this industry is taking is mind numbing. It’s now beyond mom with a camera, now it’s turned into Barbie with a camera.

  34. Hi. I was in Scarlett’s blog. I love her blog but like I say to her… I don’t think is nice for you to blog about it…

    Have anyone here can really say that you had never copy someone else’s work, looks etc….

    I am kind of mad because something to me happened when I was starting out. A girl once wrote me about the logo and name being the same as her. Well. when I went to her site, yes it was almost like her, but not the same. I wrote her back and told her that I paid a friend to do my logo…and I offer her to show her proof. I try to change it, but at the last minute decided to keep it because I did nothing wrong and I didn’t have the money to pay for a new logo or a new name ;( — She blog about it and everyone hated me .. but they didn’t know my side of the story.

    I think what you should do, is just let Scarlett know about it and she can just give her a call … YOu didn’t have to blog about it!!! Now, if you go to her blog there is a link to the girl’s blog…. I just don’t think that is nice…

    Like I say, I am sure you had never ever copy some one’s work… ;)

  35. @stacy and fabu-losity – I address some of this in the comment you made in the subsequent post about this topic.

    First, I’m not mocking anyone. All I did was post it as an example of what this topic is about. I didn’t make fun of her. I didn’t say she was a bad person. Frankly, in the original post, I didn’t even say she copied. I just listed the dates the two videos were posted. I DID mention that seeing Lauren’s video for the first time made me crack up. If that’s what you’re referring to as mocking, I sincerely apologize.

    Second, if someone does something in the public eye, they called themselves out.

    Third, there is a journalistic aspect to this blog. That is, I see what’s happening in the industries I cover, and I write about them. As long as I keep to the facts, my journalistic integrity is in tact. Fact. The video is obviously a copy (you can’t accidently look at someone’s website then make a video that is shot for shot so close to the other person).

    Last, one can’t use the excuse “The person who made the video did it. I didn’t know it was a copy.” You are responsible for whatever you put out there that has your name on it. And if that WAS the case and she really didn’t know, well, she knows now. So, we can see how long the video stays up.

  36. Why did you not contact Lauren and ask her if she copied knowingly, or if it was a case of hiring a bad branding team, or if it was all a huge crazy coincidence? You mocked (saying you “cracked up”) and criticized and accused (by saying the video is “obviously a copy”) a girl who you don’t know, who has never done anything to you personally, just to prove your point. You painted her as a copycat without even talking to her. Where’s the journalistic integrity in that?

    You claim that you’re keeping to the facts, then immediately state that her video is “obviously a copy.” That’s NOT a fact, that’s your opinion. The only way it could be a fact is if the person who shot and edited the video admits that they were intentionally copying. Since no one involved in this has bothered to get their side of the story, it’s basically all just gossip and speculation for now.

  37. The fact of the matter is, there are FAR too many photographers out there. With digital cameras being affordable everyone with a Rebel thinks they are or can be professional. The people who are making a good living from this profession are flaunting it calling themselves “rockstars” and things of that nature. So when newbie Joe sees the rockstar and says I want that kind of money it’s Monkey see Monkey do. The art of photography is slowly becoming lost with all the people thinking have camera will shoot for money.

    Yes it’s imperative to have a style that is YOU, yes it’s also equally imperative to have an online pretense to be seen. All those things are true, but when you flaunt your “rockstar-dom” in everyone’s faces and saying this is what it’s like to live an abfab life, what do you expect. People want that, they want to fly out to Vegas and be recognized…. so if they do this this way… then that must be what makes a rockstar photog I’ll do that…

    I dunno… I personally think that this is all a fad, I think that all this will get weeded out over time. Digital has made it easy as pie to be a “photographer” photoshop has also made it easy to make your images look acceptable…. so either the pros and people that love it will step up their game and the wanna be’s won’t be able to touch them cause they never try to grow or they will grow and see the error of their ways and step up their game as well. Shoot I know a girl that shoots in Auto and uses Picasa to edit!

    I think it’s all about perception, if you flaunt your success there WILL be people out there that think your way is THE way and try to copy it…

  38. FYI, my post to Scarletts Blog.. Felt the need to post it here as well!

    WOW! I had no idea that having the same layout as another photographer would be such a big deal in this industry. You were def an inspiration to me and i love your style, but I never meant it to make it look as if I wanted to be the next “Scalett Lillian”. Yes, i have the same layout, who doesnt have the same layout in this industry? It was either create a wordpress, bludomain, or blogspot that is exactly like every other photographer(with a different logo and color scheme) or take a layout that I thoroughly loved and make it into my own. I had know idea that it would make blog headlines like it has. I truly just wanted a blog with an incredible layout and loved yours. Im sorry, but my job is photography. Im not an expert at graphic design and making pretty blogs. I hired someone to create my blog for me using this layout because i thought that it would be attractive to my clients. I have no intention in trying to compete with you in this industry or to become the next Scarlett Lillian. I have had great success being Lauren Harris (a photographer) in my own community and dont care to be a superstar amongst other photographers in this industry. If people want to follow my blog because they love my work and like me as a person, then great. But Im not trying to take anyones name or be anyone but myself. You could actually see that if you had a conversation with me, or took the chance to know my heart! I had no idea that this industry was so petty and that people could be so unprofessional about things like this. We are in completly different states. My clients dont know who you are and yours have no idea who i am. As for this industry, I thought people enjoyed looking at photographers work. I didnt think that having the same LAYOUT (as long as you arent stealing their brand, colors, logo, etc) as somone else was such a problem. You have an awesome layout! I fell in love with it when i saw it and thought it would fit my brand perfectly! I feel like my brand is unique- nothing like yours! So, do I change it at this point because certain people in the industry are now perceiving me as a copycat, or do I leave it the way it is hoping that everyone in the industry will change their opinion of me and understand that it is just a layout, that i havent COPIED your brand?? I am Lauren Harris, and my work is completely different than Scarlett Lillian. My blog LAYOUT is the same yes, but seriously, everyone’s blog layout is the same. Just think about all of the photographers who have a BLU DOMAIN, WordPress, or Blogspot site. They are ALL identical layouts, with different logos and colors. And this is exactly what mine is. My blog is the same as one out of two people in this industry, potentially more, with a completely different style/brand! How can this be such a problem or such a big deal? I am unique in my own way. My work, my logo, my color scheme, my story, my personality, my style, etc… I respect you as an artist Scarlett, and I hope that you can do the same. Im sorry if I have caused you any frustration, but my heart is in the right place. I really just loved this layout and thought it would be great to have verses having a wordperss that is exactly like everyone else in my communtiy and around the globe.. As for all of you photographers, Im NOT trying to be anyone but myself. This is a blog. A simple LAYOUT! I have taken a layout and placed my “brand” in it. Hope that you can all get to know me as me and not think that i am trying to BE Scarlett Lillian! Your great girl, but I love my style and my brand! That is why I do what I do for a career! I have had a successful business in Arkansas for almost 3 years. I am actually in the process of opening a studio next month. SO EXCITING!! I have never been a photographer that has wanted to be in the public “eye” in this industry. I guess I am now! I just wish it wasnt for this reason. I had no idea who Scarlett Lillian was until just a few months ago when my web designer introduced me to your blog! We were trying to come up with ideas for the new layout and I just didnt like anything as much as this one! Had no idea that it would be an issue to have the same layout as another photographer being that every website I went to was the same other than the logo and colors. As for the video, just about every photographer in this industry has a video of them shooting for their clients to get a feel of their personality and style. That video was made over a year ago before I even knew of you. Your video was made for a Spend the Day with Scarlett. My video was made for clients as an intro to my site. The only similarities that they have are the song and the flashing images! I added in the song after seeing yours because i thought it would go perfect with my video being that it said “click click flash”. I have come across a few websites and videos with that exact song playing as well as videos that have flashing images and footage of the photographer in action. Again it is a song, we can choose whatever song we want for our sites. Doesnt mean that we are trying to be another photographer in the industry. Does it make it wrong for us to all have videos using the same sort of idea? NO! We as photographers take ideas from others and use them because we have been inspired. Not to steal, or try to be them. It doesnt mean that we arent creative on our own. As long as we arent blatenly copying logos, colors, brands, etc, I cant see the harm in it. It happens everday whether you want to admit it or not. It is ridiculous for any photographer to acuse me of trying to be someone other than myself because of a layout and a song on a video. There are millions of photographers in this world. Many that are going to have the same qualitiess. Lets face it, we all look at photographers blogs from time to time to get ideas and to make sure that we are “in sync” with the new trends in the industry. I think enough has been said! If you want to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me. I just feel like posting huge blogs for everyone in the industry to see is so unprofessional in situations like this.

    Wanted everyone to know what my thoughts are on this whole situation. I wasnt even going to comment on this because i dont have time for it, and i think that it is just hurtful what you and scarlett both have done in this matter. Either of you could have had a heart and contacted me first before exploiting me to the public like this. How unprofessional. Especially doing it to someone that is truly a good person and had no intention of trying to mock or be like someone in this industry.

  39. So basically to sum up the post by Lauren; Lauren admits above that she indeed copied Scarlett’s blog design as well as her video and set out to do so because she doesn’t have time to think, she’s a photographer not a designer…

    PS, ever heard of paragraphs?

  40. Go Lauren….

    So what??? She got a few idea’s from Scarlett’s blog… I am sure ALL OF US before getting a blog, we were looking around to get ideas from others ;) — I really believe that Scarlett should had contact Lauren before posting it on her blog with a link to her blog… I taught she was a Christian. Anyway, just want to let you all know that I wrote on Scarlett’s blog what I taught about this and I also told her that have pink stripes on my site … and guess what, I didn’t get that from Scarlett’s blog… I got it from Victoria Secret!!
    Bladeronner — I want to say thank you for responding to my comments… NOT LIKE SCARLETT … SHE ERASED THEM. She just wants the ones where people think she is right.!!!!

    I’m working on my site but you have my info

  41. Thank you fabu-losity! I also posted this long comment on Scarletts blog, however she obviously didnt feel the need to post it. The way I see it is that if you are going to exploit someone in a negative way, the least you can do is let them defend themselves. I just have one more thing to say Ron Dawson, do you consider Michael Buble a copy cat, how about David Letterman and Jay Leno, Oprah and Ellen, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars? Every industry has commonality. New trends that come and go are simply going to be used to help advance business. I took a SIMPLE layout that I thought was unique and made it into my own with my creative branding that already was in place! Why not just ridicule everyone in this industry for having the same site, because 90% of the sites that you go to are a pre-made blu domain, wordpress, or blogspot site with a different logo and color on it. It is a LAYOUT for heavens sakes. I didnt steal or copy Scarletts brand! TRUST ME, I dont want to be Scarlett Lillian. I am extremely happy being LAUREN HARRIS :) As for the song- AGAIN, my video was already in place before I was ever introduced to Scarletts blog. It is a video that thousands of other photogs have using themselves and flashing images. I added the CLICK FLASH song because I loved the song when i heard it on Scarletts (the same time that my web designer introduced me to her layout). The videos are nothing alike! Two completely different approaches to both videos. Can we please move on to a different subject now?? This is just getting ridiculous, a little highschoolish. I never knew this industry to be so petty. Dont we all have better things to do other than post blogs about each other- in a negative manner?? I guess its publicity right! THANK YOU FOR THAT! I have had over a hundred emails since these two posts were made from other photographers in the industry telling me to stay positive and that negative publicity is actually great publicity in the long run. Thats the way I am trying to look at this, being that I was exploited rather than receiving a respectful email or phone call about the matter… LIFE GOES ON!

  42. another someone April 9, 2009 at 10:58 am

    it shows scarlett true self and her unprofessionalism that she threw this girl under the bus on her blog. but hey, that’s her style. that’s what makes her “fabulous”

    interesting, if people knew her backstory coming up in the photography world, she probably wouldn’t be singing the same tune. that is the ONE topic she has never blogged about.

    but seriously…it’s not nice to copy. and HONESTLY who would want to copy her of all people anyways?

  43. Lauren- I just wanted to say that I never received your comment on my blog. I do have it set up that I have to approve my comments first, but I never received your comment to even publish it, so it must not have gone through on your end. Had I received it, I would have definitely published it because I believe this is a great discussion bringing a lot of awareness to a much needed topic in this creative industry. As I stated in my blog, I was not writing it to diss you or throw you under the bus, I was simply continuing the discussion Ron started here, since I too was brought into his case in point example, and using this situation to try to also positively encourage our industry as a whole to be individual. I think Ron presented you an amazing offer to create a new video and I hope you’ll accept it. I know Ron personally and he is a great guy with a big heart who I admire for trying to proactively make positive changes for our industry. I look forward to seeing what he creates for you Lauren! I wish you nothing but the best in your career!

  44. I am not a superstar photographer by any means, I do ok. But I have dealt with my fair share of people copying and stealing my ideas (baby props) and images and claiming them as their own. So this entire drama hits close to home. To some does it seem mean spirited to “out” Lauren, sure. I can honestly say that when I saw the post I was a tad shocked to see a link to her site, and I knew that trouble would follow the bold move of putting it out there. But it HAS to be done. Sad for her that she was the “example” but it has to be put out there for people to “get it” and to go home and check their own creative ethics.

    I have left forum after forum in the last year or so because people are too afraid to wear their “adult/business” hat and talk about the issues for what they are. This whole melodrama is a prime example of how people are escaping the real topic and too busy fighting or defending Lauren. Ron has done an exceptional job at trying to out a HUGE issue in this industry. There IS a line between inspiration and ripping off and many people have a really hard time finding that line. His post was about that…like he said, not about Lauren, but about finding that line and making sure you are on the right side of it.

    In my own experience and as some have stated before, it takes a LOT of hard work to come up with something new and something unique. When you finally do find your niche, your idea, your style, your look, your ‘you’, do the marketing, branding, sales, etc…and then someone sweeps in and decides to take the easy and cowardly route and ride on the coat tails of your hard work…it is just mind blowing. Most will not understand this fully until it happens to them. This is the most common response to someone completely stealing my ideas “it is a free country”. This statement alone should open many of your eyes to just how bad this problem is. Yes, it is “a free country”, but that does not give one the right to completely rip off ones creative identity or vision.

    So let’s try to stay on the topic and focus on the true problem…the slow death of creative ethics!

    I feel bad for Lauren…I know this was not an easy lesson to learn, but I do not see any wrong in what Ron did. He is trying to not only help her, but help all of us on a sensitive topic that most avoid like the plague or are themselves guilty of it in some form or fashion.

  45. Scarlett says, “Lauren- I just wanted to say that I never received your comment on my blog.” — Yeah right, how about mine, I didn’t agree with Scarlett and she didn’t post my TWO comments…Oh Wait, I guess she doesn’t get them either.
    Scarlett says, “I was not writing it to diss you or throw you under the bus” — WHAT!!! You didn’t want to diss her or throw her under the bus but you posted a link to her blog and didn’t call her before doing it… Tell me Scarlett how is that not trowing her under the bus?

    Scarlett says, “I was simply continuing the discussion Ron started here” — I see this as you are telling us that the one who throw her under the bus is Ron!! – I don’t think its nice you say that Ron started all this.

    and when you say “I think Ron presented you an amazing offer to create a new video and I hope you’ll accept it.” — C’mon….Now, instead of YOU asking the girl to change her video – you bring up what Ron said… If you want her to change her video, which is not nice…….YOU ASK HER!!! don’t use someone else ;(

    and this is for Lauren:

    Girl, I didn’t know before all this, but I love your blog and the video…DO NOT CHANGE A THING……

  46. @Marta:

    “So let’s try to stay on the topic and focus on the true problem…the slow death of creative ethics!”

    Aye-men!!

    Ron, can you make that the title to your next post on this?

    “the slow death of creative ethic”. Love this…

  47. The same topic could have been addressed without outing someone amongst their peers and possible clients.

    Whether you feel Lauren deserved the pseudo compliments/humiliation the way it was done just doesn’t sit well with me.
    There are a million effective ways to prove a point or share some insight regarding a legitimate issue.

    Thinking of this route as the only one makes is ridiculous.

    It was a bit low down and dirty and Scarlett and Ron could have approached Lauren personally verses putting a link for all to see through their blogs.

  48. uh, omit the “makes” before the “is” up there :)

  49. I would also like to add that if we all could just stay focused on being the best at what we do we will not have to strive for all this marketing and branding and striving for uniqueness.
    It makes all of us seem the same.

    The irony is that rarely are our clients even aware of this side of the coin. So it is a striving amongst ourselves.

    If you are passionate about what you do your work will stand for itself and have value to all who see it.

    This whole making celebrities of ourselves on our blogs and videos is an epidemic of our supersaturated celebrity culture.

    Anyone can have a reality show but not everyone can act. You can be famous for being famous and celebrating yourself but are you a master of your craft.

    If we focused on that rather than all the attention grabbing fluff we would see something more valuable and worth competing about.

    It’s like comparing the celebrity of Paris Hilton to to genius of Kate Winslet.
    We take ourselves and our blog layouts way to seriously.

    Once we stop looking to others for continual validation, proof that we are unique and comment adoration and begin, instead to focus on being the already unique individual we are then we will be free from all the nonsense and able to smile about those that copy us from afar.

    I’ve heard it said: “Never take yourself seriously only what you do.”

    We should not be so easily threatened by the emulators of us because there is no one else like us.
    If we are this concerned about chastising those who take their admiration of us a bit to far we have lost some of our own integrity.
    It only ends up seeming in poor taste and shouts insecurity.

    After all it is highly doubtful either of any of these photographer’s clients would have been effected by this. They are not even in the same state.

    But if it is Fame, Celebrity and a Brand you are seeking I guess it could be pretty insulting.

  50. @melissa – in light of the announcement I’m making tomorrow, I don’t even know why I’m answering this, but it’s kind of frustrating. I did not “out” Lauren. Her video was public. “Outing” means you reveal something to the public that is NOT already public. I didn’t even link to her site, I just posted her (public) video. It was not a secret video stashed away. It was (is) on Vimeo for crying out loud. I was told by the person who originally showed me that the video was already being discussed on a forum some where.

    I am a man who is very respectful of people’s private issues. In my weekly podcast F-Stop Beyond, I’ve been told things by guests they did not want publicized. I respected their privacy. I’ve even re-edited interviews where guests have said things but later, after thought, wished they hadn’t. I respectfully edited out those things. Many other “shock jock” type of journalists may have left those in. I don’t. So, when I’m accused of “outing” someone, when that is so not my nature, it urks me.

    We are all responsible for whatever we put out in the world for the public to see. This blog is journalistic in nature. Therefore, I write about what I see in the public. If I write a topic about the homogenization of an industry, it only make sense to use concrete examples if they exist. That’s essay and debate writing 101.

    Anyway, like I said. The point is moot now. Stay tuned for an amazing announcement.

    That is all.

  51. One thing that is different about the photography industry is that it is a “local” industry. What I mean, is that we go to our “local” dentist for example. That dentist fixes a cavity in MY neighborhood just as YOUR dentist fixes one in YOUR neighborhood. Ron = I love your article, but I do want to point out that the photography industry is predominantly local. Aside from consumers that might be shopping and comparing destination wedding photographers, my guess is that 85% of consumers purchasing photography services look ONLY in their neighborhood to compare and buy portraits, senior and event photography services. IF this is the case, then it is a strong element in this industry where photographers can learn and thus “borrow” from photographers in the industry and outside of their neighborhood. You and I see the homogeneity since we follow the industry. However, Mr. and Mrs. Consumer most often have no knowledge of the borrowing of looks and feels, nor do they care. Just like when we go to our local dentist, we just want good solid and reputable work done on time! This is the same reason that labs, Photoshop action companies and photo website companies can be successful and sell “templates” of their borders, page layouts and websites over and over. It’s critical for photographers to decrease their workflow time invested. Common tools assist. Many photographers don’t have time to create new borders nor actions. If it exists – YEAH – I use it. It’s OK if ABC Studio in Los Angeles has the same Photo packages as the XYZ Studio studio in Chicago. It’s OK, its fine and it works. Lauren and Scarletts customer’s will never know nor see the two videos since they serve different markets. You and I, in the industry do see this from our rare seat.

  52. @victoria – thanks for stopping by and joing the “party” Vic. Good to hear from you.

    I’ve already started a blog post addressing the whole “but my photography is local” issue. it’s on pause now while we deal with the latest developments of this whole Lauren vs. Scarett thingymajiggy. Stay tuned for my blog post “Is Your Branding Lazy?” :)

  53. I feel like I am wasting my breathe and time posting another comment about a topic that has been ongoing for years in the wedding photography industry. I have never in my almost 18 year career as a photographer seen such mediocre work as in the wedding industry. Why do wedding photographers feel the need to ride on each others coat tails? Why? well my opinion is that very few have any background as artists and no experience in creating work outside of what they have copied from other mediocre wedding photographers. Maybe this is harsh, but come on people, enough is enough. If you cant dig deep enough to come up with something original than maybe you need to put down your camera.
    For me, it is disrespectful to call yourself a photographer when you are uninterested in developing yourself as an artist. Looking at other “rockstar” wedding photographers for inspiration is not going to set you apart. Talent is innate, I believe this to my core. Your either have it or you don’t and unfortunately, the ones that don’t are the ones that copy.
    We need to push ourselves, strive for perfection, realize that you are only as good as your last image, never be satisfied.
    Create work that is inventive, inspired and authentic, the more we strive towards that goal as photographers, the higher the bar will be for every one else, and ourselves!

  54. I think Lauren & Scarlett’s work are both great. As far as similarities in websites & blogs…I think Ron hit the nail on the head. He did so at a great time too because I was ready to change all my stuff because I thought, well I guess the industry is just using certain blog & web layouts and maybe I need to follow suit. For me it wasn’t a matter of copying the content, it was more “maybe I need the same layout”. After reading all this, I guess I will stick with my $60 layout from Etsy. It’s original & it’s mine, and I no one else has it…it may not be the best or like everyone else’s but it works for me.
    In the first photography class I took, the photographer told us, “Don’t look at other’s photographer’s websites/blogs, it will posion you!” And it is so true. I know it’s fun to read & follow…but sometimes “inspiration” can easily turn into “plagarism”…even if you didn’t intend for it to happen.

  55. Great! Great discussion, and as always…just chiming in for the fun of it. None of us take ourselves to seriously…..keep me posted via FB. Work hard, play hard. Happy Easter Ron and Family! Hugs to Tasra…

  56. what about the almost exact wording at the beginning of your blog lauren? that seemed to be almost identical to scarlett’s… that’s the only weird part for me. music, blog layouts, colors, non of that matters, but the wording????

  57. Ron I am inspired by your passion and your thinking out loud.
    Your video comparison is a good illustration to your point. I guess the later gal saw the Lillian video and thought it was a cool deal and thought it would work for her too. NBD
    By the way, I see your blog theme is “Carrington” by a entity called “Crowd Favorite”. Is this a free theme that anybody can use or one you had custom designed for your company?

    I do agree that A LOT of photography sites look alike. However, how many darn ways are there to skin the cat and does a person have time to learn them or the money to pay for someone else to skin the cat for them. Me thinks not and as long as the cat gets skinned and they get paid for the skin do you think they care? No.

    I think that people are inspired by what they see in others and what sells for others and sometimes they use it to their advantage. Thus a fad is born. Like bell bottoms and mood rings, myspace and facebook, bleach bypass and burns. They sell their cat skin and life goes on. Many times these “secrets” are sold or given away to advance the industry, sometimes they are just figured out. I really have to laugh out loud when someone says they had their pose stolen or their prop use or their camera move or editing filter us; these people live in a tiny world, mine sure seems much bigger. How many bazillion shots have been taken, how many bazillion feet of tape have been recorded and edited? I’m sorry, but it’s all been done before. It’s those who can put a new spin on it, new packaging, fresh sizzle- that appear fresh and hip and new. More importantly they sell themselves, not just the product.

    A more burning question is how does one seperate yourself from those who are ok to skin their cats like many others and do you really want to? Some do, some don’t. I wish we would talk with those who do. I want to be inspired to be me. How can I find me? How do I reach inside and find that which says this is me, hey I can do these cool things and it benefits you the client. How do I brand ME?

    It’s much harder to be “ME” than to be like everybody else. Everyone should just remember- the shiny penny gets seen and picked up much more often.

  58. @ Laura – welcome to the “party.” A little late aren’t you. ;) I just want to address your comment about this blog theme (I wondered when someone would bring that up).

    First, I should clarify that when I spoke of blogs looking alike, I meant primarily the combo blog/websites we see more and more nowadays. I will admit it’s not nearly as bad as the website issue.

    Second, and to the point I made about templates, I don’t have an issue with templates. As I said, it’s when people pick templates that a million other people already use, then don’t do a whole lot (other than a few different colors) to differentiate it.

    Word Press is by far one of the most popular blogging formats, particularly in the social media scene. Yes, this blog is one of the many hundreds of blog themes available. But, this blog is not the central launching point for my company. Our website is. This blog is a personal journalistic tool used for me to rant and rave. ;) In a perfect world, it would be 100% customized. In a perfect world, so would my Twitter page, Facebook page, Flickr page, etc. But, it’s just little ol’ me doing this, so I prioritze where I invest money for customization. Aas a journalistic tool and “personal blog”, it suits my purposes as is.

    I’ll also note that I did spend time looking for a theme that was very simple and infrequently used. As far as themes go, there are a few of WordPress themes that get used by a lot of people (Cutline probably being the one I see used the most). I’ve never seen this one used. But, since you’ve brought it to the whole world’s attention, I’m not going to take out the credit to Crowd Favorite, just in case someone out there gets the same idea. Look what you’ve done now. Crowd Favorite is going to be very disappointed. ;)

  59. great post Ron, thanks! It’s a very valid point…

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