Art builds upon art. All great artists in history build upon the work of their predecessors. Even if the artist radically changed their field, they still used the existing art around them as a jumping board into something new. This process is also valuable for photographers.
Growing as a photographer, means seeing the world in new ways. The work of other photographers can help you with this. Photographers also grow by learning new techniques. What better place to start than learning from those that have already mastered these techniques?
Here are three ways you can learn from the work of others, followed by a list of 25 great photographers to emulate.
Three Steps to Learn from the Work of Other Photographers
Pay close attention to the individual photos of a photographer. Note the things you like, as well as the things you don’t like. Figure out the composition choices they’ve made. What would be the effect of a different composition? Study the lighting. What kind of light is used (soft,harsh, natural,artificial, etc.)? From what direction is the main light source coming from? Were there secondary light sources? Did they use a flash? Is the photo shot with a specific technique? Can you detect any evidence of post-processing? You are basically reverse engineering the photo, so you can continue on to step 2.
Imitating another artist is a very effective way of learning. The Helpful Art Teacher has great examples of famous artists imitating other artists. After studying the work of a photographer, you should have an idea how they created a photo or a certain effect. Now is the time to put that idea to the test. By trying to copy someone’s photo, you will learn more about the decisions that photographer made. It will also train you to pay even closer attention to the differences between your copy and the original. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t replicate the original photo exactly. Just by trying to copy a photo, you will improve your own photography skills.
In this final step, you take the original photo and transform it using your own creative judgement. For example, you could parody, dramatize, or even photoshop the original picture. If there was something about the original work you didn’t like, try to improve that. You could also apply the same technique, idea, composition, etc. to a different context. In short, it’s up to you. View this process as a conversation with the photographers that came before you. It’s now the time to carve out a space for your own unique voice.
25 Inspirational Photographers
Here’s a list of great photographers whose work is worth studying, copying, and transforming.