Does originality exist in photography?

Matt Bennett

Are photos in danger of becoming mere imitations of photos that have gone before them?

Does originality exist in photography?
Does originality exist in photography?

Take a trip to a good spot for landscape photography when the weather’s good and count how many people you see with a tripod.

On one such expedition recently, DP counted nearly twenty photographers.

The question is, will they take 20 significantly different photos? Probably not.

Is that a reflection on their abilities as photographers? Not at all. It’s just that, at the end of the day, how many different ways are there to capture a scene? How many different angles that really work can you come up with?

If you look at, say, a few hundred images of a coastal scene, a very high number of them will be almost indistinguishable from each other.

The same applies to portrait photography. The faces may change but the lighting techniques and processing options often don’t.

What we want to know is this: do you think true originality exists in photography any longer? Have you taken an image that you believe is truly original?

Tell us your views on this originality here or at the Digital Photographer forum.

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    • As a portrait photophotographer who does nothing but portraits the very same manner with every new model I have asked myself this question quite frequently. I came to the conclusion that not one picture by its own can be original but the way you work as in toto can be.

      Have alook at this to see what I mean:


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    • Chriswhitakerphotography

      Methinks a Pandora’s box could be opened here… part of me believe it or not blames the onset of digital photography which has killed a huge industry which was film, It’s all about taste and of course, the vast majority of the public are only interested in the final image and if they like it or not, not really caring about how it was achieved, that is the realm of photographers, both am and pro. Having said all that, I’m a huge fan of digital, having been a film “nut” since the 80’s, I think it’s just become much more accessible and (easy?) to manipulate and edit images these days, whilst it’s much easier to buy software and learn in your front room than it is to build a darkroom and create magic under the enlarger…I’m guilty of It myself, for years creating art in the dark, now I create it in the light…. therefore no, I really don’t think there is 100% originality in photography anymore than I do music or art or virtually anything…

    • Abdus Mahkri

      The other variable is the aperture/shutter speed combination a photographer uses. The choice of aperture can have a dramatic impact in both portraits and landscapes. One more variable, I can think of is the choice of portrait or landscape format. Also this can have a great impact on the photograph. In camera club competitions, many a times a photograph taken at an outing stands out from the ones taken at the same time. The choice of focal length can be another factor that affects the outcome. Having said that, I do understand what the author is trying to say here.

    • Tom Tucker

      I went to Yellowstone National Park to take photographs. A place that I wanted to visit since seeing pictures of the park in my grade school text books. When I got home and downloaded the photos I realized that my photos were much like the memories of the photos in my text books. Tom Tucker