Who is your favorite photographer

Take pictures and edit like your favorite photographer

Again and again you discover photographers and their portraits on various social media channels such as Instagram or other photo communities and think to yourself:

Wow, cool photos! Great style. How did these pictures come about? I wish I could shoot in that direction too.

After this thought you pause for a moment, but then you just keep scrolling and the photo is almost forgotten again. How is one supposed to learn in this way?

You probably know the feeling when you see such new photos: You would like to do something like this or at least try it. Then you can always say whether you are photographically yourself or not. One would definitely learn something in the process.

Of course, you cannot imitate everything 1 to 1. Nevertheless, I think it's important to learn and broaden your photographic horizons. That's why I recommend simply trying it out for yourself. Without having an ulterior motive like “stealing images” you start to analyze. And just thinking through “What is he doing that I don't do” or “Why is this photo actually good?” Has often brought me further.

Comment: Of course you shouldn't "copy" everything 1 to 1 - but you will use your own location, models, etc. anyway. Always combine the inspiration with your own ideas. Therefore the picture is already different. So try to use inspiration from other photographers without making the appearance of just copying everything. In the end, you can still decide whether to publish the photo or keep it for yourself. The learning effect that one gets through imitation is simply too great to leave it untried. I like to compare that to my time in music (yes, I was active in one or the other metal band), in which I also wrote songs myself:

Before you can compose something, you first have to know what the genre is all about. This also includes covering other songs.

It's about trying a lot, practicing and COVERN. First of all, soak up everything that has existed so far. By re-enacting you can really improve yourself. First you collect a lot of influences and then you can write your own song from all these impressions and exercises.

So you shouldn't end up with one 1 to 1 copy a well-known photographer, but move on to doing your own thing. Always compare that with the keyword covers from music: There are many extremely good cover bands that have a lot of fun with what they do and put a lot of passion into them. Through constant practice, they also continue to grow. Even for individual large bands there are so-called tribute bands that imitate the original very closely. However, this band will never get out of the original. You can only have a real status with your own things.

So much for the introduction. It is extremely important for me to emphasize this in detail. I only saw a photographer friend of mine (hello Dominik!) That his work was really copied 1 to 1. That had nothing to do with "inspiration" anymore. It was actually photographed at the exact same location with the same outfit and even the same poses.

There were no ideas of my own.

The "hoax" was quickly discovered because everyone in the community or in our region knew the original. Even if imitation contributes to the learning effect - you shouldn't overdo it. If you consciously copy something like that and try it out, you should just keep the photos to yourself.

As I said, you don't necessarily have to put the results of your analysis into practice immediately. Just by worrying about why the photo looks the way it looks, you get ahead. It animates you to think and possibly leads you immediately to new insights. Personally, I have these thoughts in my subconscious now with every photo I see. I call the whole thing "actively seeing". Don't just look at a photo half asleep, but think along constructively.

The image analysis: take photos like your favorite photographer

But how do you come to move in the direction of good photographers? Instead of simply scrolling through the feed as written above, you should pause and start analyzing the photo.

What is the guy doing there? What is happening in the photo? Why is it good? What is different than in my photos?

The best thing to do is to use a notebook. Now go through the following points step by step and record the most important findings.

The technical side

In our analysis, the technical side is still relatively simple and can be dealt with objectively. One simple point is the blurring of the background. Is it completely blurry? Or was the photo taken in front of an epic landscape and therefore the background consistently sharp? Depending on what applies, you ask the aperture to a small or high aperture value.

Blurred movements and therefore long Shutter speeds you rarely see it. In general, you keep the shutter speed short in order to get a sharp picture (Excursus:With these 6 tips you will get perfect sharpness in portraits). Only for photos with blurred effects and sometimes photos at night / darkness do you select it a little longer (For me, long usually means less than 1/100 of a second).

The ISO doesn't play a big role. But the general equipment does. More precisely, the lens used and its focal length. You can often only roughly estimate that. Just look in the photos to see how much of the surroundings are depicted around the model and how close the photographer was in front of the model.

Is the distance estimated to be small, are there distortions from the model or is there a lot of surroundings shown around the model despite the small distance? Then it is a wide-angled lens, e.g. 24mm.

With a longer lens of 50mm - 100mm, the background is usually a bit more blurred (of course, depending on the aperture position). The angle shown is also logically smaller. This gives you a somewhat closer proximity to the person in the photo, among other things because the person can also be shown larger.

Tip: You can learn a lot about the technology used in a photo in photo communities such as 500px. Here, the metadata of the photo taken is listed directly below the image and often also visualized. So you can read out the most important things and learn more about the photo.

But not everything is about technology. I also see time and again how photographers ask directly about the focal length, lens and other things used. Sometimes that helps you. But even if I tell someone, for example, that I took a photo with a 50mm focal length, my photo still looks completely different from his. So there is more to consider. For example, what can be seen in the photo.

The motif and photography on site

In this post (as in pretty much all posts) I am referring to portrait photography. The motive is therefore primarily a person. But how does this appear in the photo? What is she wearing? And what is around the outside of the model? You should also analyze these points directly and compare them with your own approach.

All these points can be seen in general on every photo, but often only perceive them subconsciously. But now you should actively think about it and take notes.

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Does the posing seem casual? Or very rigid? What role does the location play in the photo? How dominant does it appear in the picture? Or is it just blurry in the background? A good option here is to play with the proportions and the size shown in the photo. As a result, different levels of importance can generally be assigned to different elements.

Another point is the choice of the model itself: male or female? Big or small Fat or thin? What special characteristics does she or he have?

The perspective is also important: What position did the photographer take when taking the picture? Was he lying on the ground? Or in a crouch? Or seemingly stood on a ladder?

Finally, a very big point: the light. In what light was the photo taken? Does the photographer like to take pictures at certain times of the day? Only in harsh sunlight or only after sunset? Are there many shadows or is everything softly lit?

All of these points should flow into your analysis. In the near future, just go through these points once for every photo that you “come across”. Analyze the complete structure of a photo. I find that 10 times more exciting than just "looking at" a photo like the majority of people do (especially "non-photographers").

And in general: Even if you are not looking for inspiration or analyzing other photographers - you should ask yourself such questions anyway have asked once before each shoot. Clarifying these points in advance before each photo builds up the entire picture later.

If you want an exact timetable with all the points you should consider for a successful portrait, I would like to recommend my e-book for lively outdoor portraits at this point. It is called the Available Light Primer and contains all the important points step by step, also as a clear checklist.

One important point is still missing, with which photographers ultimately define their style ...

The post-processing

I know it's really difficult to analyze post-processing and implement it yourself. Nevertheless, I would like to address a few points on how one can "shimmy along" here.

First of all, see you the brightness to: Was the photo a little overexposed or underexposed? Do colors appear difficult or light? In general, I always recommend a little under-exposure on site. Later you can always decide whether it should look cheerful or "gloomy".

The next point that immediately stands out: the retouching. How finely was the skin retouched? How long was approx.reworked? Or was it even almost completely done without skin retouching?

How sharp is the photo? Is it excessively sharp or is it left natural?

The grading or coloring is always particularly exciting: Does the photo have a tendency to color mood? Almost a color cast? Which color tones do the orange skin tones take, which are the green plants and which the blue sea? Is the color effect natural or surreal? Which color areas are saturated or desaturated? Which light or dark?

Does the photo have an analog-like image look? Are the colors washed out or the photo a bit dull in the shadows?

Brief note on our own behalf: Useful blog posts like this one only live with some advertising. With my Lightroom presets you not only improve your post-processing, but also support the blog at the same time:

Implementing these findings in Lightroom is another story and often not that easy. However, you first have to develop an awareness of what you are seeing and why it works that way.

If you want to learn more about how to create really moody color looks in Lightroom, I have a recommendation for you. I want you my color mastering video training for Lightroom suggest in self-promotion. Here I explain how you create ingenious color looks step by step. There are also my best image looks as a preset. So it's worth taking a look.

Youtube video on the topic

If you want to find out more information on the subject of this blog post “Taking pictures like your favorite photographers”, I want to show you another video. It appeared on one of my current favorite YouTube channels (called "Mango Street"). Highly recommended. The video also provided the basic input for this post, but I wanted to write again specifically how I feel about it and how I approach this topic. Here you can see the whole thing again in moving pictures:

Conclusion: take photos like a professional or your favorite photographer

As you can see, there is a lot going on in dealing with the existing photos from a professional or your favorite photographer. Imitation is a good way to learn more and the constructive analysis of someone else's images alone can lead to new insights. Ask yourself questions like: "What makes this photo good?" or "What does the photographer do differently than me?"

In no case should you copy photos from scratch or in this case consider whether it is better to keep the photos of this exercise to yourself. With this blog post I do not want to call in any way to copy artists 1: 1. In most cases, however, the knowledge of the source material is supplemented and continued with your own ideas, models, locations, etc. Even so, you will rarely get photos exactly like the original, and that's a good thing.

With this in mind, I wish you a lot of fun from now on, carefully “disassembling” each photo in your mind and thinking about why the photo looks the way it does. From this you often find out automatically what you can do better or differently yourself in the future without copying someone directly.

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Markus Thoma

My name is Markus and I write about the creative art of photography from my experience as a professional photographer. I prefer to take portraits outdoors - in natural light. Because less is usually more. Every now and then I like to travel. When I'm not taking photos, you can find me at Metalcore concerts, in nature or at the buffet. Take a look at my social media channels: