elizabeth&jane blog

Will the real Liz Bradley please stand up

An open letter to those who feel the need to copy.

I have never believed the statement “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. In all honestly, it boils my blood a little every time someone says it. I want to propose that the quote be officially changed to “inspiration is the sincerest form of flattery”. In the field of photography, we pride ourselves on being creative, and copying is far from creative, it’s offensive. Be inspired and make it your own, but don’t directly copy.

I work really hard. I am not complaining about this – I actually really enjoy my job and I am so unbelievably grateful to be able to do this and call it my career. But I work really hard. When someone comes along and takes my work and calls it their own, whether it be using the images I have captured, or the words I wrote, it denounces every iota of time and energy I have taken to carefully craft these images and words and it’s quite upsetting.

I recently discovered that not one, but four separate people in four different places, copied my work. One photographer even took an image of me and was calling it her. My first thought was utter and complete shock, and then I felt violated. Maybe these emotions are too strong considering what they took were just pixels and words, but it really got me thinking about what this meant.

My website is honest. It is 100% me. Whether you like me or not, it doesn’t matter – what matters is that I’m not trying to hide behind anything. I put myself out there in order to connect with the most amazing people. I adore my clients – I honestly do, and one of the main ways I do this is through my website.

When you steal a part of that website, you aren’t assimilating it into yours, you just stole a piece of me and that really has no affect on you or your business. You are lying. You are being dishonest with your clients, but most of all, with yourself.

Running your own business is hard. There, I said it. It’s no walk in the park. It’s paperwork and taxes and hours and hours of work. Coming up with your own creative vision and even words on your website is hard. The easy thing to do is to just find someone who can “write better than you” and take that right? No. That’s so wrong it’s not even funny. That is you telling the world that you didn’t have the drive to figure things out yourself.

And if you think that no one is going to find out, think again. Photography is a huge industry, but at the same time it’s not. Even if you live in another country or halfway cross the world, you will be found out.

Some of my absolute favourite people in this world are photographers and I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for their encouragement and support. We help each other out with everything and refer business to each other all the time.

Respect your peers. Learn from them, don’t steal from them. If you’d like to know where I got something or how I came up with it, just ask and I will freely share. If you deceive me by pretending to be a “friend of a bride getting married in Ottawa”, I will not share with you.

If you feel the need to take something I have written because it sounds like something you believe in, take a step back and think about why you are taking it. I am not good at writing – it’s not my strong point in any way, shape or form. I work really hard to come up with words that sound good. The sentence “Vibrant and captivating wedding photography for people in love” took me months to put together and get right – I’m not kidding. It took a long time because I had to look at my work, at who I was and what I wanted to attach to my work. I chose the word vibrant because my images are vibrant and that’s really important to me. I tried vivid for a while but it didn’t feel right. Captivating represents what state I want to affect on the viewer – I want them to look into that image and see something in there that evokes an emotion, be it laughter, joy, love…whatever THEY feel. By taking this statement, and by far it was the most plagiarized paragraph from my website, you aren’t saying things about your images, not really anyway. Have you sat down and thought about what your images are saying? How would you describe your work to others if you didn’t use those specific words?

I took a business course last year where we had to figure out what our “why” was. Why we took photos. On the outer layer of that query, it seems really easy to answer, but when you actually sit down and think about it, it’s so very hard. This was a tough one for me – it took me almost four months to figure it out, and once I did, I felt silly for not realizing it sooner. It’s family. It’s love. I photograph you for everyone in your life who loves you and this is so important to me. It is what drives me to pick up a camera and to record you in pixels. I want your family to have this memory of you. I want your children, even if they aren’t in the picture yet, to have the image of your wedding day – the image that speaks to them and tells them how in love you are and how happy you make each other. I want them to have these memories because I was lucky enough to have these from my family and I really treasure them. I want you to have that perfect picture of your dog being exactly who he is so that you have that memory forever. So when you look at it, you can almost smell her coat and see the way her little nose hairs sit on top of her muzzle.

Someone stole my why. This makes me almost laugh because it means nothing to who they are. It may sound nice, but if it’s not YOUR why, and it isn’t, then you are not being authentic and people will pick up on that. The best way to be authentic about your why is to actually figure it out! Don’t just agree with mine and be done with it. That’s cheating.

I must be honest and say that it’s a little odd to search for someone stealing your words and click on a website only to see yourself staring back at you. It’s one thing to use my words and an entirely different thing to take a picture of ME and claim it’s you. Not cool. What happens when I don’t show up when a client is expecting who is in the photo? Awkward.

Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. Be you. You are awesome the way YOU are. Don’t try to be me – I’m not even that good at it all the time.

Work hard, and when you think you are done, work more. Good things don’t come to those who wait, good things come to those who work really really really really hard.

The Real Liz Bradley

p.s. I would really like to thank my family, friends, clients and peers for the outpouring of support on this matter – you are truly amazing and I really appreciate each and every one of you. You make me a better person.

UPDATE – Tuesday June 10th, 1:30pm
It seems I have to clarify the origins of my web design. It is NOT a template. I, along with my husband, designed this website using Illustrator and Photoshop and my husband, a web developer himself, coded it for me. Everything on my site, with the exception of my shopping cart, was custom designed and coded for me from scratch. No templates at all. Since the release, the code for the image slider has been licensed under an open source license (meaning other developers can use the code), but hasn’t been publicly released online yet. Everything else, including the graphics and contact form, are not open source. The website is built on the WordPress platform, but is not a template.