According to The Phrase Finder, this proverbial expression dates from the early 19th century.
An early version comes in a piece by the English writer Eustace Budgell in the newspaper The Spectator No. 605, October 1714:
"Imitation is a kind of artless Flattery."
The version of this proverb we know best was given by Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon: or, Many things in few words, 1820:
"Imitation is the sincerest of flattery."
As photographers, we all imitate each other to some degree. We will see a photograph that we like in a magazine or online, and want to know where and how it was taken. When we are out shooting with each other and see a photo on the back of another's camera, many of us will step right up to the same spot and try to imitate the photo.
The photo below is a good example. Back in August 2016, I was shooting with some good friends at Exchange Place in Kingsport. I walked into the blacksmith shop to find my friend and talented photographer Jim Haverstock making a still life photo of miscellaneous objects found in the shop.
I really like the photo he was making and being a poor still life photographer I wanted to copy his creativity. I don't think our photos are exactly the same, but I surely took advantage of his talent when making mine.
I made the photo below before that same long weekend of shooting with friends. After I showed the photo several of the others wanted to know where I took it and could we go there with our cameras. Their photographers were not the same as mine but I was flattered by their imitation.
In school, we are taught that copying from others is not a good way to learn and is not allowed. In photography, watching and copying others is a great way to learn. When we shoot alone, our creativity is limited by our own experiences.We can make the best photos and improve the most when we are out shooting with others.
The best way to find other photographers to shoot with is to join a local camera club. There are several in our area:
- Eastman Camera Club in Kingsport TN
- Twin City Photo Club in Bristol TN/VA
- Highlands Camera Club in Abingdon VA
- Johnson City Senior Center Next Steps Photo Club
Colby McLemore in Knoxville maintains a good list of regional clubs.
Find a group, join up, then copy each other. You will expand your creativity and improve your photography.