Imitation: Flattery or Violation?

How often have you looked at someone's work and thought you could do better? When I see something unique I admire the creator. Sometimes I attempt to spin the image into something different that reflects myself as the illustrator. Maybe it's the competitive spirit in me. For better or worse, I think there is value in reworking an image to be more unique or to provide extra value.

However, sometimes in the stock world people will intentionally imitate an image down to the details. I guess the thought process is that by imitation you can create a productive portfolio. Is it the sincerest form of flattery? I question the value of this type of work.

I understand this is a free-market and there are no controls on imitations. I understand that sometimes with thousands of images in your portfolio that you might accidentally recreate someone's image by accident. I even understand when 20 photos of the same tourist attraction are sold at the same agency. Yet, somewhere there is a line. Isn't there?

As a freelance designer and former graphic artist in the print industry I know if I saw similar images, I'd simply choose the one that 'felt right.' Essentially, my choice was about aesthetics. Yet, I was never faced with choosing between essentially identical images. Micro stock has opened a door that never used to exist.

How do you as a contributor or buyer feel when you see almost identical images? Do you think there's value in the art of imitation? When is it a violation of copyright to have a similar image?

(Please don't feel singled out if I've used your image in this article. I'm simply demonstrating similarities and chose some images that I recalled as being similar.)

Photo credits: Albachiaraa, Antishock, Bradley Talbott, Destinyvispro, Gyeah, Philipsobral.

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Byers have the possibility to download the oldest photo in the database. That would be rigt way to do when many identic images are online.


I understand the purpose of this topic (sorry for my english), but i just think that we have learn this effects on the same tutorial,
and choose the same word to illustrate it (the most evident). Here is the tuto on "vectortuts" wich name is "Creating an Environmentally Friendly Green Type Treatment":


If you are true to your ART, you can't really copy someone's else work. It would be similar but not the same, too many variables to expand upon, like lighting, equipment, etc. Best thing to do is like Eclectielegance and myself do ... browse the web for inspiration and when you see something you like, cool. Add it to your I can do that list or like to try that list. My list is in my head. I do a cross reference of my images on DT before I upload to make sure it's unique and my creation. It's all about learning!


Hehehe, I had to have a little giggle before writing this because in a way I think it is humorous that I am fairly safe in this area, nobody would copy my images as they dont sell too well, so I am ok lol :0)


Very interesting question! I sometimes browse Dreamstime to get inspired, but I never try to copy someone's work intentionally. When I have a good idea, I actually do a search for those key terms to make sure that someone hasn't done it already (because then it will be rejected anyway if there are too many images of one kind of thing).


It is inevitable with so many contributors that you will have both accidental and purposeful imitation. Certain subjects lend themselves to be approached in the same way. I think when you hit the point of looking at another portfolio and copying their success it is wrong, when you come up with an idea on your own, it is fine. Sometime it seems hard to have an original idea these days! Copying a successful portfolio image may get you some sales, but it doesn't pay off nearly as much as a few good and unique ideas can. Success of a major contributor is as much about quality, reputation and portfolio size as the images themselves.

Recreation related image searches