Back in the days when I was getting started with photography, I copied what I liked. I followed a handful of photographers that I admired and tried to make my photos look like theirs, because they were successful and popular and obviously knew what they were doing (spoiler alert: no one completely has it all together). I had not yet developed my own voice and style and looked to others' work as a place to start.
With many things, not just photography, we tend to copy what we like. And that's okay- to a point.
When you first begin with something new, you have to start somewhere and it's common to follow the lead of those you admire. I wanted to be like those photographers, so I made my photos like theirs. I posed my subjects like they did, used similar locations, and mimicked their editing. But, there came a point where I had to find my own voice and my own style. I used what I saw as a starting place to begin to build my own ideas, find my own inspiration, and develop my own style, but once I had developed my skills and techniques, it was time for me to stop following and start doing my own thing.
Developing your own style and voice is a hard thing, but it's a crucial thing for any creative. It's easy to continue to follow what someone else is doing when you like their style and you see that they're successful, but simply copying is a discredit to both the other person and yourself.
As creatives, we constantly find inspiration in what others do and use that in our own work, but we must be careful that we aren't merely doing what the other people do because we want to be like them. We must figure out the "why" behind our work and what makes us different from everyone else, and focus on that, to truly develop our own creative voice.
Have you found your creative voice? How are you working to develop your own style?