Several years ago I ran across a quote that really hit home and became one of my all time favorites:
"Don't expect anything original from an echo." The author was anonymous.
I think we're all tired of hearing about photographers who are working so hard to copy another photographer's style and along the way they just lose their own identity. Their work is hardly unique, but they'll pile in a few different actions and think nobody will pick up on they're being a filter junkie.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is our good friend, Michele Celentano. While she enhances images with some manipulation, her work is outstanding, right out of the can. Monte Zucker was an incredible influence in her life, but she managed to take the best of what she learned from him and mix it with the best of what she learned from other contemporary masters. Then she seasoned it with her very own style. Put all of that together and she's one of the best contemporary family photographers in the world today.
My buddy Terry Clark, when talking about all the trendy image techniques going on a few years ago, had the following comment:
"Style is a way of seeing images, it comes from the heart, soul and eye of an artist. Technique is a way of image treatment. Can a technique alone become a photographer's style?...A lot of people are "going back" to film, or in some cases, using film for the first time. The shear essence of film does not make a true style. A bad picture is still a bad picture no matter what medium is used or how many Photoshop actions you throw on top of it."
So, the message this morning is just a plea to get back to good solid photography. Learn the rules first, then you can break them. Work to have great images right out of the can and enhance them rather than build them with filters that hide mistakes you shouldn't have made in the first place. Most important of all, if you do the best at learning everything you can about photography, you've got an opportunity to develop your own style of perfection rather than developing a reputation for mediocrity.