Just like any art form, photography goes through phases in which certain subject matter or gear or processing techniques are really, really popular (Instagram filters, anyone?). But the key to this is that they are phases and eventually they stop being used in favor of whatever the next new thing is. Some photographers cling to these techniques, though, and end up creating photos that are total cliches. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people put text on their photos. Turns out that’s 5 on DigitalRev’s list. As Kai, the presenter in the video, sarcastically puts it, “Pictures paint a thousand words…so why not add a few more words on top of it and increase the word count.” In other words, your photos shouldn’t need text splattered all over them because if you do it right, your photo should be able to communicate your point all on its own! Closely related to that notion is putting giant watermarks on your photos. I get that watermarks are intended to prevent people from ripping off your work, but geez, if the watermark takes up a third of the photo, it’s too big!
Another photography cliche that needs to stop is adding borders to photos. This was popular four or five years ago when Instagram added vintage frames filters to the app. But if there were ever a trend that needs to die and die quickly, this it.
There are also some cliches listed that in theory aren’t cliches, but the execution of them turns them into cliches. A prime example of this is HDR, which as a photography tool is quite invaluable. Unfortunately, a lot of photographers simply don’t understand how to use HDR and end up with images like the one above that are wildly overprocessed.
Another cliche in photography that’s mentioned in the video is taking sunset photos. Of course, sunsets photos aren’t cliches in and of themselves, but instead its the practice of taking sunset photos that look like everyone else’s. There’s a bit of sky, some pretty colored clouds, a bit of landscape, and that’s it. To avoid this cliche, it’s important to find new perspectives and different ways to use the beautiful light of the sunset to create a photo that’s less cliche and more an original piece of art.
The point here is that to create compelling images that stand out from the crowd, you need to focus less on popular techniques and more on the fundamentals. That is, learning how to use the rule of thirds, understanding the value of good lighting, learning how to use your camera, and understanding what kind of lens is best for you will do your images far more good than slapping cheesy filters on your photos will ever do. Everyone has a camera these days, and with billions of photos taken each year, it’s no wonder that there are so many photography cliches and bad photos floating around out there.
But avoiding all that is simple – commit yourself to the process of learning photography, and you’ll find that you don’t need gimmicks to make your photos shine.