Very Important Introduction: Please Read First
Photography is subjective, and people’s opinions on what’s cliché and what’s not is entirely up to them. Everything in moderation is the key to avoiding cliche photos, as you can get away with doing certain things a few times before it becomes boring and repetitive. If you’re new to photography, then avoiding the list of cliches below will help you to avoid taking photos that may well be dismissed as amateur.
A good photo will stand up to criticism, without the need for clichés or post processing.
Flowers, Pets & Sunsets
Almost all of us have been guilty of it at some point in our lives; you’ve got a new camera and nothing to take a photo of, so you venture into the garden, with your pet, in the evening. I’m not saying that these sorts of photos can’t be taken without, being a cliché, i’m just saying that the majority of them are very poorly taken, and they’re widely associated with amateurs. Flowers, pets and sunsets are typically quite nice things to look at, and the majority of people starting out think that taking a photo of something pretty is half the battle, when in reality, if you can take a photo of something ugly or boring, and make it interesting, you’ve got a much better photo. My top tip is to stop shooting these things altogether, and because you’ll still want to use your shiney new camera, you’re forced to take photos of something more interesting.
Fake Lens Flare
I’m my opinion, there’s no substitute for the real thing, and if you can’t produce lens flare in your photo naturally, then it clearly doesn’t belong there – it just looks out of place. Natural lens flare comes from light shining into your lens at an angle, so when you see a photo with fake lens flare, and the only light source behind the camera, it stands out like a sore thumb. Real lens flare can look really good in photos and the best way to get this is to shoot into the sun in the late evening, when the sun is going down. Click on that post to read more and to see some really cool photos.
Vintage iPhone Apps
I resented paying the £1.19 for Hipstamatic, just so that I could take the photo below, but I feel it serves as an example to an important point. I have no problem with using iPhones for photography, what I do have a problem with is the needless post processing and effects used to create a ‘cool’ photo. An edgy border, some funny colouring and a weird angle, does not a photo make. These tricks may get a small wow factor, but if you really want to start taking good photos, you need to strip back all the unnecessary effects and work on your exposure and composition – you can’t rely on an iPhone to do the work for you.
Unnecessary Black & White
There are plenty of reasons to shoot in black and white, like wanting to emphasise form or contrast, but there’s even more reasons to not shoot in black and white. Colour is a wonderful thing in photography, as different colours evoke different feelings or thoughts, and when you desaturate them to black and white, you lose all of this. Black and White for the purpose of looking artsy has no place in photography, and if you’re new to photography, you should really try to get a better grasp of it before you mindlessly turn all your photos black and white.
Worse then mindless black and white is selective colouring; it’s taking a usually uninteresting photo, turning it black and white, and then bringing back the colour onto only a certain part of the photo. You’ve probably seen this before, in dodgy prom photos where only a tie or a handkerchief will be in colour and the rest is in black and white. All this is doing is drawing the attention to a tie or a handkerchief, which is an unusual focus for a photo. It’s often perceived as a pretty effect, but you shouldn’t rely on this sort of post processing to produce a good photo, if you use it too much, it’ll hold you back from learning composition techniques that will make a real difference. My example below is of a flower that I used in ISO vs exposure demonstration.
Naff Borders and Garish Watermarks
They’re distracting, unprofessional and will not make your photos look any better. I have no problems with a carefully thought out border when you’re mounting a photo, or a watermark when you feel that a photo is going to be of particular interest to people, but they have no place in professional or commercial photography. I’ve even seen watermarks on wedding photos, and it shocks me that anyone would ever allow that. It’s important to share your work without it getting stolen, so try to come up with a simple watermark for the corner of your photo so that it doesn’t distract from your photo. If you’re worried about people stealing your work and passing it off as their own, use TinEye to find where your photos have been used on the internet.
Over Saturated HDR
If you’ve been following this site for long, you’ll know by now that i’m not really a bit fan of post processing for the sake of it. In my opinion, HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range, can be done well and has it’s uses, but the majority of the time, it’s overdone and over saturated. When you process a photo into HDR, you’re effectively removing a lot of the contrast which flattens the image. My friend Richard kindly allowed me to use one of his early HDR photos below to demonstrate how HDR photos are often over saturated. As you can see, the photo was taken on a fairly overcast day, and yet the blues and greens shine brighter then they would have in the sun. The attraction to this photo heavily relies on HDR, rather than photographic technique.
The ‘Dutch Tilt’
The Dutch tilt is when you hold your camera somewhere between landscape and portrait, usually so that you can get more key features into the frame. It’s easy to find yourself doing this because your eyes don’t see a rotated image, they see the same image with more details in the frame, so you may find yourself doing this more often then you should. The trouble is that the end result is at an unusual angle and hard to look at. Try taking a step back and reframing to include more of a subject in a photo, or use a shorter focal length for a wider viewing angle.
A small amount of vignetting is a good way of helping the viewers eyes to focus on the center of the photo, but once you can tell it’s being done, it’s become a part of the photo, rather then a feature used to improve a certain part of the photo. It distracts heavily for the main features of the photo, and is largely used to make the photo look more artistic. Good photography will stand up to critics, without the need for excessive post processing like this. Try avoiding these techniques all together if you want to try and improve your photography.
Writing On Photos
There’s subtle post processing and there’s obvious processing; this is painfully obvious, and you see it a lot from amateur photographers. I’m not a big fan of titling photos, as it’s hard to think of a name that doesn’t evoke a thought or a feeling, which influences the viewers perception of it. I like to leave the photo bare so that the viewer can make up their own mind on the photo and decide what they like or dislike about it. When you add writing to a photo, you firstly ruin the photo by taking a chunk of the photo away and coving it up with writing, and then you distract the viewer from the part of the photo that they’re supposed to be looking at.