Very Important Introduction: Please Read First
Photography is subjective. People’s opinions on what’s cliché and what’s not is entirely up to them.
Doing a bit of everything in moderation is the key to avoiding cliché photos. You can get away with doing the same thing a few times before it becomes boring and repetitive.
If you’re new to photography, avoiding the list of clichés below will help prevent you 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 are 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 photos can’t be taken without being cliché. I’m just saying that the majority are very poorly taken and widely associated with amateurs.
Flowers, pets and sunsets are nice things to look at. The majority of beginners think that taking a photo of something pretty is half the battle. In reality, it’s much more impressive to be able to take a photo of something ugly or boring and make it interesting.
My top tip is to stop shooting these things altogether. You’ll still want to use your shiny new camera, so you’ll be forced to find a new subject.
Fake Lens Flare
In my opinion, there’s no substitute for the real thing. If you can’t produce lens flare in your photo naturally, it clearly doesn’t belong there and will look out of place.
Natural lens flare comes from light shining into your lens at an angle. When you see a photo with fake lens flare in which the only light source is behind the camera, it stands out like a sore thumb.
Real lens flare can be really effective in photos. The best way to get this is to shoot into the sun in the late evening when the sun is going down.
Click on the link to the post to read more and see some really cool photos.
Vintage iPhone Apps
I resented paying the £1.19 for Hipstamatic so that I could take the photo below. But I feel it serves as an example of 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 make a photo.
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. 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. You might want to emphasise form or contrast. But there are even more reasons not to.
Colour is a wonderful thing in photography. Different colours evoke different feelings or thoughts. When you desaturate them to black and white, you lose all of this.
Black and White for the sole purpose of “looking artsy” has no place in photography. 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 than mindless black and white is selective colouring.
This usually involves taking an uninteresting photo, turning it black and white, then bringing back the colour onto only a certain part of the photo.
You’ve probably seen this before in dodgy prom photos. Only a tie or a handkerchief will be in colour and the rest is in black and white.
All this does is to draw attention to a tie or a handkerchief; 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. Using it too much will hold you back when learning composition techniques that make the real difference.
My example below is of a flower that I used in the 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 problem with a carefully thought out border when 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 – 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 in the corner that 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 out 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 a 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 its 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, flattening 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, yet the blues and greens shine brighter than 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 fit 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. You may find yourself doing this more often than you should.
The trouble is that the end result is at an unusual angle and is 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 to help the viewers eyes focus on the center of a photo. Once you can tell it’s being done, it becomes part of the photo rather than just a feature. It distracts heavily from the main features 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 improve your photography.
Writing on Photos
There’s subtle post processing and then there’s obvious processing. This is painfully obvious.
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 viewer’s perception.
I like to leave the photo bare so that the viewer can make up their own mind and decide what they like or dislike about it.
Adding writing to a photo not only ruins it by taking a chunk of the photo away, covering it up with writing, but also distracts the viewer from the part of the photo that they’re supposed to be looking at.